How do I Know?

 

Bonmahon
To Bonmahon Beach,  Co. Waterford

The little girl let go of her father’s hand at the bottom of the wooden steps to the beach, handed him her doll, and sat down to take off her socks and sandals.

We passed each other half way down and they both smiled at me and said a happy ‘hello.’  They looked so much at home and she was dancing along beside him in her bare feet, not caring about sand between her small toes. The sand was soft, silky and hot. I’d just been playing with it, letting it slip through my fingers,  like I used to when I was a kid.

The modern word for their togetherness is ‘quality time,’ but this wasn’t timed time with quick glances at the hands of a watch or the digits on a smart phone. It was relaxed time; time to paddle, run hand in hand in the lacy wavelets, pet the big fluffy dog who was out for his constitutional with his master.

This was father and daughter time; building sandcastles and memories to last a lifetime and beyond.

How do I know?

I just do because of the way they looked at me with their eyes shining like mirrors.

 

 

 

The Memory Makers

Tramore Beach is a place where young children have been introduced to the sea for many, many years now. I was once one of those kids and I always love to see the tradition being carried on, as it was by this man with his youngster at sunset last night.

picsart_01-14-09-11-40
Tramore Beach, Co. Waterford

While moments like this make me a little nostalgic, they also remind me that my memories are not necessarily rose-tinted. I remember the sea being golden and Dad bringing me right to the edge of the waves and then lifting me high into the air as the water came in. I saw the exact same thing happening before my very eyes last night and all the while the Metal Man was watching out in the distance, just as he was back when I was tiny.

Oddly enough, it was only while I was watching this pair playing with the waves that I realised that the memories were not just being created for the child but for the man as well. I wondered if he had once been the child that I was and was remembering his father as well as living in the moment with his own child.

All the while, lines of poetry kept wandering in and out of my head.

How can we know the dancer from the dance?  (W.B. Yeats)

and

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams. 

(Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy)

Yes, memory is crucial to  connectedness in the world and our sense of having a place within that:

Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilisation, no society, no future. (Elie Wiesel)

 

September … ‘mber

I’m well aware that there is a strong movement away from going to the well of our memories in favour of striving to ‘live in the moment.’

While I’m all for living in the moment, I feel that our present moments are often framed by our pasts and I love nothing more than to bring my bucket to the deep well that lives in my heart and let it pull up a fine glass of memories that were made years ago.

The end of September is always a nostalgic time and it’s interesting that it is the first month of the year that carries with it the word, ‘mber’ that so often starts conversations about the old days. ‘mber the time …?’ 

Well, the memories that are with me tonight are walking trips that Dad used to bring me (or one of the others) on. I’m talking 1970s  and he was a big, strong, fit man for whom walking meant striding out for maybe twenty miles before lunch!

The walking trips were to wild places and a couple of cameras were always part of his luggage, as well as clean white cotton hankies, a strong black umbrella and his toothbrush. He was ever so careful, even vain, about his teeth in spite of being addicted to all things sugar.

The September song that brings me back to those times is this one sung by Nana Mouskouri, who I was fortunate enough to hear in concert in Dublin around 1975.

In September 1974, Dad and I went on a walking trip to his native Co. Clare ~ the place he loved more than anywhere in the whole world. Back then, the Cliffs of Moher hadn’t been commercialised and were wilder than wild. Dad must have taken thousands of photos of the The Cliffs during his lifetime and this is one that he took during our visit that year:

the-cliffs
The Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare ~ Photo by Frank Tubridy

It was on those expeditions that I got to know about my father’s youth and heard lots of stories about how it was to grow up in the West of Ireland in the 1920s and 30s. I’m so glad now that we had those shared times as they give me a sense of my background too. They also make me smile as I think of his urgings to ‘step on it’ if he caught sight of  a black cloud heading our way! For me, ‘stepping on it’ meant jogging along beside him as his stride lengthened and lengthened …

Evenings with Dad

Kilfarassy Beach, which is about four miles from Tramore, always evokes thoughts of Dad. He first came to love it in the early 1940s when he came to Waterford as a young bank official. Having grown up by the sea in rugged Co. Clare, he had an instinctual need to see tall cliffs and sunsets.

Sunset.jpg
Golden Light

It was the place where he brought us for swims and picnics when we were kids and it was the place where he and I used to go for our evening outings when he was nearing the end of his life. We’d go for a tiny walk, linking arms, and then sit in the car and watch the sunset. Sometimes, we would just sit in companionable silence; other times, we’d chat about his memories, our shared memories or about things that we wanted to discuss in absolute private.

Sunset2
Beach of Dreams

Kilfarassy’s cliffs light up magnificently at sunset but our eyes and talk was always about that spot down at the end of the beach by the jaggedy rocks which was ‘ours.’ That’s where we once sat as a family ~ buckets and spaces, deck chairs, togs, towels and the leaky thermos flask wrapped in an old tea towel.

Sunset3.jpg
The Eye of the Cliff

Both of us had a fascination with the eye of the cliff right out at the edge. We called it ‘the eye’ but there were times when we thought it was more like a big arm enfolding or maybe a heart.

Sunset1
Waves of Emotion

The chance to have all those shared hours with Dad, especially in his last years, is something I treasure beyond description. Sometimes, he would nod off to sleep in the car on the way home but never once did he nod off when we were watching the sunset and waiting to soak up the afterglow.

 

 

Memories and Laughing Doors

Here’s a couple of thoughts for the day or for the rest of your life:

Everyone needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.’ (Saul Bellow)

Door
The Red Door

And how about this:

If you are going to be able to look back on something and laugh about it, you might as well laugh about it now. (Marie Osmond)

Go on, make a few memories TODAY!

 

Our 24th Wedding Anniversary

It’s our 24th Wedding Anniversary today and I decided to dig out the wedding photos to take a peep at them.

Twenty-four years is a long time but I thought I  remembered the day as vividly as if it were today. I’d have said that I wasn’t a wedding person at all but am shocked at the extent to which I was smiling through the it all ~ even the ceremony!

Our Wedding Ceremony at Carbally Church, Co. Waterford.
Our Wedding Ceremony at Carbally Church, Co. Waterford.

The other thing that came flooding back to me as I looked at the photos was the church music. I’d never heard of Panis Angelicus until a few weeks before the wedding when I was asked what hymns I wanted. I hadn’t a notion but a musical friend suggested Panis Angelicus, among other gems, and when I heard it for the first time on 21st September, 1991,  in the little church in Carbally, I was absolutely stunned by its beauty.

So twenty-four years on, I decided it was time to make up for what I felt was a lost swim on our wedding day. I’d had curls put into my extremely straight hair for the occasion and everyone warned me that a swim would wash them out. I felt absolutely deprived as I see a swim as being an essential, especially on ‘special days’ ~ in other words, everyday.

Annestown Beach was divine this morning and felt exactly the right place to be.

Annestown Beach, Co. Waterford
Annestown Beach, Co. Waterford

Hubby, as I mentioned here before, isn’t into ‘special days,’ like birthdays and anniversaries so I’m wondering how he’ll react when I present him with the wedding album on a plate with his supper.

Wedding
All Smiles!

Best go and get the supper ready!!!

 

Missings

Mother and Tiffin
Mother and Tiffin

We got Tiffin when I turned 15, two years before I (the youngest) left home for College, and she was the dog who was Mother’s constant companion during the ’empty nest’ years.

The love that they shared blazes out at me as I look at this particular photograph but more than anything the photograph evokes memories of Mother’s ability to love in a soft, gentle, humourous, witty, empathetic, interested way.

She was a listener and was genuinely interested in hearing about friends of ours that she was never necessarily ever going to meet.

Our relationship was remarkably strong and we chatted endlessly and went all sorts of places together over the years. One of the hardest things to cope with after she died was not having our morning chats down in her house and our nightly chats on the phone  at 8pm. We talked about absolutely everything.

I reckon I was absolutely blessed to have such a maternal presence in my life up to my early 50s. The more I learn about life, the more I realise that mother/daughter relationships are certainly not guaranteed to work out.

Yes, I miss her but I’m so glad that she didn’t have to endure the heartbreak of living without Father. In July 2009, just a couple of months after she had died, I didn’t see things quite like this. I just wanted her to be at the end of the phone or down in the house with her welcoming smile.

But, it wouldn’t have worked out. I know now that it wouldn’t. I also know that she is fully with me in spirit and there at my shoulder as I do everyday things like deadhead the roses, pet puppy Stan, go for walks in the woods, go looking for the new moon, spit superstitiously when I see a single magpie, graze on raspberries in the garden, think in poetry, go for stolen swims and treasure the ‘Tramore air.’

The Lady Moss lay under the moon

Silver from side to side.

(Anonymous)

Gate of Life

Summery Me Photo: Frank Tubridy
Summery Me
Photo: Frank Tubridy

Thoughts of childhood holidays flitted into my mind this morning for no apparent reason and I went on a rummage in a box of my late father’s photographs.  The images brought me on a magical journey all round Ireland.

But, I kept coming back to this photograph which was taken on my grandmother’s farm in Co. Meath. Those holidays were very special as they brought us from living in the middle of towns right into the heart of the country.

There’s lots of things I love about the photo: the soft white dress and the black wellies; the lovely ironwork of the gate and the way it is reflected in the summer sun …..

But, most of all, I love the fact that I’m gazing at Dad ~ a man who sought to make every holiday as memorable for us as he possibly could.

 

 

Happy Days!

June 10 is full of memories as it was Father’s birthday. He was born in 1919 in Kilrush, Co. Clare ~ a place that remained incredibly special to him right up to the day he died in 2010.

Today, I think of his mother, a woman he absolutely adored and who died when he was a young teenager. I can just imagine them looking adoringly into each other’s eyes for the first time on this day 95 years ago. He was her second child and her first son.

Father's Beloved Mother
Father’s Beloved Mother

I’m so glad that he kept her memory alive through this photograph which had a prominent place in the sitting-room of the various houses in which we lived. It never failed to spark him into talking about his happy childhood and indeed about the importance of building happiness into every single moment, however mundane the moment might at first appear.

Yes, Dad, I’ll be having that ice-cream in your honour today ~ cut from a block with a warm knife and sandwiched between two wafers.