Something for the Soul: A mother’s love is a blessing – Thoughts of St. Patrick’s Day

March 2010 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

By Winnie BoltonWinnie Bolton

What’s it like to have been raised by an Irish mother? St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect time to share that experience with you. My mom, Marie Byrne, was born into a farming family in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, Erie. She arrived at Ellis Island, New York, in 1920 at 17 years of age, to be a nanny for an affluent stockbroker’s family.

I have two precious memories I love to tell about her because they define her demeanor and my rich heritage so completely.

First one was when I was 5 years old and on a family summer visit to Granddad and Grandma Byrne in Ireland. Down the road from their farm lived a “crazy lady in a haunted house” (these were the words my playfully mischievous cousins told me). So, one day down the road went a bunch of us to knock on her door. Out she came hollering and swinging an old broom! Mother heard our screaming and came to my rescue, explaining to me that Maryann was not a crazy lady, but a 15-year-old mentally challenged young girl.

Winnie at age 5She had all of us pick daisies in the field and return to Maryann’s home. From that day on I would play with this girl with her silly giggles and hugging ways ’til we had to leave for home back in the United States. Maryann cried to see me go and I remember crying too, because I knew her sweet kindness.
Mother never admonished me about the incident but instead by her example showed me how to love someone quite different from myself.

The other event also was when I was still 5 years old. Mother had hung Priscilla-style curtains in our living room. It previously had short curtains hanging only to the windowsill. Thinking the new curtains needed to be shortened, I took a pair of scissors and cut them to the correct length.

When I called mother in to see how I prettied up her new curtains, she stood aghast. It was not a smile, so I felt I had done a lousy job. She sat down, took me onto her lap and just cried – so I cried too. She took them down and sewed the uneven bottoms back on, telling me she really liked them long much better.

As I looked back years later at these two incidents in particular, not realizing at age 5 I had innocently misbehaved, I marvel at her immediate understanding and forgiveness. But that’s how she always was with us kids and I have come to believe she was incredibly blessed with gifts of patience, understanding and compassion for others.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that just Irish mothers have those gifts, but I experienced the goodness she saw in others and to this day I try to do likewise. A mother’s love is a powerful instrument leading us toward heaven.

May love and laughter light your days on St. Patrick’s Day and warm your heart and home where ever you may roam.

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