Friday, March 14, 2014

St. Patrick's Day delights: a daughter helps her mum kick the bucket list!

GRANDMOTHER JIGGED AND COOKED CORNED BEEF, MUM DYED THE RICE GREEN AND WEPT AS SHE SAW IRELAND

Cookie and her mother, Ellen, wearing the green. 
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
St. Patrick, a humble man,
whom the holiday honors.

Dancers will kick it up during the weekend and to Monday.
MY FAVORITE memories of St. Patrick's Day have to do with my two strongest female influences:  my mother and her mother, my beloved gran, Olive. They also have to do with parades and costumes -- because both women loved them.
Proud of her Irish heritage -- Cobh in County Cork -- Gran taught us how to jig. She loved the holiday and described Cobh as vividly as if she'd lived there herself. "Oh, it's a lovely, small seaport town in County Cork, Southwest Ireland," she'd say, hands on her hips after opening an atlas to her clan's homeland. "It's on Great Island in Cork Harbour and it was from Cobn that our ancestors set sail for the new world -- never to return to Ireland again."  At this she'd dab her eyes and pour a stiff toddy.
Celebrity's Century brought Cookie's mother to Cobh, Ireland, below right.
'Tis true, 'tis true.. In the era of transatlantic travel before the jet age, Cobh was often the last port for many of the great liners bound for America. It was at Cobh that the ill-fated Titanic made its last stop. My great gran's parents -- with my grandmother's mother, Christena Wilson -- sailed to America from Cobh on a less troubled but undoubtedly tragic journey. It was called Queenstown when Christena's clan left Ireland, and Gran made certain we knew that. She nurtured a romantic notion that her meeting of my grandfather Gustav Nystul, whose parents came from Norway, had a mystical connection to the Vikings who inhabited Ireland and the waters that both cultures shared. 










SO IT WAS with great emotion that my sister Robbie, my mother Ellen, and I sailed into Cobh on a Celebrity Cruise during the last years of my mother's life. The whole trip was delightful but Ireland was the highlight.
Cook up a corned beef and cabbage dinner, such as Ellen
enjoyed. during her "bucket list" trip to Ireland.
"I'm home, I'm home," she wept as the beautiful and sleek Century ship sailed into port. It was as lovely, lively and green as my gran described it. The Ireland trip, and a trip a year later to Norway, where my grandfather's parents were born, were the two top items on mum's bucket list. I'm grateful I helped her complete this important circle in her life.
THE CENTURY'S able staff, knowing of mum's deep connection to the land, staged a private Irish-themed party after we came back on board, having toured the town and stopped at a pub for the inevitable corned beef and cabbage. Gran prepared it on a regular basis and mum yearned to taste it on native soil.
Saint Patrick converted the pagans.
St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.
The following year, my mother astonished my Georgia sister and her family's Japanese members by coloring the rice green on St. Pat's day, her eccentric nod to the saint for which the holiday is named. She claimed it helped her reconnect with the green of Cobh.
THE HISTORY of St. Patrick's Day is an interesting one. Its obvious religious connections have morphed into a reason to party, whatever your faith, or even if you are faithless. Today, we Irish welcome you all!
St. Patrick is said to have inspired the love
of shamrocks, using it to explain the Trinity.
Saint Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland, credited with bringing Christianity and driving out the snakes while charming the pagans. Most of what we know comes from his two works; the Confessio, a spiritual autobiography, and his Epistola, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish Christians. Saint Patrick probably didn't swill whisky, guzzle Guinness stout or sip green beer. He described himself as a “humble-minded man, pouring forth thanks to his Maker for having chosen him as the instrument whereby multitudes who had worshipped idols and unclean things had become the people of God.”
Cookie serves up an Ashland lunch
at the wonderful eatery, Sesame.
ALAS, THE BELOVED saint would have his work cut out with me!
Gran also told us that the shamrock became the national flower of Ireland because St. Patrick used it to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans.
Makes sense, gran. Happy St. Patrick's day up there! Bet you're jigging and knocking out Irish tunes on heaven's 88s.

COMING UP:  Ephesus and its wonders, plus the glories of Ashland, Oregon, with its world class theater, charming boutique hotel, chocolate festival, fabulous food, glorious wine and cheese, scenery, spring blossoms and shopping. Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com. Please share the link with like minded folks. Our specialties are food, fun, travel, theater and general joie de vivre! Christene Meyers, aka "Cookie," was arts and travel editor with the Lee Newspapers for many years, interviewing stars including Sean Penn, Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn, Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando. Her first "big movie" coverage was Arthur Penn's "Little Big Man," filmed in her native Montana in 1971. You can find this story at whereiscookie.

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