If I could take one recent incident to define my family, and our off kilter sense of humor, it’s the fact that my Mother is coloring in the “Piss Flaps” page of the adult coloring book I sent to Ireland as part of an Amazon gift box. There were real books in the package too. This activity as Maree, my Mother, is preparing for surgery in that region at the Galway Regional Hospital on Monday. She will be in for a week.
Maree (our Mother) raised five of us, alongside our Granny, Nonie. I’m the oldest child and grandchild and by far the best of on every front.
From the time I was eleven, back in the 1970’s, Maree worked full time as the secretary for St. Patrick’s Primary school. Between that, and an Uncle teaching in The Bish, our secondary school, it was full access to the Patrician Brothers that ran the schools. Every report travelled home to Lower Canal Road. We four brothers (Karl, Mark, Robert and Darren) got away with nothing. Ana was at the Presentation Convent getting separately indoctrinated into Christianity by the nuns. We remain excellent Christians to this day.
Maree, or Mrs. O’Toole as she was known to the thousands of young lads who passed through the school gates, worked as the secretary in St. Patrick’s. She supported all us mini Tooles until we all eventually left the Canal. I was 22 when I got out. Maree worked at the school for over forty years. She retired well into her seventies. Everyone that studied in St. Pats classrooms loved Mrs. O’Toole , hidden away in her secretary’s office, left by the stone stairs, down the staff room corridor.
As well as the five kids and our parents, we shared the small semi detached house, on Lower Canal Road, with the Granny and Grandad. Nine of us in a three bedroom house with one bathroom. Our semi detached house was glamorously named Persian Sun. Eleven Lower Canal Road was branded after the winning horse my grandparents won a share on in the Irish Sweepstakes. They bought our waterside home with the prize money. We consider a canal waterside where I come from.
I still marvel at how my mother raised and fed us with the little income that was coming in. Ireland in the 60s and 70s was not a rich country. There were two car owners on our street of twenty houses then, and only a couple had phones. We had an overhead electrical meter you put ten penny coins into. We did have a trick with a butter knife where you could reuse the same coin.
Maree dragged us all up well and we turned out just grand. None of us ended up in prison atleast. Well, that’s if you don’t count the one night in lockup for piddling against the railings of the police station just down the road on Mill Street. Guess which brother! It was just a drunk sleep over and they let him out in the morning.
We didn’t have two pennies to rub together back in the day, but every penny spent, and effort made by Maree was for her five kids. We always got new matching jumpers, machine knit, every Christmas. We looked adorable in our identical outfits, seated in decreasing size order at Sunday mass at the Cathedral. Lined up like little porcelain ducks on a sitting room wall. Maree now extends that generosity and love to her 10 grandchildren. Or is it twelve? They all love their Granny back.
It’s mostly from Maree I inherited my obsession with books and film. To this day my Mother’s never without a book in her hand. It’s usually not a coloring book.
From day one with the Mahoney family, Stacey’s mother treated me like one of her own. Even when I didn’t necessarily deserve it. Day one was the first Christmas Eve I turned up shit faced at the Mahoney household, in Teaneck New Jersey, two plus decades ago. I’d arrived with a bag of unwrapped gifts. Thanks again for wrapping those Kir! Christmas was always a marvelous over the top event with the Mahoney’s , a tree surrounded five foot deep, and just as high, with gifts.
Barbara Ann was a big supporter of mine when she was still around – more friend than mother in law. How many married men can say that?
Barbara Ann was another constant reader. I became her book purveyor at Christmas, Birthdays and Mother’s Day over the years. And that was always something fun to share with her. She’s missed.
Then there’s my wonderful sister Ana with her infectious (probably a bad description these days) dirty laugh. Ana was 11 when I left Ireland so I’ve become friends with her , long distance, over the years. Ana’s another fantastic mother to her two lads – I think Kyle and Randall . I had them all over to New York last year for a couple of fun summer weeks.
Then there are my four fabulous sisters in law: Angela in Galway; Loretta and Siobhan in Headford and Kir in San Francisco. All tough, smart , loving , no nonsense Moms.
I’d better throw Stacey in here. She Mothers me all the time whether I need it or not. I don’t.
Happy Mother’s Day to All!
So here are some recommendations for Mothers I enjoyed in film .
Philomena – Fifty years after she was forced to give up her child, by the Irish church, a mother goes on a journey with a British journalist to find her lost child. This true story was a multi award winner and will bring a tear to your eye – definitely. Fantastic performances and I love any film that sticks it to the Irish Catholic Church.
Psycho – the story of a young man, Norman Bates, and his heartfelt love for his mother (kinda). Hitchcock’s masterpiece was slammed by the critics on release. You may not have seen it but you definitely know it.
Bates Motel ran for five seasons and tells the back story of young Norman Bates and his mother as they move and settle into their new Motel operating life in White Pine Bay, Oregon. My buddy Jennifer Brancato can attest to the binger it is. She watched 4 seasons in one weekend. Vera Farmiga should have won every award as Norma Bates. This is not just a fun series, it was a critical darling.
I did try to find crash pads named Bates Motel on my cross country sabbatical. Google the reviews. You’ll see why I didn’t stay in any.
Mother – another film from the Parasite Director. An old widow’s mentally challenged son is accused of murder in a small Korean town. She struggles to prove his innocence. This is my kind of Mother’s Day entertainment, probably not yours.
Where’s Poppa? – Ruth Gordon did crazy old lady like no one else. A sad sack lawyer (George Segal) has no life outside his job and maintaining his senile mother. When he finds the woman of his dreams he plots to get rid of Momma – one way or another. It’s a jet black comedy with a big cult following.
On the book side, I’m recommending The Nix. A son rediscovers his mother after she is charged for assaulting a public figure. She had abandoned him years ago. This story spans decades and despite what sounds like a downer plot, it is fun and upbeat. This was on lots of best if lists in 2016.
I’m gone from Ireland 33 years but I still get back at least once a year. And with all this craziness going on I’ve finally got better at calling my mother!
Happy Mother’s Day Maree! Love Ya!