on being green.

wee spinach
wee spinach. (click to see larger).

Whoever said that March goes “in like a lion, out like a lamb?” was very wise. I’ve been jumping headfirst into spring, so eager to escape the topsy-turvy winter, the gray skies, the cold, that I’ve forgotten that entry can be well, akin to smacking a brick wall with your popeye- sized arms (only in your imagination, darling) that blocks this glorious thing called summer, with its sweet smells and tastes. Let’s just say that the brick wall has cracked a little, but it’s still intact, and I have lots of metaphorical bruises, one after another, to prove it.

Or maybe I’m just embellishing what was otherwise a very hazy, often painful, not-really-worth-mentioning week of nonstop infections and headaches. So forgive me if I haven’t been in this space, dear readers. I look forward to coming back and flexing my blogging muscles more frequently.

Today is a day of green here in the US, a day where one can’t resist puns and associations, such as Kermit the Frog, or being environmentally conscious. And it’s not really a national holiday, just as Valentine’s Day isn’t really a holiday. And it’s actually a religious holiday, in honor of a Catholic saint named Patrick, whom, it seems, was not immune to making all sorts of associations and analogies either (remember the three leaf clover and the trinity?).

Mostly, though, it’s a chance to celebrate being Irish, which seems to mean drinking lots and lots of Guinness (the unofficial national beverage of Ireland), and Irish heritage. Today, though, I think about my de facto Irish grandparents (my actual grandparents were either dead or about a zillion miles away in Korea, so I always considered them my grandparents). Originally, Agnes was my tutor/therapist, but due to job changes, I’d visit her at her house just about every other Sunday.

Our lessons involved mostly diagramming sentences, making sure I could put a subject and verb together (look ma, i can do it with eyes closed!), and then analyzing literature (to this day I still resent Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Or was it Adventures of Tom Sawyer? Somehow the Sunday Disney movie versions never really explained the deeply ingrained philosophies under the story, and I read the book to death, that is to say, three to four months, before finally giving up in disgust and asking her outright, so what’s your answer to this question, then? I might as well as have asked what was the meaning to life, which is, there is no right or wrong in literary criticism. There is just criticism.

After the lessons, there was noon tea. Tea was always served on fine English china, of course. And it was always the rule that the tea be weak, but drunk with enormous heapings of milk and sugar. And there was always cake. And lace tablecloths. And flowers. Sometimes we brought flowers on her birthday, sometimes we brought the cake, having a bit of chocolate fetish ourselves, and Agnes was primarily a sensible pound cake person, all the way, with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

One summer when I complained I was bored, she promptly went to a used book sale at a library and gave me twenty or so books to read, one of them which became a dog-eared and tattered copy of fairy tales (not your usual Grimm, the kind that came from exotic well, exotic to a 8 years old, anyway, places like Russia. ) I don’t remember if I read all twenty books or so, but I think that was my first introduction to a serious book stash. Agneswas also a crossword fiend — she’d be more or less done with the New York Times crossword by the time I showed up for my lesson (11 am).

Is it any wonder, then, that I blame her solely for my tea fetish, book stash, and sunday crossword habit?

Towards the later years of her life, she met Mike, who fit every Irish stereotype. He was genial, red-faced, hearty, and an all-around likeable person. And he never was at a loss for words. He always had a good story, having served in the Navy for a long time. He had children and grandchildren from a previous marriage, but he treated everyone like they were part of his family. It was he who explained what Erin Go Bragh means in Gaelic, which means Ireland forever. In turn, my dad explained to him the Korean equivalent. Nationalism at its best, I like to say.

Agnes and Mike have passed away a couple of years ago, and my biggest regret is not being able to go to their funerals, and saying a final good-bye (I was in a miserable job at that time with one hellish boss). So on March 17th, a time when being Irish is celebrated, I think of them, and wonder what they’d think of me and my life now…and this is the song I’d be singing today:
So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

dancing pea shoots
a bit of green for you…not a clover, but pea shoots growing rapidly in my garden.

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