Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grateful One: Irish

When I was in eighth grade, I gave up the holy grail of Lenten sacrifices for a thirteen year old: I gave up television. And I really did it. No one had explained to me at the time that Sundays are exempt from Lenten promises, so even on that most boring of days, I still didn't sit in front of the boob tube. I do remember sitting in a cedar chair in the kitchen, my back to the wall of the family room listening to the laugh tracks on shows and getting bored very quickly. Surely a book was better entertainment than listening to the television like an old time radio show. It was the biggest thing I have ever given up for Lent, excepting the years I gave up all meat, all the time. First I did this one year, and then my family followed suit. My youngest brother insisted lamb wasn't red meat and I remember he contacted the lamb lobbyists or consortium of lambers and they divested him of this belief very quickly. It's been years since I gave up anything for Lent, first because of indifference (honestly) and then in later years because I have consciously rejected this idea of God, preferring a more active approach.

So this year I have copied a friend and I am engaging in a practice of gratitude,naming one thing very consciously that I am grateful for in my life and writing about it in a public forum, either here, Facebook, or Twitter.

As I sat in the crowded church for Ash Wednesday, I started to think about things I was grateful for, and I'm happy to say that the list came flowing quickly, which is probably the most profound blessing, and when I thought about my friend Irish, who I have referenced on this blog before, I felt profound peace come over me.

I met Irish at the Gaelic League in Detroit-- I'd seen her come into the ceili dancing before, a tall dark haired girl in killer heels. She'd sit in the corner, surrounded by school work. She looked exactly like the girls in Dublin that I was completely and utterly intimated by: stylish, aloof, confident. One night when I was down for the ceili dancing, we were doing the 16 Hand Reel, my favorite of all the dances, and when I finished, a man beckoned me over to him and his wife. I went over, breathless from the dance, smiled and sat down in the seat he pulled out for me. I looked askance. "When did you come over?" he asked in that lilting accent.

"Sorry?" I said, confused.

"When did you get here? We've never seen ye yet."

"Oh!" The penny dropped. "I'm from here, America like. I'm from Michigan."

"Ye never are, those red cheeks, surely you're just off the boat. Go on," he said to me.

I laughed and the argument continued for a few minutes and then he said, "Here's me daughter Debbie coming, let's fool her." So I put on my best Irish accent and we had Debbie convinced and all had a good giggle when I told her the truth. Then I saw Irish coming toward the table, and she was introduced as another daughter. We talked a little and then I went back out to dance. In the early days, I probably saw Irish's parents more than her. They took me out with them to get strawberry pie and told the waitresses I was their eleventh (!!) child and no one doubted it. I drank in the details of their family and the back and forth exoduses from Ireland (with ten kids!) and eventually Irish and I were everywhere together. Such different people: I was enrolled in a PhD program and Irish had a GED, but is still one of the smartest people I know. She challenged my ideas of what it meant to be intelligent and it didn't mean having a degree or letters after your name. She was open, flirty, a character, quick with a laugh, and I knew she'd do anything for me and I'd do the same for her. She came into my life after I'd moved home from London and felt lonely and lost and was just getting my feet under me. She planted them deeper for me. We'd call each other on rainy sad days and talk about moving "home" to Ireland. We'd spill all the details of our love lives to each other. She sent me on rugby tour (with the men's team) with a little book of questions and answers for me to consult when she wouldn't be there. If I had a safety deposit box, I'd put that book in there because I still have it today. When I got married, it was easy to know that Irish would stand up next to me. And now some sixteen or seventeen years later, I still know that I can call Irish and cry or laugh and it's like coming home. It's like I really am the eleventh child-- and I've found my best sister ever. It's why I can close my eyes, take a deep breath in the middle of an over-crowded church, think of her, and feel the peace come down all over me: Thank God for Irish.


OpenID savedbythebrew said...

I always love your stories and get so excited when I see a new post even after all these years

12:38 PM  

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