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Acceptable Level
A Horrible Little Thing by O'shea Another short autobiography about my early childhood in Northern Ireland. [1,077 words]
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Acceptable Level
A short autobiography of a Northern Ireland, teenage, half-Protostant half-Catholic immigrant in America.
[1,248 words]
[August 2006]
A Horrible Little Thing (Non-Fiction) Another short autobiography about my early childhood in Northern Ireland. [1,077 words]
Acceptable Level

Acceptable Level

I seem much older than I actually am. I have had my own peers ask me was there a big difference between the New Y ears’ celebration of 1990 and that of 2000; in actuality, I hardly even remember Omagh. It was because of that bomb that I left Ireland, in fact. I was seven, living in a very small town of Tyrone, and we - my parents and my siblings, we could all hear the explosion coming from the neighbouring city. My mother and father, who were just getting used to the idea of a ceasefire, pretty much said “Feck this”, and up and left, taking the lot of us with them.
There were only three of us children. My parents are neither very religious at all, her a Catholic and him a Protestant, and I think they represent most of Northern Ireland in that they really never cared what happened to the country, as long as nobody they know gets hurt by any of the madness.
Although this isn’t about what happened in Northern Ireland. There’s enough out there about those years to fuel a second Troubles in themselves. I’ll leave the worryin’ to the Americans.
When my sister came out, we all laughed. It was horrible. We all thought she was kidding - she was a joker like that, she really was, always messing around with people, but always so serious when she did it. She said, (and I still smile thinking about it.) “I think I like girls,” and it was her best crack to date. She looked so confused, the poor thing, she ran out of the house, and dragged in this other girl and snogged her. Right ‘front the lot of us. It was horrible.
She’s six years my elder, twenty-one now, and she still hates us for what happened that night. She was fifteen, could you imagine? Fifteen!
My brother’s name is Peter, and, despite being eighteen, doesn’t plan on moving out anytime soon. Like my sister, he still has a brogue on him - a proper one - but he hardly ever talks, so it doesn’t account for much. I’ve just managed to hold on to the essential stuff - the Ochs and the justs and buts and sures at the end of me sentences. And saying me instead of my. But only sometimes.
My brother Peter, he’s a bit depressive sometimes. I don’t know if you’ve seen the BBC series “Father Ted”, but they’ve this great episode where a Father... God, what’s his name... em, I know the part’s played by yer man Tommy Tiernan. There is a Father... well, I suppose it’s not important. There’s a Father something who Ted has to convince not to commit suicide at the It’s Great Being a Priest! ‘96, and stays at Ted’s house for a while until his depression lifts. (At the end, he is cheered up - God knows how - by the theme song from Shaft, but is again made despondent when he hears Radiohead’s single on the radio.) Either way, a great episode, great acting, and I happen to see a lot of me brother Peter in Tiernan’s character.
This past year, he has stopped speaking, only expressing himself with notes that he hands people and raises in class. Drives his teachers mad, but what can they do? They’ve said that he should be sent to a psychologist, but my father - “Sir, you don’t understand... it’s an Irish thing. He’s to grow up, and I think this may help the miserable bastard do it.”
And don’t start me on me mother - “Ah, he’ll be fine sure, the poor child. Going through some rough times, just. Adolescence, yeh se. Ah, ‘twas grand, ‘twasn’t it, adolescence?”
“I guess, Ma’am.”
“Ach, ‘twas wonderful, so ‘twas. I remember... Ach, Mr. Wright. Is that a Claddagh ring on yer finger? Sure, I didn’t know you were married! And to an Irishwoman, sure that’s grand. Aye, I had a distant cousin - and American, in fact, and her husband, he was fifth generation Irish or something of the likes, and he though he...”
Of course, being half-Catholic doesn’t help with Peter’s problem. My mother’s family came over once, and we should have just stuffed the whole bleedin’ lot of them into a hotel or something, but no. Family. So we had a Catholic family - which can range anywhere between about six to twenty-five members - squeezed into our one-story-plus-basement Southside Chicago home for two weeks. Naturally, I slept on blankets on the floor in my room in the basement, as did Peter and my sister Angela, while two of the Cousins snored in my bed, four Cousins stayed in Peter’s room, and six more of the sods stayed in Angela’s room.
The adults were upstairs. I don’t even know how they sorted that out. We had aunts, uncles, and grandparents. The whole bloody lot.
Me Uncle Paddy (there are five of them, but the others are Pat, Patrick, Paddy Mac, and, well, the other is in the Maze, so we don’t really call him anything) was in the long line to our only bathroom. Peter was inside, probably shitting out the lining of his stomach, the time he was in there. Well, Uncle Paddy isn’t shy - extremely boisterous - the kind that would jack an army vehicle in Belfast as a child and say he’d forgotten it belonged to the Army. “Whatchu doin’ in there, yeh filthy Yank?” Huge voice, too, kind of reminded me of the voice I’d imagine someone like - I dunno - Eamon Casey or someone having. “Are yeh up to the wankin’ again? That’s a sin, that. That’s a terrible sin, it is.”
I remember feeling so sorry for him, as I could just see him in there, petrified. But, no. He came out, and, the first thing he said to another human being in about seven months was: “You mean you don’t wank? That’s the worst sin of them all.”
And he stalked off, the posh shit that he is, and has said nothing since.
In those two weeks, these are the names I had to memorize and match with faces (not to mention house):
Aunt Maggie, Uncle Patrick, Paddy, Delaney
Aunt Sheehan, Uncle Malachy, Paddy, Maeve, Malachy, Sean
Aunt Maura, Paddy Mac, Seamus, Seanna, Feargal, Fergus, Malachy
Uncle Paddy
Uncle Sean
It reminds me of the rosters for Gaelic Football.
Either way, some of my best memories are from my early years, the ones I spent in Ireland. The ones I spent on the fields and in the pubs and with my cousins, no matter how many of them there may be.
I get a lot of weird people coming up to me because I’m from Ireland. They come up to me and tell me how their grandfathers are Irish, and how much their grandfathers would pay to go back, or how much they would pay to never see the island again. I get stranger comments still because I’m from the North. People feel sorry for me, and, in the beginning, I didn’t know why.
I hope to go back some day, as soon as possible, the second I’m as old as me brother Peter. My parents, they want to go back, now, just to visit, but they’re scared. Not of the violence or anything like it. They’re scared they’ll go there and not have the heart to come back.


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© 2006 O'shea
August 2006

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