Celebrating St. Pat's Day at Our House (OS Archives 2011)

Each year I place a little pot of shamrocks in the center of our old pine table, the very same kitchen table I grew up with.  My mother placed a pot of shamrocks there herself each year, part of the celebration of St. Patrick's Day.


This year I found a purple Oxalis 'Shamrock'. 

 At our house though, the celebration had a little different focus, for not only was it St. Patrick's Day, but it was my mother's birthday. St. Pat's Day, as we teased.  

Mom arrived in this world as Caroline, in March 1916, but she adopted the name Pat at some point in her teenage years, in honor of her holiday birthday. Many years later when I asked her, thinking of a Saturday Night Live skit (remember "Pat"?), why in the world would she trade in a pretty name like Caroline, she had an interesting reply.

 "That was such an old-fashioned name back then. Pat was a name that evoked a new generation to me, women were bobbing their hair in the Twenties, shortening their skirts, gaining independence..."  

I was born in 1960. This conversation was only one of the many reminders of how far apart our worlds were during the years we each grew up.

Crowds of cards arrived for Mom's birthdays from locations near and far, most of them festooned with leprechauns and clovers. She would cut out handmade shamrocks from green construction paper, one for her, one for me, to pin on our shirts for the day, saying, "The leprechauns will pinch you if you're not wearing green."  

She was a bit of a leprechaun herself with her grand height of 4'11" -- and 3/4! -- at her tallest. 

By her later years, she was more like 4'7", but she still had a leprechaun's sense of mischief, a good sense of humor, and she seemed to me to have the luck of the Irish, without one drop of Irish blood.  Looking back, I see how she made her own luck with her love of people and fun, although she could also be exasperatingly absent-minded (read:  A.D.D.), another legacy she left her children.

Mom was outgoing, social, and charming -- both of my parents were. The fondest memories I have as a child are of their parties:  a gathering of people, laughter, cocktail ice clinking, the sparkle in my mother's eye when she was "on".  

DSC_0620       Mom at age three or so with the neighbor boy, on the farm in upstate New York, circa 1919.  Her sparkling eyes and contagious grin were evident even then. 

Sometimes I wonder if my mother's personality was shaped by her birth date as much as her name was, for in America, this holiday IS just a party.  

The best part of her love of a gathering with laughter was that her kind of fun was mostly a healthy kind. While there was always a stocked bar at our house growing up, she only partook of it modestly, that I ever knew of. The bar was for company, that's what she did live for, and it was there for the parties. The only addiction I say she had during my childhood and youth was an addiction for the spotlight. A small bit of Narcissa and her fascinating reflection.



As a teenager, directing already... (where in the world is she?) 

 There is much to be inspired by when thinking of Mom, she was smart, hard working, curious, thrifty, and amusing. She was also quite tart with her opinionated, sharp tongue. I like that she was a good writer, and a not bad artist, but she'd like to be remembered as a successful real estate broker, a devoutly liberal Episcopalian, an active and involved volunteer in Atlanta in the Seventies and Eighties, and an all around good sport. She was all of those.

However, as she told me over and over later in life, she was not much of a nurturing mother, although we knew she loved us. She never had a strong urge for children, she said. That was always very clear to this youngest of her four offspring. The ramifications of her producing babies only because that's what women did then run deeply for me. But that side of her is for another day...or not...

Today, I celebrate this mom of mine and her zest for life.  She would be 95 years old this year, an age she made very clear she did not want to reach, and she didn't.

Sometimes though, I wish she had.


 This is the first party I remember my parents going to, I had just turned five when this photo was taken. The neighbors were all getting together for a costume party, we lived in Texas then:  my father was the Card Dealer, my mother the Saloon Girl.  Part of the joke was her greying hair, which she never dyed.


The neighbors and fellow partiers were the Cards.



Her love of parties and costume began before I was born. Here, in the Fifties, she went to a Roaring Twenties party. Mom is in her element there in the front, on the right. She still smoked then...


I wish I could find the photo of my parents when they went to their last costume party together. The theme was Commercials. My father went as Mr. Clean, of the Ajax commercial, my mother went as the old Clairol hair dye, "Does She or Doesn't She?" campaign.  Mom wore a wide headband that separated her white hair in front as bangs, from a fall of black hair in back. She knew how to get a laugh.



Soon after my father died in 1971, she went to this party as a One-armed Paper Hanger, a joke I remember my father saying fairly often.  "That guy is as useless as a one-armed paper hanger."   I think she looks lonely, like she's putting on a brave face for this first costume party alone.


One day, when I was in my twenties and had moved out of the house, I got a call from Mom.  "I'm going to a party tonight and have nothing at all that will work for my costume. Can you come over with some of your clothes?"  Below is the result.  I still smile that I was included in the preparations for this one...and for the record, I never wore those hot pink Madonna gloves I bought !


I remember mentioning to her at the time that she was the only Punk in the world with a tucked-in shirt...but she just couldn't leave that shirt untucked. Costumery only goes so far.  


My favorite photos of all though, are from a surprise party for a good family friend, and neighbor, in Atlanta. It was the friend's fortieth birthday, her husband called my mother and asked if she would consider being the biggest surprise:  The Forties Fairy.

Mom was game.

I was away at college at the time -- I so wish I'd seen this in person !  


The Forties Fairy enters with tinkling bell, 


 flits and floats around the room, then bestows fairy dust...


...and hugs, for an overcome new member of the Forties Club.


Wouldn't the Forties be easier to take with this hilarious fairy at your party? 

 My Mom died in 2002, but the St. Patrick's Day birthday celebration is still around.  My husband's father's birthday is also St. Patrick's Day.  He's another one of a kind, wonderful human.


Happy birthday  Mom and "Dad" ! 

Love, Me 


RATE: 36 


 MARCH 16, 2011 9:15PM

It took me a long time to get to read this but it was worth every minute of the "loading/spinning"
I really hope I get to see this on the cover tomorrow
rated with hugs
Love the photos
Your mom sounds wonderful--how lucky you were!
Your mom was a complicated, spirited woman -- something women weren't encouraged to be back then. We all struggle to balance motherhood and individuality and she was vocal about it at at time when that was unaccepted, and unexplored for being unaccepted. I'm sure you have many memories and experiences related to her struggle and I hope you explore them. Our feminine identities are far from unexamined (unjudged) these days, but I do believe it's easier now for women and mothers to have ambivalent feelings toward motherhood and to express our desires.
Linda: Thanks! It is reaaaallllly slow tonight.
Caroline marie: She was a very cool person, but not much of her fun was for her kids...
Bellweather: I agree, she was ahead of her time in many ways...although I'm glad she did have kids : )
This is so great...the pictures are just amazing....wow....xox
What a lovely tribute. I'd say your Mom stayed true to that 3 year old spirit her entire life. It's an amazing photo :-)
This was so lovely - what a wonderful sense of humor your mother had and what a kind daughter you are to appreciate it. That picture of her at 3 definitely did show her twinkle! I have a feeling you have it, too.

Happy St. 'Pat's' Day!
your mom would be so honored...this was so precious and just one of the sweetest tributes ever. My mother-in-law has said this as well, "...never had a strong urge for children." That didn't stop her from being a great mother either...thanks so much for this.
I love her! And the fact that she did not color her hair! Reading this made my St. Patrick's Day. Happy. Birthday!
Your mom is absolutely adorable! What a great example of one who lives life to the fullest! An inspiration for a happy holiday and every day of the year! Happy St. Patty's Day and happy birthdays all around!
excellent, warm tribute! r.
This was a lovely piece. You had some good genes girl! Bless the green Bless the Pat.
Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing your wonderful family photos with us today. A great way to remember your mom. ~rated!
Erin go Braugh~
You sugarpie! WHAT a sharing, oh Top O'The Day to'ya, Lassie! I know your Mom!! HAHA! I know this was a loving labor, to assemble this terrific collage of her. You ARE blessed, and the Love shows. Oh, R. R. R. !!
Wonderful portrait of a complex woman. I wish I'd been a guest at one of your mom's parties.
Flower Child: I marvel at that picture of her at age three...all bundled up with that hat turned up. You put it excellently, some people have the art of enjoying Life...she did.

Thanks Robin, I had to put some of these together for the 'world' to see! : )

HI Kellylark: Nice to see you here! Yes, she was a unique woman and I'm glad to have known her...it was hard to be a quiet kid who wanted to just stay home, with her for a Mom. : )

Sparking: I appreciate that! One of her last sentences to me was, "Write about me!" ...well, here's a start, but I'll bet she'd not be thrilled I put her almost bare thighs on the internet : )

Y Heron: Thanks for that, and it's just the way it goes that some aren't as Homey/Mommy as others...she left us an interesting legacy though, she was a pretty cool human. Thanks for coming by!
Wow. What great photos, and I love your memoir. I especially like memoirs that are kind, and overlook some bumps, I guess that's the marshmallow in me. She looks like a grand lady, thanks so much for this big smile today, wonderful tribute.
This warmed the cockles of my Irish heart, JT, on this St. Patrick's Day.
What a wonderful tribute to an exciting mom! Memories are such treasures and the pictures, grand.
congrats on the EP
mhold: What a wonderful thing to say : ) ...and she had the most lovely white hair eventually. It started turning in her twenties....and I've inherited that early white, I don't dye it either. I like it, just like I like yours! I'll bet you get complimented all the time...

Cathy: Thanks for that, she was a complete individual, alright : ) 
I'm proud of that love of life she had.

Thanks, Jon! Glad to see you : )

Yap Not: Nice to see you here...and thanks!! Happy St. Paddy's Day to you !

Susie: Thanks! Those photos just beg to be shared... : ) Although I admit to snickering a little that I put Mom's thighs on the internet.

The Songbird: What a lovely compliment, thanks! I see how someone who loves life would recognize another kindred spirit : )
A wonderful post and tribute to your mom and father-in-law. What a spirited person she was. Great photos and memories, JT. Congratulations on the EP.

Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig ♥
pauline: Those parties sure looked fun to me...I usually had to sneak out of my bedroom where I'd been sent to bed to glimpse some of the fun when I was young...

rita: I appreciate your support and kind words...how could I leave all those crazy photos all alone in my albums?? : ) Glad you came by and had a smile at them...
Happy St. Paddy's Day to you!

Sarah: Glad to contribute to any warmth, Sarah, you're in a cold area! Happy St. Paddy's Day to you as well...
So, what does Erin go Bragh mean?? Is that Ireland forever?

Thanks, Sheila ! It's fun to have Mom around again today : )
Thanks for coming by...

Linda: I didn't expect this one....you're clairvoyant : )
You have a real talent for memoir (not that common a thing.) I think I get your mom clearly from this short piece. The pics are great icing, too, specially the youngest one.
Thanks, fusun, I appreciate your including my father-in-law...I don't have photos of his hijinks : ) What are you saying there at the bottom? Happy St. Paddy's Day to you also ! (I think you said)

Luminous: Wow, I'm honored by your compliment...wasn't she a cute little three year old? Thanks for coming by!
That picture when she was a little girl is just about the cutest thing ever, and very leprechanish. Nice memories to share with us, and a happy SPD to you!
You were a very lucky girl. Beautiful post.~r
Lea: Nice to see you : ) ...and I will say I've never seen a three year old who looked like her...complete with giant padded sweater and overalls...
Joan: I admire so much many things about my mother, but really, it was a lonely tough journey being her quiet strange daughter...
I'm glad you came by : )
What a great tribute to a mother who seemed to want to live life at it's fullest!
Oh, this is gorgeous and is just where it belongs...on the cover! 

By the way...Your mother did have Irish luck, if she made her own. The Irish had no luck...1,000 years of invasions and governed unjustly and famines and hated when they immigrated. The "Luck of the Irish" was originally coined as an ironic term.
Delightful story about delightful people. That first photo proves "Pat" had a sparkle in her eye at age three. What a cutie.
Hurrah!!! I love this photographic and essay tribute JT. I envy, truly, that you've taken the time to learn how to incorporate old family album photos into the cyber-age. I haven't done it and am only half as interesting because of it.

Fantastic that you can celebrate your mom's life on such a festive day, it looks like she was a party girl and is off celebrating with you on the other side. Wearing fairy dust and a net skirt. How cute is that?

Also, I appreciate, deeply, the beautiful and spare way you toss in that she had children b/c that is what one did, she wasn't particularly drawn to it, etc. You said it so well and encompass in those few words what so many of us know about our own mothers. We love them, but it also shows, we knew them. I am very proud that my daughter and her SO stand in their truth and both admit they are not really 'into' kids. I would be surprised to find myself in an 'I'm A Grandmother' t-shirt someday, and I'm very a-ok with knowing that. 

Happy St. Paddy's!
Huge smile in my heart, I feel lucky to be able to read this. Thanks.
This three hour download was worth it. Sure Enough, Just Thinking - 

You sure are terrific at making folk - who need a robust chuckle, bely laugh`

feel like going out with similar kinfolk. I experienced the most pleasant laughter.
The green and purple Shamrocks are hearty. They can be divided by separating the tiny plant bulbs.
They multiply like barn cats.
We once sold them in pots.
Ceramic pot no puffs pots.
These photos are keepers.
The children smiles and the one who looked well fed made my day. Yes. You can sense when people are wonderful people. Cherish them.
This is called March Madness Season. Rabbits hop and go into rut. There really is something in the air's atmosphere. Sap begins to flow.
Hormones get active.
You have Flapper.
Great gang folks.
My Neighbor is a unlicensed psychiatrist. In confidence and respecting confidentiality ... She said her most harried client She ever knew whined all hour....
She started to give him free therapy.
She gives free therapy if They are Real.
Honest, and not anti-one arm wallpaper men,
chubby, poor, and not able to relate very well.
She would Lear fro one guy who gay and nice.
She Learn from one nasty woman who whined. 
But, the whiner-person kept marrying gay people. 
She would try to counsel. She loved male sex mates.
But, the whiner woman kept repeating to marry gays.
My Neighbor began to feel sad, sorry, and ask my ideas.
I said`
No ask me.
Read Open Salon.
`Til death do us part.
You can sit far apart.
You no smell armpit.
It's fun and safe sex.
The giggle is my sex.
We be merry together.
We googles with sax.
Wear pink goggles.
No wear name tags. 
no go.
Try `gin.
What a beautiful and exhuberant lady you mother was. I, too, am a March baby and love the shamrocks on my birthday cake. I remember them as recently as last week!
This was absolutely wonderful! I love your mom and I've never met her - that's what a great job you did sharing her personality with us through words and delightful pictures. I'll think of your mom when I turn 40 - you're right, it'd be easier with a fairy like that around. Enjoy St. Patrick's Day, and the memories of your mom.
Well, this is certainly a well-selected EP! Just precious, JT.

Love, Me is exactly the way my son signs everything he sends to me! 

Your Mom was gorgeous. And I really covet that sexy, red "saloon girl" dress!
What a gem! She holds nothing but light from flapper to fairy:)
Great tribute to your mother. She seems fascinating. Thanks for this.
Ah, the minds of the St. Patty's day babes, cannot be contained or restrained. And then a Pisces to boot. Wonderful post and tribute to your mom. I am sure you were well entertained.
Just Jali Smiling and rating of course.
I enjoyed this so very much, what a wonderfully special mom you had. I agree she does look very lonely as the one armed paper hanger..
i feel as though i know her now. thanks for digging up the photos and sharing them here. the 40s fairy is the topper, isn't she? and i laughed at the idea of the one-armed paper hanger. she is a rootin' tootin' hoot.
Hey Kim - I haven't looked back at this post in ages, until yesterday ~ Glad you liked, my mom did know how to have a good time, didn't she?
I felt kind of bad about how she seemed in the post that got you over here, but she was all of the above. and more. Better, and worse.
I appreciate your taking a peek back here : )
My writing has certainly evolved....in my humble opinion, anyway.
I remember Surazeus saying 'write cinematically, describe the scene' in a comment on someone else's post right around the time I posted this one, so I tried that. Really helped, I think...
Love these photos, and really, really miss having someone around who knew how to squeeze joy out of life like Mom did, even if she was a dreadful snob sometimes....so... 
I went and got a puppy this weekend for a late birthday present : ) He's very fun.
You didn't diss your mom in that post. At all.

Telling a story isn't the same as telling the truth either ~ too many levels, and we read that into whoever's writing, whenever too, and cut the according slack.

My own mom was no picnic at times but in hindsight a saint.

When she's gone I'll try to re-assess, but I wish I had pictures like these to remember her by.
ps. Writing style ? Pffft.
It's always been this good.

New puppy ? Pics please.
"You didn't diss your mom in that post. At all."

Hey thanks - I needed to hear that.
: )
I've missed you. You're good at the right thing to say. And thanks again for your support of my writing, Kim, always nice when you come by.
The pup is adorable and irritating, just what I needed !
(....and what I meant about Surazeus's comment was that I tried that 'cinematic' style on the post after this one, by the way...)
I am so glad to have photos like these - a Forties Fairy for a mom, not too shabby, there ; )
Kim's right, you didn't dis her at all.
Great pictures. The three year old is adorable
Hey Kosh, thanks for that : )
That photo of Mom at age 3 is adorable, isn't it?
She told the story of wanting to be a boy at that age like that boy standing next to her (he had much more freedom than she, apparently), so she cut 'flies' into all the crotches of her pants and overalls to become a boy. Her mother just patched them up and made her wear them that way until the following spring when more clothes money was available - Mom said she never quite got over that humiliation and that was part of her determination to run off to a city one day and become a 'sophisticate,' as she used to put it.
She would tell this story while laughing, with the same sparkle seen there.
Thank goodness we grew close as adults, as childhood with her was not easy...
Happy birthday, Mom!
You'd be 98 today....

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