The Sweetest Flower


I stand and stretch, enjoying the feel of the hot sun on my face.  Brushing dirt from my knees and my hands I survey the garden patch of rich brown soil with the barest of green shoots stretching toward the sun.  Far below the sea crashes onto the shore.  Tis a beautiful day to be alive.  I rub the burgeoning babe that grows within me and listen for its older brother, napping in the shade.  Not a sound from the lad who is exhausted after a morning of “helping” me with the garden.  Young Padraich is a going concern.  He is well named for his Da, also a going concern.

I hear Padraich the Older now as he makes his way up the road to our stone cottage on the cliffs.  He sings loudly, showing off to the birds.  I smile. Tis one of my very favorites, and one he sang to me a time or two when he came to courting.

“On the Banks of the Roses me love and I sat down
And I took out me fiddle for to play me love a tune
And in the middle of the tune-o she sighed and she said
Oro Johnny, lovely Johnny don’t ya leave me”.

He sees me just then and sweeps his soft cap from his head and waves it to me.

“Why would ye love the lout Johnny, fair Rose of mine, when you have me pinin’ for you day and night.”  I laugh and shush him, pointing to our son asleep in the shade.

“Hush now, Paddy.  Tis a sin to wake a sleepin’ child.”  Paddy vaults the garden gate and pulls me into his arms, sweeping me around like I were less than a feather, though I am heavy with his child, due now any day.

“I promise not to wake him” he whispers close, sending shivers of delight down my neck.  “If his Ma will give me a kiss.”

“Right here in the open?” I act outraged, though I know Ma and Da are to the village and we alone have the hillside.

“Right here, my wanton love.  Let us be scandalous and ribald!”  He sweeps me off my feet and carries me over around the rose bushes, out of sight but within listening of our sleeping child.

“And when I get married t’will be in the month of May
When the leaves they are green and the meadows they are gay
And me and me true love we’ll sit and sport and play
By the lovely sweet banks of the roses”

He sings to me as we settle upon the soft moss.  The sun warms us as we warm to each other.  Ours is a love that sweetens as it goes. For that I am truly thankful.

That night after supper, Paddy plays fiddle softly for me and I fall to sleep upon his gentle song.  I dream then that I see a door above me, a great curved ornate door, and I open it.  On the other side there is a land of such great beauty I have no words to give it justice.  There in the midst of this great vast land I see my Granny.  She carries my bairn in  arms that are no longer thin and weak with age, but supple and young, as in her prime.   My beautiful Granny who I love so much and who left us this past winter, kisses the baby’s head and nods to me.  I cannot contain my joy.   ‘Granny, oh Granny!” I call to her but she just smiles, her face so filled with beauty and joy that I begin to cry.  When I awake I feel the damp tear trails on my face.

My labors begin then, and our daughter joins us by dawn.  She is a fiery redhead, like her Da, but with soft blue eyes, like me.  We call her Maire after her great Granny who delivered her to me from heaven.

Seasons come and go and our years pass on the hillside.  When our numbers begin to grow, Paddy and I move to the big house while Ma and Da take over the stone cottage.  With five healthy sons and three daughters, all beauties, our home is filled with shouts and laughter and happy sounds and always, always music.  Ma usually plays piano while Da and Paddy fiddle, and the youngsters join in to play tin whistles or bodhrans.   The beat is kept by our dancing feet on the hard wooden plank floor of the kitchen.  We sing and stomp and play and each one picks up the instruments, learning their language by jumping in and playing along.  We sing until our throats protest, and then we sing some more.  Da and Paddy swig the ale while Ma and I and the children enjoy our sweet milky tea and butter biscuits.  The music resounds to our very bones so that we no longer distinguish between the beat of the music and the beating of our hearts.  I imagine  that the joyful noise we make is a symphony for the millions of stars and the countless ocean waves that see and hear our concerts.  We are alive.  In every moment.

Music carries us through our days and nights and the children, one by one leave us for homes of their own.  They come often with music and family and Paddy and I settle into our comfort years.  We say goodbye to Ma, and then a few months later to Da, and soon Paddy and I return to live in our stone cottage overlooking the cliffs.  Maire and James fill the big house with children and the music carries on.

My Paddy plays fiddle for me, as I settle in to sleep.  His voice, still strong and true, sings sweetly to me as I drift.

“On the Banks of the Roses me love and I sat down…”

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