Magnet and "Passion"

Forest-Dale Barn in Carmel, Indiana

originally e-mailed to recipe testers October 20, 2008

Recipe Testers,
A few years ago my friend Tracey asked me to get a magnet from Solvang for her great uncle. He collected them and because he had such fond memories of her wedding weekend in Solvang, she asked me to get him one. I said “Of course! That will be so easy. The bakery sells them and I’ll just get you one the next time I’m up there.” I only go to Solvang now about once a month, but at that point I was up there almost every weekend. It was such a simple request and such a simple favor to fulfill. Somehow I kept forgetting each weekend. I’d remember when I was in the car on the way home. How two years managed to slip by, I have no idea! So I was determined to get this done. I had a post-it note on my steering wheel. I FINALLY got the magnet and was so happy. I called Tracey to tell her I got it and she told me her uncle had just passed away two days ago.
So Tracey now has the magnet and I have a copy of the magnet and they are both reminders to do the “easy” favor even though it is rarely convenient and even though it can be done at anytime. The favor that is so simple that you let it go for weeks and months until it turns into years. We had our new neighbors over for dinner and I expected to have them over quite often because we really enjoy them. I just realized that I had them over for dinner last Halloween! Again, a year flew by in the blink of an eye.
When we were in Indiana last week I FINALLY got the picture of the barn that I’ve been driving by for 17 years and saying I always wanted to take a picture of. Jason’s parents moved this summer, so that barn is no longer near their home. So it was no longer the “easy” picture that I could take “tomorrow” because we are in a hurry to get to the store or wherever we are going and I can’t stop to take the picture because I can take it “anytime.” I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have that picture! I think I’m going to put the barn picture under the Solvang magnet.
I will send another e-mail about this separately and in greater detail, but one of our homeschool projects has been to have my girls interview their grandparents and great grandparents. So far I can tell you that it is been very inconvenient and a challenge each time we’ve done this. So the point is that you have to make it happen even when it doesn’t seem to fit into the schedule. These interviews are now priceless treasures. I learned things I never knew about my parents because I never asked the question. Then my sister-in-law told me about a favorite book from her book group calledListening is an Act of Love. It is not a self-help book, like the title sounds. It is a celebration of American life from the Storycorps project, the conversation of a lifetime. I am now crying my way through the book. It is fantastic. The web site is They do all of their interviews by audio and we’ve been doing all of ours by videotape. I sent this list of potential interview questions to my homeschool group, but am happy to share the questions for kids to interview family members: I also need to mention here that I thought my parents were TOO YOUNG to interview! My mom will be 65 and my dad will be 69. To me they still have years and years to be around enjoying their grandchildren. But then I have to remember that my father had a heart attack a few years ago and I think of all my dear friends who have lost their parents and the best time to do this interview is now. In Indiana on the spur of the moment we ended up interviewing the couple that gave us the historical tour of the Carmel. I learned a lot from them and I was grateful to have it. But I still didn’t interview my in-laws because we were staying at their house and it was too “easy” and we could have done it on any of the days. I did interview Jason’s grandmother, whose 90th birthday we were there for. But I want to be sure to make it a priority to interview Jason’s parents the next time we are out. I could obviously write pages about this, but the best gift you can give someone (and yourself) this year is to interview not only a parent or a grandparent, but your friends or anyone you admire or love.
To finish this e-mail I am including something else I’ve been meaning to do for ages and ages. My favorite short story of all time is Passion by Sean O’Faolain. It is from the collection of short stories In the Heat of the Sun. The book is out of print. Occasionally, I’ve been able to find used ones on Because the book is out of print I am including the story here. I could discuss this simple story for hours even though it is only four pages (which is long for an e-mail, but short for a book!). So by sharing this story with you I am now getting another one of those things done that I could do “anytime.”


by Sean O’Faolain
from his collection of short stories The Heat of the Sun

Dearest Love. When will we meet again? It is only a few hours since I left you, and I am already full of melancholy thoughts.
Why on earth did I think tonight, after I had left you, of Conny Hourigan, and of that soft, wet night when the lights of Cork down in the valley were weeping through the haze, and everything as still as before dawn; and not a sound but the jolt of an old tram over the worn points, or the drip of the rain on the old tin shed in the backyard?
I think it was because I went to my window and saw the faraway lights of Dublin, and at once I was again listening to that silence of twenty years ago drumming in my ears. I was waiting for my aunt to play the next card, and looking across the cozy eye of the fire in the kitchen range at Conny breathing contentedly over his evening paper and stroking his Moses beard.
He suddenly lifts his eyes to look his spectacles at the tiny window, and he says – “Them bastards of slugs will be out in their marching orders tonight.” And he is just about to heave himself up and go out to his beloved patch of a garden to kill some of them when we hear a rat-a-tat-tat at the hall door. With a look over his glasses at my auntie, and a look at the clock, and a “Who on earth can that be?’ he goes shuffling out along the little hall. My aunt suspends her card. We turn our heads when we hear the voices rising sharply and Conny outing, “No!” And again, “I tell you, no!” – and then more loud voices and the slam of the door.
He came back, flushed; gave a hitch to his belly, sat down, growled, “Bloody check!’ and tried to resume his reading.
“Who’s that, Conny?” said the auntie, still holding her card.
“Three buckos from Blarney Lane. Asking me to give ‘um me six Easter lilies.”
“Oh, law! And why so?”
Some kid that’s dead up in Barrett’s Buildings. Name of Delurey. Molly Delurey. Died up in the Fever Hospital. The best I ever heard. God Almighty! Asking me to cut me six Easer lilies for some wan I never heard of in me life before. Did you ever hear the beat of that?”
His sister, of course, wanted to know all about it. Cork may call itself a city, but it is really a big town made up of a lot of little villages, and in each “village” everybody wants to know everything about everyone else.
“Delurey? she says. “I don’t know any wan now of that name. To be sure, we had a little apple woman used to come here. . . Ah, but she was a Minny Delaney. And how did they come to know that you have the lilies?”
“You may ask. Your brave milkman. Spotted ‘um every morning coming in with the milk. I knew that fellow had his eye on me garden. I always said that fellow’s too sweet to be wholesome. ‘Ohm Mister Hourigan, haven’t you the grand geraniums! Oh, isn’t the verbena massive, Mister Hourigan!’ Making a big man out of himself. ‘Flowers? I’ll get ye the flowers. Go up to Mister Hourigan and tell him I sent you. Ask him for his lilies.’ The cheek of him! The cool, bloody pig’s cheek of him!”
My auntie played her card without looking at it. She forgot to take her trick. I supposed she was seeing the little deal coffin, or the child laid out on the bed in the back bedroom. The rain played its harp strings in the yard. The fire purred.
“What they usually do,” she ventured, “is to make up a collection to buy the flowers.”
“That’s what I said to ‘um.” --Over his spectacles. “They wanted to blind me that there’s none in the shops. I don’t believe wan word of it. And if there isn’t,” his voice kept rising and rising, “why did they come up to me for my poor little flowers? How fair they wouldn’t go down to Bolster has a glasshouse full of ‘um? Oh, no! Up to the foola! Me poor little six Easter lilies that I reared, that I looked after as if they were me own children, that I . . . But6 these buckos have no consideration. ‘Go up to Mister Hourigan and tell him I sent you.’ The . . .But what. . .Me poor little lilies. Who ever . . .God Amighty, I . . .”
He chocked off into inchoherence.
I said, “Your trick, auntie?”
She gently swept the cards aside with her hand and breathed rather than whispered, “The poor child.”
Down with his paper, off with his specs.
“That’s all very fine, woman, but am I going to give me six Easter lilies because . . . And arent’ they me own property? Or aren’t they? Amn’t I entitled to do what I like with ‘um? Or amn’t I? And if I don’t want to give “um to “um what right have them cafflers to be coming up to me own hall door giving me lip?”
“Conny, I hope you didn’t have words.”
He dashed down the paper and tore out of the kitchen. We heard the front door opening. I cold imagine the dark and the haze and the smudgy lights down in the valley. He shuffled into the bedroom and struck a match. That was for the candle. I saw how the lilies outside the window would be pale against the smudgy lights of the city.
The wind wailed down from the convent grounds behind the backyard. My auntie was slowly putting the cards back into the old cigar box. The candle clattered against the basin and ewer and then he came shuffling in along the linoleum of the hall. He blew out the candle, took up his paper firmly, and began to read it. The aunt closed the cigar box and folded her arms about her and turning to the fire was lost in the little fluttering puffs coming out of the coal.
“The loveliest funeral I ever seen was the time of Lord Mayor MacSwiney. All the bands of the city. And the pipers. And the boys marching. and the Dead marching Saul. And the flag on the coffin. And all the flowers. And people in every window crying down salt tears.” Conversationally she inquired of him: “Isn’t Packey Cassidy buried up there with the Lord Mayor?”
“How do I know where he’d buried?”
“Sure aren’t they all together up in the one plot?”
“I dunno who you’re talking about, let me read me paper, woman.”
“Yerrah is it pretending you don’t know Packey Cassidy from the Glen worked with you down in the gas house? Oh then many the night he brought you home when you had a sup taken. didn’t the tow of us stand outside there in the garden and the pipers playing him up the Western Roadto the cemetery?
Conny pretended to read. The wind brought us the soft tollin of the nuns’ bell. Conny looked over his specs again at the window and gave a poke to the cozy fire.
“That’s a nor’ester. There’ll be a flood in the river tomorrow.”
“Ah, God look down on us. ‘Tis no hard to say it – once we’re dead we’re soon forgotten.”
“You’d betther be beatin’ your way home, boy, the last tram is gone.”
I hated to leave the warm kitchen. Somehow this talk of processions and bands and floods in the river and the nuns’ bell and the squeaks of the last tram had wrapped me into a cozy next of Time and Memory, and I remembered with pleasure how somebody had said that “All Cork isout of the wan eggshell,” and I understood for the first time what that meant. I wanted desperately that Conny should give the lilies to the dead child, and I felt bitter of him that he wouldn’t do it. Timidly, I said, “Wouldn’t you give her three of them, Uncle Conny?” He roared at me, “No, nor wan nor half a wan.” The aunt’s face got pale and venomous and miserable and she stabbed at him:
“No, nor I don’t think you’d give them to meself if it was a thing that I was stretched in the next room!”
“After a moment he said, quietly: “Go home, boy.”
As I left his patch of a garden – it was about as big as a table – I saw the six lovely lilies, calm as sheep, by the pale light of the hall. Thechild’s face would be just as pale. Down in its hollow the little city seemed to have locked every door and window against the storm and the rain. There were few lights.
That was twenty years ago. Why did that wet night flash on me when I walked into my bedroom tonight and saw the land under the full moon?
The sky is bleached, the fields are white, the lights of Dublin are bright as youth. They drained me so that I had to lean on the windowsill and let it pour over me as if I were a stone under a river. It was like hearing an old, old tune on a brass band; or the sound of church bells on a wet Sunday morning; or the hoot of a ship’s siren on Christmas Day. Frightening shadows under everything – under the gooseberry bushes, under the cabbages, under and old ash can. And nothing between those shadows and that high moon but those lights of the city, low down, and poised over them, one long narrow cloud stretched from east to east like a scythe about to sweep the sky. It is the sort of night that might make a man ache for love, but I was suffused with you, dear heart, and should have been full of joy and content. I ached not for love but because of it.
That night, so long ago, was very different to this serene moon. All through that stormy night the drums of the rain beat on the roofs of the city. In the morning the river was in flood. Rafts of branches and wrack and reeds torn up by the storm sailed on the muddy water through the city. And Conny’s lovely white lilies were battered into the mud. When he saw them he just went back to bed and he stayed there for three days. The aunt didn’t say one word to him. But outside his window he could hear everybody who came into the little garden – including the milkman – loud in commiseration. After that I no longer envied him his hobby, as I once used to. I began vaguely to understand that his garden was a sort of torment to him.
Or is it, dearest one, that all passion is unhappiness? Are we always looking forward to our joy, or thinking back on it, or so drunk with it that we cannot realize it?
The night is nearly finished. The moon is going down. The lights of Dublin are still bright. The shadows are long and pale. You are asleep, with your dear black hair spread on your pillow. Your body is as pale as a lily. Do I hear a wind creeping up from the northwest?
Dear Love, when will we meet again? Let it be soon, Dear Love. Let it be soon!


Popular Posts