Irish and Jewish mothers share a stereotype with one exception: Irish mothers don’t temper their sense of guilt. With all the love in the world, an Irish mother can simultaneously worship the ground her son walks on and act with a deeper sadism than the bastard offspring of Jeffrey Dahlmer and John Wayne Gacy.
Growing up, the brother and me were pretty spoiled – it was more Enid Blyton (without the casual racism) than Angela’s Ashes, but Mam wielded the wooden spoon of guilt like Zorro felling Spaniards.
When I went through a period of fibbing she tole me that my tongue would turn black and fall out if I lied. How did she know?
“A little bird told me”
Not only was Mammy a Gaelic Doctor Doolittle, she’d created a network of avian turncoats.
That little bird told on me. Every time. It must have been a stool pigeon.
Idiopathic tongue-ectomies aside, the best correction I got was herself telling me that boys who hit their mother would face the worst punishment ever. When they died, after their four-score and ten, and were buried the offending member would end up rising from the ground and become a gruesome, peeling tribute to the finale of Carrie.
“People will come from miles around,” she said, “to visit the slowly rotting hand and say ‘There lies a terrible child who was mean to his mother.’”
Of course, we laugh about it now, but I still hate that bird.
Like salmon returning to the place of their birth once spawning season is upon them, every Christmas the Irish diaspora returns home to their Mammies to celebrate in a way only the they can: Lighting the fire in the good room, leaving a Guinness out for Santy, and getting the Christmas clothes out for Midnight Mass.
In the early nineties (1985 in Ireland years) my uncle shipped a percolating coffee pot over from America, which sat in the middle of the kitchen as we tried to figure out what this Cray supercomputer of a kitchen implement was for. It looked like a giant kettle with piping that led up to a mesh basin, which is where the coffee went. Up until then coffee came in a jar, tasted like willow bark, and was only every drunk under protest. Even Anthony Head’s on-and-off romance over a jar of Gold Blend couldn’t make it any more palatable. Gold Blend? We weren’t made of money.
Once we’d found some ground coffee (what do you mean Arabica – I want coffee) the pot was watered, loaded, and put on the gas. Within ten minutes of hissing, pffting, and all manner of steampunk noises this Dr. Snuggles-like machine produced what I can only describe as stimulant heaven. No more Mellow Birds for me… until the mesh corroded.
Ever since, like a heroin addicted J.R. Hartley jonesing for one last fix, I’ve tried to find a replacement. Times have changed and all you can find are french presses, cafetieres, and coffee makers. Until now!
Thanks to the Argos of the middle classes I’ve found a replacement.