We awoke to a winter wonderland this morning, with heavy snow draping the boughs of the hemlocks and coating the bare limbs of the naked trees. The azalea bush is covered with “cotton balls,” and the landscape is stark and white. Winter has not returned; it has never left. March is having a heyday with the weather.
St. Patrick’s Day is almost here—a day when everyone is Irish! The wearing of green and with the shamrock as a symbol, the death of St. Patrick is celebrated almost everywhere. Many fables have sprung up about this person, some true and some false. He is known as the patron saint of Ireland, and was reputed to bring Christianity to that region.
One of the fables that linger is that of leprechauns. We recognize them as the sprightly little green fairies, marking the day with their antics. Actually, the original Irish fables depict them as ugly and mean, and wearing red instead of green. These pint-sized creatures were short and wrinkled, and were shoemakers who hid their gold buried in a pot at the end of a rainbow.
Fable has it that if you catch one, hold it tight and it will grant you three wishes. You can find instructions online describing how to make a leprechaun trap to capture your own. If the weather stays like this, perhaps a person could construct a leprechaun igloo to trap one. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in your own fashion, perhaps making Irish soda bread or corned beef and cabbage. Our family has included the lowly Irish potato in many of our family meals. I draw the line at “haggis” however. It is a dish made of the heart, liver and lungs of an animal, generally a sheep, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet and spices, and encased in a sheep’s stomach and cooked. It is a Scottish dish however, and not Irish.
I do love everything Irish. With a surname like O’Dell, I could not deny my origin. When I hear the haunting melody of “Danny Boy,” it seems that I can feel the Emerald Isle calling to me. Our family history states that our O’Dell family left Ireland during the potato famine, and migrated to England. After pending one hundred years there (during which time they built an O’Dell castle—according to Aunt May) they migrated to America.
We share many of the Irish characteristics—we love to talk, and I think someone must have kissed the Blarney Stone. We love a good joke, even when it is on ourselves! My Dad was a great storyteller, and would entertain us kids for hours with his tales of panning for gold Out West. I don’t know if it was the Irish in them that caused a predilection for strong drink, but it was often referred to as a family “weakness.”
Thank the Lord that my father overcame this weakness when he turned his life over to the Lord. I can’t remember any of his antics, such as driving his Model-T Ford up the holler road with his eyes shut (which took out Clarence Brown’s fence) or trying to jump off the bed into his rubber boots. He was reformed by the time that Larry and I came into the picture.
We have inherited a vivid imagination, however. Oh, how we loved to believe in fairies! Actually, it was a “pretend” belief, just as we pretended to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. It was so much fun! When I read “Peter Pan” and it stated, “When the very first baby laughed the very first laugh, it broke into a thousand pieces and went skipping away. (I may have not quoted that exactly—it’s been at least 70-some years since I read it.)
“When someone would say, I don’t believe in fairies, somewhere a fairy would die—“said the story. We were very careful not to utter those words, or allow anyone else to say them. We spent most of our summer constructing “fairy houses.” These were built on the road bank of the “little road.” The “big road” was the main road that went up the hill, while the little road led to a few houses.
We dug square holes back in the bank, which we furnished with assorted items—acorn cups, beds made from a penny matchbox and lined with a furry mullein leaf, a fancy button tacked on the wall with a thorn—anything our imagination would find. Oh, I wish my great-granddaughters would find enjoyment in doing things like this, instead of running around with their noses pasted to those infernal tablets!
In the summer, we made “leaf hats” for the fairies. A big, flat rock made a perfect millinery shop to display our creations. We spent hours designing the elaborate hats that were fit for a fairy. Any supple leaf would do, pinned into shape with thorns. We decorated them with wildflowers, and admired each other’s creations. We could imagine the fairies donning these hats, and dancing in the moonlight. Our work was done in the pasture field above the woods, where we had access to an abundance of natural material. There was no limit to our imaginations.
That really was the good old days. I’m glad that we didn’t have all the new-fangled digital toys that occupy our children today. We made our own fun. In the winter, when it was too cold for outside play, Mary Ellen and I made paper dolls and their outfits. Mom was a good artist, and would draw the dolls on a sturdy piece of cardboard, which we would then cut out and design their wardrobes. We kept a pasteboard box under our bed, full of the dolls and their clothes. In our leisure time, we would pull out the box and spend hours playing with them.
No, we never got bored. There were books to read, games to play with the other kids (how about “Fistalk” or “I Spy?”) Then at bedtime, Daddy would read to us out of the Bible and tell us a Bible story. In my mind, I can see seven little heads bowed in prayer as we knelt around the couch and chairs. Daddy would pray, “The shades of night have gathered about us once more, and we are one day nearer our eternal home . . .” Yes, those were the good old days.