Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Dad and Mam
Earlier I spoke of the Emergency Medal that Jimmy wore on his dress uniform in New York at the St Patrick's Day parade. I also spoke about my Gran. This is a photo of my Dad who was awarded that medal, (and he's Gran's only son). That's Ma beside him, both of them looking so well together. Ma died two years after this photo was taken, and now they're both together again.
I remember the day that Da was awarded the medal along with a parchment. We lived in the top floor flat of a reconditioned tenement house in Gardiner Street at the time. His friend, Andy Sweeny was awarded his medal on the same day. I remember well, even though I was just a kid, as he and Andy sat together talking about the medal.. and of the terrible night that German bomber released it's bomb load over Dublin... and the dreadful loss of life as one of the bombs exploded in a street called North Strand Road. Dad and Andy sat there together and talked.. sharing their memories....and then Dad asked Andy if he remembered moving the collapsed wall of a house. They spoke of what they discovered when they moved part of that wall -- two young kids -- a brother and sister -- both dead, lying with their arms around each other. Dad became very quiet as he and Andy sat there, both of them looking towards the floor... remembering. And I noticed that there were tears flowing down Dad's cheeks, and that Andy had trouble talking, his voice breaking as he tried to say something to my Mam. Funny how things like that stick in the mind of a child. That bomb killed and maimed many, but it also caused other casualties, and my Dad was one of them. I believe that of all the terrible sights he seen that night the one that remained with him always was that of those two kiddies.
But there are happier memories too. I remember nights that Ma, Da and their friends Andy and his wife would sit around our kitchen table and play cards. Rummy for a penny a hand. The table would be covered with a newspaper and either Dad or Mam would bring our big white jug (one of those you'd see on an old washstand) to the nearby pub and have it filled. There the jug would stand in the middle of the table, all four of them filling their cups from it as required.... no glasses then... nothing so swanky as glasses for them. I don't think we even owned any glasses. Ah sure maybe the porter tasted better from the cups anyway. I know that it tasted very bitter because I occasionally swiped a sip.
A special night out was to be brought to Summerhill, just around the corner... to Valente's chip shop and treated to a sit-down meal of chips, a cup of Bovril and crackers broken and mixed with the Bovril. I'd feel real grown up sitting there between Ma and Da. But this isn't about me.. and time is getting on.... but I will be writing more and sharing many more memories very soon.
This is a little poem about Ma and Da. To Dubliners the term Ma'sie was (still is) a term of endearment. If you're reading this poem, try to read it in the accent of an auld Dubliner... for that's who wrote it.
The Ma and the Da
We think of them a lot these days, and the way things used to be.
But life was so much different for them, in the nineteen forties y'see.
The War was on in Europe, there were ration books galore.
And how they feared the Glimmerman... God!... knocking at the door.
The Da, he worked from early morn' til late at night.. non stop.
A half-day on a Saturday, then downtown with Ma to shop.
And Ma, her work was never done, she worked from morn' til night,
With scrubbing brush and washing board... 'twas all an uphill fight.
Oh they very often wanted.. the funds were often flat.
Don't ask me how they managed at all, God bless them both for that.
The work was scarce around that time, and Da joined the A.R.P.,
To brave the bombs on the North Strand... and terrible sights to see.
The Ma.. God be good to her.. stayed home and held the fort,
She nursed his ills, and paid the bills of every shape and sort.
But later there were happier days.. of picnics on Dollymound Strand.
Lots of happy Christmasses.. with Christmas cake -- so grand!
The parting came... and sad to say... we left them... one by one,
To Cabra... and far Germany... and the flats at Ballymun.
But we seldom missed a Saturday, just to take them for a jar,
For that's the very least we owed the Ma'sie and the Da.
Then the Autumn leaves fell down for both of them one day,
But they left behind them.. memories... that will never fade away.
They filled our lives with love and laughter... and if God knows who they are,
He's bound to say... "Well done to you -- The Ma'sie and the Da."