Blithe Centenarian, Solstice & Christmas Gift
"Oh, I wanted to. I begged my Irish, tri-lingual French teacher, to tutor me in Gaelic. She refused; called it a dead language. But I do love the sound of it."
I had just come from doing a radio gig, reading stories aloud, and popped into the big health food store when I saw a little elf. An old lady.
"Don't you look smart!" I said.
Like a bird tilting her head, I realized she hadn't quite heard me. I said it again, leaning down, as a friend working there came up to tell me:
"She just had her hundredth birthday!" I laughed and touched her cheek.
"Bless your soul."
"I'm Irish, you know, from Co. Galway."
"Are you now!"
So I burst into song. Loud enough for the little lady to hear, which meant the store did, too, but most folks just grinned.
Oh Inishfree, my island I'm returning,
From wasted years across the wintry sea...
She recited a poem for me which she had written about the pretty town where she and her daughter live on a sunny slope up near the Colorado border:
...where the winter snows come late...
"I was born in 1913," she said, "in the time of the Troubles, when we were fighting for our rights. Sinn Féin stayed above us and my mother cooked food for them." Her eyes twinkled. "And later came," she grimaced, "the Black & Tans."
"And do you know,
The Harp that once through Tara's Hall's...?"
"I do!" And sang that, too.
"You know the Irish Blessing?"
"Yes, ma'am." Though not as I was about to hear it. She recited it for me, in Gaelic.
May the road rise to meet you...
And God hold you in the hollow of his hand.
I feel as though I've been given a Christmas and Solstice gift from out of a fairy mound.
Ireland's Neolithic Newgrange tomb, dawn light streaming inward at the Winter Solstice