I remember as if it was yesterday our walks up the Camlough Road…
my father holding my hand as I walked up ‘the big ditch’, which turned out to be just a little rise on the side of the road – but back then it was a ‘big ditch’ to me.
It was like I was climbing a mountain but was safe because he was holding my hand. Then there was the smell of the damp earth, a strong memory that and a thing that I have never smelled anywhere since. I can still go back there in my mind and actually relive it, in a secret corner of my mind; a place that’s mine alone, a place that brings me back to the days of my childhood.
I remember dragging the toes of my shoes along the road as we walked, and my daddy telling me, that they ‘couldn’t keep me in shoes’, because I wore the toes out all the time. And he would wonder aloud, why I did that, and I wondered too, as I continued dragging them along.
I remember him laughing when I would put the buttercup under his chin to see if he liked butter, and remember how he loved to walk, and he called me ‘a great wee tramper myself’,meaning I was a good walker, too, and I thought that was quite a wonderful thing. I remember that he would help me to pick primroses to bring home to my mother, and I thought it had to be just the best gift in the whole, wide world.
I remember we would come home, and he’d get into his big black chair, to take his rest, and I would get a hair brush, and while he’d be trying to sleep I would comb his hair – what there was of it… and laugh out loud at how silly I could make him look combing it from one side to the other. It seemed that I did it for hours, but I am sure in reality it was no more than a few minutes in time.
Then I would take his wedding band and pull it as hard as I could to get it off his finger, and if it didn’t come right off, I would have to wet his finger, and go back to pulling it as hard as I could. Then I would wear it.
And I remember how he just sat there in his chair, making soft breathing sounds as he pretended to sleep, and he never made me stop, or never let me know what a nuisance I was to him.
Funny, that a whole world of family life was going on around me at that very moment, and all I remember are those moments of just me and my father.
These are a few of the reminiscences of Bernadette Manley. She, of course, is familiar to you from Guestbook.
Though a long time living in the USA, she maintains close ties with home. She is related to my dear friends Theresa Dillon and Joanne McAteer. We are happy to reproduce her wistful memories.