The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer

Published 9:13 am Thursday, March 15, 2018

“The Shamrock”

By N. R. Tucker

Maewyn ran as if his life depended on it. It did. An Irish marauder grabbed him from behind and threw him to the ground. Before he knew what was happening, young Maewyn was bound and tossed into the hole of a ship. Along with other children from his village, he sailed across the Irish Sea.

“Is this a punishment, Lord?” Maewyn asked. He had not been faithful to the teachings of the church over the last year or so. It was a common enough occurrence for a young teenager to question the teachings of his parents. Surely his minor transgressions did not warrant such a change in his life as punishment.

In Ireland, Maewyn watched in horror as he was sold into slavery. Herding sheep by day and sleeping with them at night, Maewyn returned to his religious roots. Instead of blaming God for his troubles, Maewyn drew strength from his beliefs, even as he watched the pagans worship.

Six years passed before Maewyn escaped Ireland and slavery. Though he desired to return to England, he ended up in Gaul. Maewyn eventually made his way back home. After years of study, he wanted to return to Ireland to convert pagans to Christianity as the first bishop of Ireland, but his superiors sent someone with more education. Two years later, Maewyn had adopted the name Patrick and became the second bishop of Ireland.

Observing that pagans were confused with the concept of the Trinity, Patrick used a common local plant to visually explain the concept. The shamrock, with its three leaves to represent the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, separate but coexisting on the stem as the single Godhead from which they expand.

As Patrick became more adept at converting the Irish, pagan leaders became enraged and arrested him numerous times. Each time, Patrick escaped and continued to share his faith, building monasteries, schools, and churches, resulting in what the church called, “Isle of Saints.”

Patrick retired from missionary work after thirty years and settled in County Down where it is suspected he is buried in Downpatrick.

The original St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City was organized in 1762 by Irish veterans of the Revolutionary War. In the twenty-first century, the New York City Fifth Avenue Parade is the largest of all St. Patrick’s Day Parades worldwide.  This parade travels up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th Street and boasts over 160,000 people marching with two million spectators. Many sport some type of shamrock on their clothing. Most have no clue why the shamrock was significant to Patrick.

Today, St Patrick’s Day is a day to drink green beer and eat green bagels. One can’t help but wonder if that is the legacy Patrick would have desired.

“Castoff Canine”

By Julie Terry Cartner

Returning home from elementary school one day in my childhood, I was concerned to see a scrawny looking gray and brown dog in the driveway. Mom parked the car, and the humble stray greeted us with her head down and tail between her legs barely wagging – just the tip. The look in her eyes was one of desperation as if she were trying to say, “I’ll be good to you if you let me stay.” We wondered where she had come from, but almost immediately, my oldest sister, Polly, explained the mystery.

She had been walking home from the high school when she came across several boys throwing rocks at the dog. When she chased them away and headed towards home, the dog followed her. Not having the heart to scare the terrified dog any more than she already was, Polly accepted her four-legged shadow. Overcome with anger towards the boys and sympathy for the dog, my other sister, Anne, and I turned to Mom with the pleading looks that only children can give. “Can we keep her?”

“May,” was Mom’s automatic response.

In rote memorization, Anne and I said, “Can means are you capable; may means do we have permission…May we keep her, Mom?”

The almost obligatory retort came next, “We’ll ask Dad when he gets home.” But Anne and I could tell Mom wanted to say yes, and when she suggested that we give the dog a bath, and of course she needs a name…we knew we had the best ally on our side.

Polly, Anne and I immediately started the bathing process while bandying names around. In our brilliant children’s minds, thinking of color, we tried out Brownie, Cocoa, Smoky, and other names of that ilk. Meanwhile, the gentle pup suffered the indignities of a cold-water hose bath. We soaked her, and soaped her, and soaked her, and soaped her again. With the final rinse, lo and behold, our gray and brown dog was not. She was almost pure white with one brown ear and one freckled ear! All the rest had been dirt. For some reason, Jenny came to mind as the perfect name, and I suggested it at the same time that Mom said that she had always liked Louise. Jennifer Louise was christened, bathed and ready to meet Dad when he pulled into the driveway.

Although I was tense with apprehension hoping beyond hope that Dad would say yes, I should have known what the answer would be from a man who habitually carried dog biscuits in his pocket, just in case. A softie when it came to animals, Dad was always ready to rescue a stray and give any animal a kind word. Had there been any doubt, it would have been dissipated when Jenny put her soft furry nose into his hands and sighed. The dog clearly recognized she was home.

It was a gentler, simpler time, and I spent my afternoons and weekends roaming the farms and woodlands of South Florida, Jenny by my side. My companion, my friend, my partner in crime, she spent the nights curled up at the foot of my bed. Jenny, the once abandoned and mistreated stray, spent the rest of her long life in puppy paradise.

“Saying the Blessing”

By Stephanie Dean

“Good food, good eats, good god, let’s eat.” This blessing would be cause for a whistleblowing moment at my dinner table. “Are you kidding me? You can’t do better than that?” I’d respond sarcastically in disbelief, my eyes rolling up in the back of my head. Laughter would erupt before my sons bowed their heads to say the blessing once again. A “good” blessing.  Peeking out from a squinted eye, I’d remind my grandson, “Bow your head please, and close your eyes.” Then we would take turns, going around the table, each saying a personal heartfelt blessing.

When I was growing up, the prelude to food – the ritual before every meal – was saying the blessing. There was “blessing etiquette” too. We weren’t allowed to touch anything on the table – no napkins placed in our laps, no sips taken from our drinks, and no food passed – until the blessing had been said. A show of reverence to He who provides all.

My mother always asked, “Who wants to say the blessing?” Either my sister, my brother or I would recite the same exact prayer at every meal.

“Gracious Father, make us thankful,

For these and all our other blessings,

We ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.”

Giving a blessing or saying grace, before or after eating, is to speak a prayer that begins by thanking God for the provision and asking Him to bless the food. Some believe that God’s blessing sanctifies or purifies it. Then the blessing might be personalized by asking God to additionally bless special people in one’s life and circumstances of the day.

On holidays, my extended family got together for meals at my grandparent’s house. My staunch Catholic uncle, Felix, usually said our blessing. But the responsibility for saying the blessing usually falls on the host or homeowner of the house where all are gathered. Sometimes, the honor goes to an older member of the family.  If present, the clergy is often asked privately to say the blessing.

Some people are reluctant, uncomfortable or embarrassed to say the blessing aloud in front of others. As I grew older, my faith became stronger – my knowledge expanded – along with my ability to say a “good” blessing. And I taught my boys how to say a good one too.

But, in reality, there’s no “bad” blessing. Unless it ends with, “good god let’s eat.”

“Music Lessons”

By Linda Barnette

Because my mother was one of 7 children growing up in the 20’s and 30’s when times were tough, she determined early on that my life was going to be very different from hers.  She spent much of her childhood helping to take care of her younger siblings; thus, I was an only child and was saved from the hard work that she had to do. When I was in the second grade, she decided that I needed to learn how to play the piano, something that she had wanted to do but did not have the opportunity.  She signed me up for lessons with Miss Louise Stroud, Mocksville’s premier music teacher at the time.

Every Wednesday afternoon I went to her house on Maple Avenue for my lesson.  During the week I practiced faithfully on the large black upright piano my dad had purchased from his aunt in Clemmons.  When I practiced my pieces for the next week, I was exempt from kitchen duty, so you might imagine that I always practiced after supper!

During the next few years, I became a fairly good pianist and enjoyed it very much.  However, when I was 13, the organist at First Baptist Church passed away.  Miss Louise always played the piano for church services while Mrs. Horn played the organ.  As it so happened, Miss Stroud thought I was at a point in my lessons where I could help out on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and on Wednesday evening for prayer meetings.  She taught me to play the Hammond electronic organ in addition to the piano. During my high school years, we spent my Wednesday classes learning music for the church.  My hopes for becoming a classical musician were totally interrupted, yet what I did made my parents very happy.

As I look back at my childhood, I realize they invested all they had in me and saw to it that I became a professional person.  I hope they knew how much I appreciated all of it, those music lessons included!  I’ll never know if I could have been a famous concert pianist or not!

I still play sometimes from the old books that were given to me by my great-grandfather, WJF Dwiggins, who lived across the street.  He encouraged my love for music and often talked about his days as a piano salesman.  Those books are among my real treasures.