Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Blarney Stone Ring

My father’s side of the family is primarily from the New York area.  We used to go there during the holidays, which is why almost all of my New York memories have Christmas light backdrops and lazy snow flurries.  When I was a child we would usually stay at my Aunt Rose and Uncle Jack’s century home that overlooked the Hudson River and Tappen Zee bridge.  The house was filled with interesting curios from their extensive traveling history that I would carefully look at like museum pieces.  The wooden floors creaked as you moved through the house, and I usually slept in the converted attic with the winding staircase.  There was a particular smell to the home, not unpleasant or easily classified, that is still in my memory.  

There would be a Christmas Eve get together where my father's brother and his family would come over.  They were always late.  Not by 15 minutes or so either.  They would show up hours after they were scheduled to arrive.  This would result in the overcooking of the leg of lamb, which meant the vegetarian lasagna had to save the day.  The food was mostly an afterthought anyway.  My father's generation were cocktail drinkers, and massive amounts of gin were consumed by the parents with my cousins and I decimating the beer that was kept on the back stoop to keep cold.  Dinner was always late, not that it wasn't ready so much as it was difficult for anyone to stay on point to get it on the table.  When we sat down, every person at the table knew what was about to happen.

My Aunt Rose would sit at the end of the table and begin to hold court.  It was impossible for her to quickly tell a story, especially with the skull crushing amount of gin that must have been in her.  She would begin a story about her brothers as kids and it would weave around any number of other topics.  It was like narrative jazz.  There was a theme, but it was hard to tell where it was going.  She never ate anything as she was so immersed in whatever it was she was talking about with my Uncle Jack consistently zinging her with brutally sarcastic barbs.  I cannot ever recall her eating an entire entree at any meal.

At a certain point, she would bring up The Blarney Stone Ring.  This was a piece of jewelry purchased by a deceased family member on a trip to Ireland that allegedly featured a chip from The Blarney Stone.  Even now, I am not sure of what The Blarney Stone is and I certainly have doubts that the ring was authentic.  That didn't matter.  Rose felt that she should have been awarded the ring when the deceased's estate was dispersed but it instead went to one of her cousins.  "She's never even BEEN to Ireland!"  While the Miller Family's Irish roots may be mostly fiction ( says I'm 75% English, 23% Irish and 2% Mongolian or something), Rose definitely identified as Irish American.  This piece of junk jewelry had taken on a great importance to Rose.  Once she got on the topic, there was no getting her off it.

I began to really enjoy the annual Blarney Stone Ring sermon.  I was without question in the minority in this view.  Each year during Rose's confusing soliloquy I would insert myself into the conversation with an innocent sounding question like "Wasn't there a family piece of jewelry from Ireland?  A necklace or something?".  Then it would suddenly veer into The Blarney Stone Ring story with my relatives all shooting me evil glances as Rose's face shifted into a look of determination.

There was one year I attempted to hatch a plot with my father to go to the woman's house that possessed the ring and get it from her.  Frankly, she probably left it forgotten in a jewelry box somewhere and didn't care about it in the least.  My cousins and I pounded through the beer coming up with increasingly more complicated logistics and scenarios to get the ring.  At one point I think our plan was that my father and I would go to visit this stranger.  My father and I would sit in the living room with her and chat when I would excuse myself to go to the restroom.  I would then open an upstairs window where my cousin would use a ladder to get in the window to search her jewelry box for the ring while I went back downstairs to continue the charade.  Like I said, we were drinking a lot of beer.  Really, all we had to do was probably call her and ask for it and she would have sent it.

The New York Christmas tradition slowly went away.  Our lives moved in different directions.  Rose died and then Jack died a short time later.  Whatever glue there was that held it together disappeared.  The whole thing seems like someone else's life now, like a movie I remember.  I think about that Blarney Stone ring and regret not putting forth the effort to try and get it for Rose.  I would have liked to have brought up that story, get the annoyed looks, and as Rose veered into it yet again wordlessly place that ring on the table.  Then again, maybe it's better this way, not knowing what that ring looked like and keeping it in my mind like the rest of it.  It's the memory that is important.

Happy Holidays.  


At December 28, 2018 at 7:08:00 AM EST , Blogger AZ said...



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