It was Christmas, nineteen forty-one when my father promised to use his rank to appropriate a bird from the munificence of the obliging quartermaster at Macroom Barracks. However, as was to be the pattern for many Christmas’s to follow; my father did not leave the officers mess until too late on Christmas Eve.
His black car groaned to a halt as the wet snow rain gathered on the windshield. He fumbled with the doorknob, singing for the all the world to hear.
“Adeste fidelis, laeti triumphantes
Venite, venite in Bethlehem
Natum videte, regem angelorum
Venite adoremus, venite adoremus
Venite adoremus, dominum.”
“Bartley come in and be quiet.”
“Yerra Jazus, woman, would you have some Christmas spirit!”
“Bartley, it’s one o’ clock in the morning.”
“For the love of Jazus, May, it’s Christmas – it only comes the once a year,” he burped through brandy breath.
“Merry Christmas, John,” he acknowledge the shadow of my grandfather that formed, just past her shoulder, “I got the bird right here.”
“Like the ghost of feckin’ Christmas past,” he added softly as he smiled at the old man’s frown.
“I got the bird right here with me!” he sang as he pulled it from the car – all thirty-five pounds of it, resplendent in its feathers and all.
“Bartley! What am I supposed to do with that?”
“It’s our Christmas dinner, woman! Or are you totally foolish?”
Back then there was my Grandfather, who was aged and ate little, my brother, who was less than a year, and my mother who had eaten most of her meals at the convent school.
“I’d suggest that you put it in the oven and cook it, but you’re the woman of the house.”
After putting my father and my brother to bed my mother sat with her father and cried for as long as it took them to pluck and clean a bird that would have kept an army going for a week.
“It might have been better had you taken Home Economics,” was all that the old man could offer against the flood of tears.