Pure Irish

The Brother was forever at the food press when Ma was away and I’d be telling him off, saying to him stop that, you’ll have us both in trouble.  Ma wouldn’t mind who it was that got into the press, it was that it was got into that sent her off.  But the Brother would pay no mind to me and he’d drag the high stool, the one that Granddad used to sit in when he’d be telling us stories and having a whiskey, over to the press.  With the Brother up on the stool and rooting around through the cans and packets and me at the stool holding it steady so he wouldn’t fall we’d spend a good hour discussing the delicacies that he’d find, the ones that Mother had been saving for some special supper.  Here’s some custard, he’d say or ha, she has a bit of treacle and some beans in the same spot, and then we’d talk about how we’d reorganize the press id we had the time.  Ma had the press set out in no fashion that man or beast could understand.  She’d have the fruit with the veg and no mind to the flies only hopping between them, or she’d have the peanut butter with the jar of mustard only waiting for someone to have a mix up and make a disgusting mess of their jam sandwich.  But the treat of all treats that the Brother delighted to find was fresh tomatoes.  The Brother would eat tomatoes like they were apples if he could get his hands on them and there was no telling him that Mother would glam them missing and tear strips off the two of us.  He’d find a set of them and toss them down to me waiting at the foot of the stool and they’d bounce of my face and body and arms.  You’ve tomatoes on your eyes he’d cry when this happened.  He was a good brother.

The Da never minded much on the kitchen goings on, he had his dinner handed to him and he ate it in the living room not long after he sat down to watch the evening news.  He smoked his pipe after dinner and meself and the Brother would sit at his feet and watch the news with him, but really we watched him watching the news.  You could tell if it was good news or bad news, or tough news or silly news on how he behaved, but it was a subtle art.  If it was good news he wouldn’t move but his eyes would go away from him and he would barely pull on the pipe.  He didn’t care for the good news but sometimes he’d tell the Ma about it when she came in to collect his plate.  When it was bad news he’d tap on his pipe and swell up his chest with a slow breath.  The tough news, like the hard weather coming or anything to do with farming rates he’d puff his pipe and put his hand to his chin or rub his brow.  The Brother and I reckoned his was storing the news to tell his mates down the road.  He’d go down the road two or three times a week and he’d come home late and be well able for chat and he’d sing to the Mother when we were tucked away in bed pretending to sleep.  When the silly news came on, about famous people or rescued cats, he’d pay us attention by looking down at us with a wink or fidgeting his feet and disturbing us.

As a family we didn’t get together too often, the Da would already be away at work, we’d hear him coffing away on the cold mornings as he went out the door and the dog following after him.  The Ma would get us up and ready and take us off to school and when we got home Ma would take us in and set us to doing our homework and then we’d go off in the fields until dinner and we might sit together sometimes but mostly Ma preferred to listen to the radio while sitting for dinner and Da watched the news in the other room.  Then me and the Brother would go off outside and make some mischief and Ma and Da would sit in the living room together and have a fire or she’d have tea.  He smoked less when she was in with him and she was such a Mother when she was in with him.

It was after Granddad died that we started taking our meals together.  The Brother and I were talking about it one night and I said to him why do you think that we are having dinner together more now these days and the Brother said it was cos Da cried at the funeral and Ma liked it cos she hugged him and keeps hugging him and he keeps looking like he wants to cry.  I thought that didn’t make any sense but I didn’t say anything because the Brother was older than me and knew about long division so had to be much smarter than me.  I was glad though that we had dinner together because then Father wouldn’t smoke his pipe as much and he stopped coughing in the mornings and that was good too.


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