Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Each February I slowly become Irish. Not in front of anyone, mind you. Heavens no. But when Robert leaves for work and the children leave for school, when I’m free to be myself, come February the Irish creeps up on me.

I listen to James Galway and the Chieftains. I watch “The Quiet Man” while I drink tea from a Belleek cup and eat hot cross buns, although I’m not certain if they eat hot cross buns in Ireland. I fix oatmeal every morning and potatoes every night. I wear wool sweaters with a small Celtic cross – under my sweater, though, so no one can see. And whenever I drive by St. Mary’s Church, I cross myself. It’s just a bit of whimsy to while away the last bit of winter’s gloom. Come April the spell has vanished.

One day as I was pushing my cart through the P&C parking lot, a gust of wind blew a crumpled piece of paper into one of my bags. It was a contest entry form to win a trip to Ireland. It was a sign. I believe in signs.

You’re not Irish, my mother says. True, there’s not a platelet of Irish blood coursing through my veins. English thoroughbreds through and through, Grandma says. We’ve been here since the early 1600s, she says. 1621 to be exact. The fact that we didn’t come over on the Mayflower has always been a sore spot with Grandma, so she hedges on the year.

The Irish hate the English, my mother says. Why would you want to go to Ireland? she asks. England is the country you should visit, she says. Maybe if it was June I’d want to see England. But it was February and the contest was for a trip to Ireland, not England. And so, because I was coming under the spell, and because I believe in signs, I filled out the entry form and sent it in.

That night I began having tantalizing dreams of a man who wasn’t Robert. We were in Ireland on the remote island of Inishmaan. I knew it was Inishmaan from an article I read in the New York Post, complete with pictures. In one dream we walked hand in hand along the water’s edge, my white cotton skirt fluttering in the breeze. In another dream, he slid into bed next to me and pulled me close.

Such nocturnal carnal adventures normally don’t bother me because I have no idea who the other man is. I can’t control my dreams, so I’m not committing a sin. But these dreams involve some of the seven deadlies, like impure thoughts and coveting, because the fact is I know this man. It’s Frank the butcher.

Frank is not handsome. His body is rugged, but his face looks like he ran a hundred-yard dash in a ninety-yard gym. The consensus amongst his customers is that he was probably a boxer at one time. Bantam weight, according to one elderly gentleman. What Frank lacks in looks he makes up with charisma. Children giggle, men joke, and women of all ages swoon when he waits on them. Once a blue-hair standing behind me in line sighed and said that Frank made her feel young again.

Normally I shop at Frank’s Butcher Shop twice a week. But once I start having the dreams, I go every day. I fix my hair. I fret over my clothes. I use makeup -- a bit of blush, a touch of lip gloss -- nothing fancy. The worst part is driving by St. Mary’s. I feel as though I’m driving straight to hell. I’d make a helluva Catholic. I’m wasted on the Presbyterians.

You’re buying a lot of meat, says Robert. My face reddens, so I say that I could fix fish on Fridays, to which Robert says, Jesus, we’re not Catholic! Then I explain that Catholics can eat meat on Fridays until Lent begins, to which Robert says, Christ! I don’t care what the damned Catholics eat! I just meant that we’ve got a lot of meat in the freezer. True. When I shopped twice a week I’d buy several meals’ worth each time, and I just kept right on buying that much even though I was shopping every day. I could have said that I got some good bargains, but I didn’t think it wise to add lying to my list of sins considering that I was already hip-deep in lusting and coveting.

I could think of no other reason to stop at Frank’s Butcher Shop than to buy meat. So, the sooner I got rid of the meat, the sooner I’d see Frank again.

The longer I went without seeing Frank, the more ardent my dreams became. I’d awake in a sweat and run to the freezer to count the packages of meat. It was obvious that I'd have to increase our meat consumption if I was going to be in line at Frank’s in time to buy a St. Patrick’s Day corned beef. So, I doubled the meat in stews. I fixed extra burgers. I actually cooked a sirloin roast just for sandwich meat. After every meal, I secretly fed the leftovers to Mitzi, our dog. And we had a lot of leftovers. It was a struggle, but Mitzi was up to the challenge.

St. Patrick’s Day dawned full of promise, the one day each year when even the English can be Irish. I wore my genuine, hand-knitted Irish sweater and whizzed by St. Mary’s without so much as a twinge of guilt.

The butcher shop was a-buzz with conversation. Everyone wanted to know where Frank was. Frank’s not here?, I ask. No, says a redhead. His brother Joe is taking his place, she says. No one knows why.

When it’s my turn I tell Joe I want corned beef. Where’s Frank?, I ask. In Ireland on his honeymoon, says Joe. The ladies gasp in unison. Honeymoon? Frank is on his honeymoon - in Ireland? By any chance are they in Inishmaan?, I ask. Yeah, he got the idea in the Post, says Joe. How did you know?, he asks. I read the same article, says I. I could have gone to the P&C for corned beef, says a blue-hair, and all the women nod in solemn agreement.

Of course, nobody in the family likes corned beef. I tried to develop a taste for it myself, but I never did. No one can stomach the cabbage, and we all gag on the carrots, but we do manage to choke down some potatoes. Mitzi won’t touch any of it. Why do you cook this stuff if no one likes it?, asks Robert. Because it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I say. But we’re not Irish!, says Robert. I know, says I, I know. It was nothing more than a momentary detour into whimsy. 



  1. Aloha Kitty,

    Thanks for your kind words after visiting my blog, and hey, yours is well organized, too! And, you've been doing this since 2003.... wow, I bow down and chant "I'm not worthy!!"

    PS... LOVED this story about Ireland, and as a lad who was born and raised in Dublin (as well as having lived in England) you nailed it!!


    1. OMG, hi MARK! Long time. Thank you for the compliment :)