Friday, March 16, 2018

St. Patrick's Day homage: love, wit and memorable mum trip to Ireland

Dublin's famous Temple Bar was a pub stop on a memorable
tour of Ireland with Cookie's late mother, Ellen, who played
piano there and sang a medley of Irish tunes with the band.


Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal.
on a headstone found in a Dublin churchyard
           PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER &cm

MY MOTHER WAS determined to visit Ireland and play piano in an Irish pub.
I'm proud to say I helped make that happen before she passed in 2008. The trip made her happy -- and while I'll always miss my flamboyant and talented mum, I have memories aplenty.  
As we pulled into Cork's city harbor, for several days in the Emerald Isle, mum's fingers were ready.  Her happy tears shown in the morning sun as we shared her first look at the home of half her ancestors.  Mum was as full of emotion as her ancestors were full of blarney. (The Norwegian side, her father's, were sailors and fishermen with their own droll wit.) 
  Cookie's late sister Robbie helped
       choreograph several memorable
European trips with mum
 “I’m home, I feel it,” mum cried, lifting her hands heavenward. “These are my people.”
Then she wept.  My sister Robbie and I smiled at one another, blinking back our own tears.  We had a group hug, all of us crying. We're a crying family -- so it wasn't surprising.  We cry when we're happy; we cry when we're sad.  Some of us cry for no reason at all.
  Joy and sorrow, like the comic and tragic masks, are merely different takes on the heart's emotion. The Irish know that better than most.
Cookie and her mum on the town in Dublin. Besides
playing piano at pubs, they looked for family history.

SO ON ST. PATRICK'S day weekend, we celebrate my mother -- and one of her favorite wits:  Oscar Wilde.  He said:
"A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal is absolutely fatal."
"I can resist everything except temptation."
"Be yourself.  Everyone else is taken."
"If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life."
"The truth is rarely pure and never simple."
And from "The Importance of Being Ernest" beloved by my mother, who played Lady Bracknell in a Portland, Oregon, production:
"To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."
Mum also loved this quote from playwright Sean O'Casey:
"Money does not make you happy but it quiets the nerves."  

Dublin born Oscar Wilde was a favorite wit, playwright
of Cookie's mother, the late Ellen B. Cosgriffe.
I'D BEEN TO Ireland a half-dozen times before, but seeing it through my mother’s eyes was like seeing it anew.  From the rugged coastlines to misty meadows and stone fences, I felt connected to the country in a way I had never felt before.  The Blarney Stone took on new meaning.  The potato famine felt real.  When mum told sis and me the story of  her great grandmother’s departure, we looked the Emerald Isle in the eye. At our pub stops, mum was greeted like a favorite auntie. When the people discovered she was musical, we were center stage at the piano and couldn't buy a beverage. 
We visited several graveyards looking for  family names of Pittendrigh, Cosgriffe, Wilson. We found all, and relished the meanings and histories -- Cosgriff means "victorious." The Pittendrighs migrated to Ireland from Aberdeen in northeastern Scotland -- interesting in light of the fact that our niece, Amarylla, married a Scotsman, Steve Ganner. We learned that Wilson is a common Irish name -- more common even than the ubiquitous Smith. (Mum sniffed at that. "Nothing common about my people.")
WE'D PUT DOWN anchor in the same place where my great, great-grandmother, Molly Wilson, left her family for America before the last Century’s turn.  She’d taken the train to Cobn from Cork, on a tiny track which we found.  More memories. Memories of a lovely trip. And love. 
My 20 days in Europe with my mother and youngest sister rank high on my list of world adventures.  Not because of the exotic nature of  the ports, all of which I’d visited, but because of the unique bond we shared. Now, particularly with both mum and Robbie gone, I cherish the memories. 
LIFE IS shaped by defining moments. Often we realize their importance only in looking back. I'm grateful I helped mum follow her dreams, hold true to her vision, find a way to make that trip happen.  Call it my own "importance of being earnest."  
Karole Foreman's Desiree Armfeldt is warm, earthy, delightfully teasing
and Sean Murray's Fredrik Egerman is vain but touching in a masterful
production of Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece, "A Little Night Music." 

:   A fabulous San Diego production of Stephen 
Sondheim's "A Little Night Music" has our veteran theater reviewer waxing rhapsodic. Find out what sets this extraordinary production apart as Cookie describes the talent, staging and magic unfolding at Cygnet Theatre in San Diego's Old Town. Since reveling in the original Broadway production in 1973, Cookie has become a "Night Music" junkie, even acting as music director and pianist in her own production.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post a fresh take on theater, travel, nature, relationships and the arts. 


  1. Shore, 'tis a lovely way to start m'day, with this charming memoir. Lovely.

  2. Maryland TravelersMarch 17, 2018 at 1:27 PM

    Oh what a joy to see the Emerald Isle with one's mother. Delightful.

  3. Really enjoyed this memoir. Cookie, how lucky to have this extraordinary time with your musical mother. We see the apple didn't fall far..... keep up the good reads.

  4. San Antonio SojournersMarch 22, 2018 at 6:48 PM

    Such a warm and wonderful piece. Your travel pieces are extraordinary.

  5. Fabulous that you could make your mother so happy -- you gave her a mitzvah! Lovely.