I was planning on writing about something else today, but I woke up and it was St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day always reminds me of my mother. Betty Hogan was a good 100% Irish American girl. She grew up in a household of three girls, three boys and a sainted mother, who lost her husband and father of her children while most were still at home. One of her brothers did the ultimate and became a priest and eventually a monsignor. When grandpa died, Father Bob became the patriarch of the family and did his best to look out for his feisty little sisters and fun-loving brothers. The Hogan boys all had thick heads of hair with a reddish tint. The Hogan girls had wispy hair that they had a propensity to try different colors on over the years. I smile when I think of my own boy’s thick bearpelt of hair and my girl’s fine locks.
My mom died too soon and I never got a good long chance to be an adult with her. I moved away after college as a married woman. I had children states away from where she lived. We talked on the phone some, and she visited some, but it was never with the frantic knowledge that we had to make every contact count because life was going to play a nasty trick on us. So I missed what I now enviously see many of my friends have – mom friends.
I never got all of the stories that I know that girl had. She was a whole lot naughtier than I ever would dream to be. She ran around with her sisters and her Catholic girl pals, smoking, drinking and chasing boys. One of the boys she chased, co-captained the football team with her brother, Donny. But when she was twelve and he was seventeen, that didn’t seem too likely. When she was seventeen, though, she married him. I don’t even have all of that story. I know that my uncle, the priest gave my future dad a sit down to inform him that even though he wasn’t Catholic, his sister’s children would be. My father did not argue.
Betty became a wife and mother, but she did not lose her inner naughtiness. That cigarette and drink stayed in her hand throughout her pregnancies, as they did for many of her generation. She swore like a sailor, and would never hesitate to speak her mind. I don’t remember that she embarrassed me very often. I think I was always more in awe of her.
Dan has a funny story of the first time he met my mother. We rode the bus from college to my hometown. My parents picked us up at the bus station. My mom was wearing a t-shirt that said Aruba. My mother was fairly well endowed, and the t-shirt made that apparent. We had stopped into a local place for lunch and one of her friends came up and started chatting. He noticed my mom’s t-shirt and slyly commented that he didn’t know the islands were that big. My mom cackled. She loved it. That was Dan’s future mother-in-law.
My mom loved her Irish roots. St. Patrick’s Day was always celebrated with corn beef and cabbage and shamrocks drawn with a paintbrush and food coloring on the cheeks of me and my sisters. That was my mom’s one and only craft. I went to school every year with that shamrock on my round cheek.
I will honor my Irish today. I believe I will raise an Irish whiskey to the sky. Tá mo chroí istigh ionat, mom.