Irish Wisdom – The Power Of Friendship (Part 1)

The power and importance of friendship is recognized in Ireland’s ancient sagas and myths, in her wealth of proverbs and blessings, and in her literature both old and new.

Today I thought I might share some of these beautiful quotations from yesterday and today.  As I compiled my list, my blog post grew longer and longer.  So many wonderful old words reflect the importance of friendship on life’s journey, I decided to break this post into a two-part series.

Today, I share some wonderful Irish proverbs and blessings.  In part 2, we will focus on some famous Irish quotations on the topic of friendship.

 

Irish Proverbs:

 

http://www.vintagerio.com/details.php?gid=106&pid=16141There are good ships,

and there are wood ships,

the ships that sail the sea.

But the best ships are friendships,

and may they always be.

 

 

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Two shorten the road!http://www.flickr.com/photos/21560098@N06/4294363360/in/photostream/

 

 

Friends are better than gold.

 

 

Friendship is a fine thing, though bitter is the parting.

 

There is no need like the lack of a friend.

 

 

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http://www.vintagerio.com/animal_g72-animal__p9841.htmlFriends are like fiddle-strings—they must not be screwed too tightly.

 

May the hinges of our friendship never grow rusty

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Don’t be hard and don’t be soft,

And don’t desert your friend for your own share.

 

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Always remember to forget,

The friends that proved untrue.

But never forget to remember

Those that have stuck by you!

 

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‘Tis better to buy a small bouquet

And give to your friend this very day,

Than a bushel of roses white and red

To lay on his coffin after he’s dead.

 

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericabreetoe/5756760159/in/photostream/A friend’s eye is a good mirror

 

A best friend is like a four leaf clover: hard to find and lucky to have.

 

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Irish Blessings:

 

 

Lucky stars above you,

Sunshine on your way,

Many friends to love you,

Joy in work and play-

Laughter to outweigh each care,

In your heart a song-

And gladness waiting everywhere

All your whole life long!

 

May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.

 

 

 

May the roof above us never fall in,

and may we friends gathered below never fall out.

 

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Rainbow in the West of Ireland

Wishing you a rainbow

For sunlight after showers—

Miles and miles of Irish smiles

For golden happy hours—

Shamrocks at your doorway

For luck and laughter too,

And a host of friends that never ends

Each day your whole life through!

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May you always have work for your hands to do.

May your pockets hold always a coin or two.

May the sun shine bright on your windowpane.

May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain.

May the hand of a friend always be near you.

And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

 

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May God give you….

For every storm a rainbow,

For every every tear a smile,

For every care a promise

And a blessing in each trial.

For every problem life sends,

A faithful friend to share,

For every sigh a sweet song,

And an answer for each prayer.

 

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May the friendships you make be those which endure

And all of your gray clouds be small ones for sure,

And trusting in Him to Whom we all pray,

May a song fill your heart every step of the way.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

 

When You Go Will You Send Back A Letter From America

In the late 1980’s the Scottish band, The Proclaimers had a big hit with their song “Letter from America.”  I love this song, and listen to it regularly.  Here are two of its most memorable lines:

When you go will you send back a letter from America?

Take a look up the rail track from Miami to Canada

 

When the song was written e-mail, skype and texting were merely dreams forming and developing in the minds of geniuses.  Letters were still the primary means of communication between families separated by the Atlantic Ocean.

I remember when I first came to America in the late 1980’s, I phoned home once a week.  My phone bills were astronomical, so talking for an hour or two was out of the question.  Instead I wrote letters regularly.

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Old Aerogramme Letter With Checkered Border

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I loved reaching into my mail box each evening.  A wave of sheer joy came over me, when I found a checker-bordered aerogramme with my name lovingly imprinted on the cover.

Nowadays, trips to the mail box reveal no such treasures – just bills and junk mail.  Sometimes I miss those days of old, when letters from Ireland were regularly delivered.

I often think of those who left Ireland over a century ago.  They never knew the luxury of a weekly phone call, or daily in my case, now that we have an internet phone connection with unlimited calls to the Emerald Isle.

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For our ancestors, connection to family left behind was limited to letters, sometimes taking weeks or months between deliveries.  Even for those who left in the 1950’s, like six of my father’s brothers and sisters, telephone calls were unheard of.   For starters my grandmother never owned a phone.  In an emergency a kind neighbor or the priest might agree to let her use their phone.

No, truth be told, even until the 1970’s my granny only heard from her children in America through letters.  I still remember the expression on her face when the postman arrived with a “letter from America.”  She smiled all day long.  I watched eagerly as her eyes devoured precious words.  She stuffed the sheets into a pocket hidden in the folds of her skirt.  I knew she examined them frequently throughout the day.  Loving words eased the pain of her aching heart.

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So whenever I listen to The Proclaimers, I think of my granny and her treasured letters from America.  My children will probably never understand the role letters played in our lives.  I must remember to tell them about their great-grandmother’s skirt pockets, stuffed with handwritten pages filled with loving words from her children far away.

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

 

 

Finding Home On The Road Taken

Damien Fox is a young American writer who lives in Chicago, Illinois.  Today, Damien shares his story of finding home in America as a first-generation Irish American child of immigrant parents.

Damien Fox

 

Finding Home On The Road Taken

 

My grandmother cried the day my mother’s crisp burgundy passport arrived in the mail. And she had reason to, for soon her daughter would leave Ireland forever.

In the southwest of Ireland, unbridled Atlantic waves crash upon a picturesque County Clare coastline. Surrounded by rolling hills and lush green meadows, the West Clare landscape delivers well in favor of Ireland’s renowned “forty shades of green”. A few kilometers from that Atlantic coast, lie two quaint homes tucked away in the quiet countryside from which came the two most important individuals in my life.

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An Irish Passport

Nationwide recession blindsided Ireland in the late 1970s. The dawn of the 1980s triggered panic and discouragement within a generation of Irish people faced with high unemployment, inflation and public debt bringing many to an ill-fated crossroads: to stay or to go? This ultimatum swept the country as desperation quickly absorbed the island’s youth. When push came to shove, decade long fiscal stagnancy provoked the emigration of over 200,000 skilled and educated young people, victimized by an economy struggling to sustain itself.

Among those who left to settle in foreign ports of call around the world were my parentstwo fresh-faced, naive twenty-something-year-olds exiled to a new life in “The Windy City,” with only one another and two modest suitcases in hand.

And there, I truly believe, is where my story begins.  As far back as memory will bring me, I have always identified myself as being “Irish”.

When JFK visited Ireland in June of 1963, he was quoted as saying,

“[Ireland] is not the land of my birth, but it is the

land for which I have the greatest affection.”

 

My own unwavering affection for my ancestral homeland would come to define me throughout my life.

My love affair with my heritage began at just two years old. Congressman Bruce Morrison’s 1992 visa program granted 48,000 green cards to Irish expatriates in the U.S., ending my parents four year wait to return home to Ireland.

The time had come for my two-year-old self to meet my entire extended family for the first time. A tripod would no longer be necessary to take family pictures.  The people in the photos that hung upon the walls of our home would finally come to life.  And I would finaly meet the family in whose lives I had only ever existed through Kodak photographs and carefully crafted words in countless letters mailed across the Atlantic.

Young Damien On An Aer Lingus Flight To Ireland

The arrivals hall of Shannon Airport was filled with love as our relations waited in anticipation for the Aer Lingus 747 carrying our family to touch down on Irish soil on January 31st 1992. Dressed in a grey suit and forest green tie, I clung to my mother’s hand as she gently led her little Yank to meet a family that already felt so much love for someone they had never even met.

Instantly, I felt at home.

My life revolved around Ireland from that day forward. With the births of my siblings, came the opportunity to pass along my love for Ireland and everything it stood for. As family trips home to Ireland were planned, calendars were created to count down to our departure months in advance. Bags were packed weeks prior for a journey that would result in late nights, sleepovers and generous relatives slyly slipping us a few “quid” behind our parents’ backs. Ireland was heaven on earth. There was simply no place I would rather be.

Tearful goodbyes scarred my childhood when our vacation time would end. Little did we know on occasion our “goodbyes” were quite final, for when we returned again, God would have called someone home. Saying goodbye before our return trip to America left me devastated; tears would fall as we drove through the winding roads en route to Shannon, leaving our family behind us. Onboard the plane, I would strain my neck during take-off, trying to take in every view of Ireland before the pristine landscape would be lost beneath the clouds below.

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Aerial View of Ireland

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Growing up 4,000 miles away from Ireland was difficult for me as a boy. My parents built a wonderful home for us in Chicago, but most times I could only dwell on being away from Ireland. As our grandparents would pass away, we stayed behind while our parents made their lonely journey back to an Ireland that would never be the same, inevitably leaving them orphaned when they reached the other side.

As I grew into my teenage years, my love for Ireland never diminished, making it especially hard when recession reached American shores in 2006 and trips home came to a halt. With the housing market the first to go, my parents, like most Irish builders, were left invested entirely in a stagnant general contracting business and subsequently victimized economically for the second time in their lives. Left with high debts, mortgage payments, and school tuitions, trips to Ireland became a leisure that our family could no longer afford. At this time, my world was completely invested in a place across the Atlantic.

No one warned me of the trouble that could occur in investing everything I had in something that could be easily taken away. But here I was, seemingly left with nothing—no extended family and no real relationships with anyone besides my immediate family on which to build a new life. I was left behinda shy, reserved young manand I did not find it fair. My days were spent alone watching RTÉ online, immersing myself in Irish history and obsessively pricing flights home.

I could not continue on like this. Luckily, I arrived at a crossroads, facing my own ultimatuman almost “fight-or-flight” response. And I was going to fightfight to step outside my own comfort zones to find my notion of home in America and make my young years, the best years of my life.

 

And I did.


An examination of my own surroundings helped me to recognize a close-knit Chicago community that I could find a place in; a place not much different than the Ireland I had left behind where I could bring my background and experiences to a unique collective where people’s differences, as much as their similarities, made them friends. Looking back, I shudder to think how life would have been had I not come to find “home” in America.

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Chicago, Illinois

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I have not returned to Ireland now for over half a decade. Luckily, my relationships established in childhood have remained strong to this day despite the distance, while new relationships and experiences have shaped a successful, happy life in America. However, would I change anything if I had the chance? Never. These experiences have shaped my identity, making me the person that I am today. My parents’ journey has paved the way for my own.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

 

And it has. It truly has.

 


Go Raibh Maith Agat, Damien

(Thank You, Damien)

Irish American Mom

Are My Children Irish Or American?

Many years ago an American friend once asked me if I considered my children to be Irish or American.  I didn’t hesitate for one second before I answered emphatically:

 

“My children are American.”

 

I feel very strongly that, as an Irish-born mother of four American kids I must try to raise them without any trace of an identity crisis.  I want them to be proud of being American, all the while embracing their Irish heritage.

This is no mean feat.

 

Identity Crisis

 

My Own Childhood Identity Crisis: 

 

I grew up in Dublin, but both my parents were from County Cork.  I spent a lot of my childhood on my grannys’ farms, but when I was there I always knew I was not a true Corkonian, even though I had as much Cork blood flowing through my veins as any of my cousins.

Now Cork people are very proud of their county.  There is a saying:

 

“Irish by birth, Cork by the grace of God.”

 

This line was made famous by Cork’s most illustrious soccer playing son, Roy Keane, when he used it in his autobiography.

I remember feeling different when visiting Cork.  There, people loved to call me “a little jackeen”.  The problem was in Dublin, I was not truly viewed as “a Dub”.  I heard the term “culchie” more than once, an Irish term for someone born in rural Ireland. I didn’t know where I belonged.

I don’t want history to repeat itself with my little ones, so I am doing my best to raise four proud Americans.

 

My Little Americans In Ireland:

 

When we were back in Ireland last year my Mom asked my four-year old son what he learned at school.  We were all sitting around the kitchen table, enjoying a cup of tea and a biscuit after dinner.

“I learned about America,” he replied.

“Oh tell me what you learned,” she asked.

“I learned this.”

He stood up on his chair and placed his hand across his chest, before devoutly reciting the pledge of allegiance:

 

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of

America, and to the republic for which it stands,

one nation under God, indivisible,

with liberty and justice for all.”

 

We all clapped, but my mom looked a little shocked.

“That was lovely,” she stuttered.

After the kids had gone to bed, my Mom confessed his beautiful recitation of the pledge made her feel very emotional.  It was the first time she realized my kids are Americans, first and foremost.

 

My Son Realizes He Is Different To Other Kentuckians: 

 

When we returned from Ireland to Kentucky after a lovely summer with family, my oldest boy was full of the joys of Ireland.  He spoke about it constantly, so much so, one friend at school grew tired of listening to his talk of the old sod.

“Why don’t you go back to Ireland?” the little boy asked.

My son was devastated.  He cried on his pillow that night as I tucked him in.

“But I’m American, mom,” he sobbed.  “I’m your Dallas Cowboy.”

I held his hand and cuddled him, reassuring him he was my little Texan.  When he finally fell asleep, I said a little prayer, knowing the issue of true identity may be with my children through life.  Only they can answer the question of identity for themselves.

 

A Story For Our Immigrant Tales Section:

 

Last week I was contacted by Damien Fox, a young American writer from Chicago.  Damien’s parents were both born in Ireland.  When he grew up he had to determine which path he wished to follow (a decision my children may also face).

 

Did he wish to be Irish, all the while living in America

and pining for a country he visited as a child?

Or

Is he a proud American, choosing to belong to a vibrant

community of family and friends?

 

He wrote a heart-warming and poignant piece about his Irish American journey, sharing the story of his personal identity crisis.  Come back tomorrow to read his brilliant guest post.

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom

 

Boiled Egg And Soldiers

A boiled egg standing proudly in an egg cup is an inviting breakfast or lunch.  Line up some buttered toast sticks (nicknamed soldiers) on the side, and I am in egg-dipping heaven.

Waiting To Be Cracked Open

Boiled eggs are a staple on any Irish or English household’s menu.  A knob of melting butter on top adds a creamy lusciousness to the yolk.

 

Egg Cups

 

Egg cups line the cupboards and dressers of most Irish homes.  Whether made from plain white pottery, or delicately painted china, egg cups display a boiled egg exquisitely.

Yet their design is not just showy, also serving a very functional purpose.  By balancing a boiled egg upright, the top of the egg can easily be tapped with a spoon to remove the cap, allowing access to the interior for delicious toast dipping.

Boiled Egg In Egg Cup

Egg cups are not widely available here in America.  I confess I only own one egg cup.  Next time I visit Ireland I plan to extend my collection.  Here in America, I have resorted to using shot glasses to hold my boiled eggs.

 

“She Can’t Boil An Egg!”

 

Boiling an egg has traditionally been seen as a very simple task.  In the past, a bad cook was often accused of not being able to boil an egg. Today I come to the defense of all those so-called bad cooks, wrongly denounced for their lack of egg boiling skills.

 

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Triple Egg Timer

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If boiling an egg is so simple, then why on earth were egg timers invented?  I love this triple egg timer, with separate hour glass timers for soft, medium, and hard boiled eggs.

Cooking an egg to order takes precision and exact timing.  Hard boiling an egg is a little easier than soft boiling, but then you have to contend with the whole issue of preventing a black ring around the yolk if you wish to serve them cold.

Saying a bad cook couldn’t boil water is definitely a more accurate indictment, because egg boiling is truly a skill.

 

How To Boil Eggs

 

A Dozen Eggs

When boiling an egg in America, the first decision requires choosing the color of your egg.  When I first came over here I was surprised by all the white-shelled eggs sold in grocery stores.  I grew up eating brown-shelled eggs, so I confess I am a little partial to them.  A white boiled egg in an egg cup just looks a little anemic to my Irish eyes.

Eggs In Saucepan Covered By 1-inch Of Water

Use eggs that have come to room temperature.  Eggs that are taken straight from the fridge tend to crack.  Place the eggs into a saucepan which is just big enough to hold them on the bottom.  Never pile the eggs up, but always lay them in a single layer.  Completely cover the eggs with cold water.

If you wish to make sure your eggs don’t crack during the boiling process, just prick a tiny hole in the rounder, less pointy end of the egg.  There is a little air pocket there, with a membrane separating the inner egg from the shell.

Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat immediately the water starts bubbling and start your timer.

For soft-boiled eggs, simmer for just 3 or 4 minutes (the less time cooking the softer the egg).

For a yolk that is just-set, simmer the egg for 5 to 6 minutes.

For a hard-boiled egg, simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.  As a child I was always told 10 minutes for hard boiled, but 8 minutes usually does the trick.  If planning to serve hard boiled eggs cold, immediately place them in icy water to stop the cooking process and prevent development of that ugly black ring around the yolk.

Dipping Soldiers In Soft-Boiled Egg

As soon as the timer goes off, drain the eggs and serve them immediately.  Remember if you leave them sitting in hot water, even with the burner turned off, they will just keep cooking.

I often wonder how the lord of the manor in years gone by ever managed to eat a soft boiled egg.  I imagine the poor maid dashing from the kitchen with his egg the moment it came out of the boiling water.  If the kitchen was too far away from the breakfast room, the egg would surely keep cooking as she sped to his lordship.  That’s why I think egg timers were set for 3 minutes rather than 4, to try to keep that yolk as soft as possible while transporting it through the Big House.

Sourdough Bread - Perfect For Making Toast Soldiers

Toast soldiers are just strips of buttered toast.  Their slim, rectangular shape makes them perfect for dipping into a boiled egg.

In Ireland I always loved soldiers made with batch bread, a thick textured loaf with a distinctive flavor.  Here in America I use sourdough bread.  I just cut a thick slice, toast it, remove the crusts and slice it into thin strips.

Medium-Boiled Egg

Boiled egg and soldiers – a perfect combination!

 

Boiled Egg In A Cup

When my triplets were toddlers, boiled egg in a cup was perfect for lunch.  Toast soldiers make great finger food for little ones.  I just scooped the boiled egg out of the shell with a spoon, mashed it in a cup with a big knob of creamy butter.  Of course when they started to feed themselves I served their eggs in plastic bowls.

If you are ever accused of not being able to boil an egg, don’t worry.  It’s just a matter of timing anyone can learn.

And so, may all the eggs you boil, be happy eggs.  Enjoy!!!

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom