Story for the Day: Sheamas' Birthday
Sheamas, much in the style of his father, was accustomed to having birthdays without the object of celebrating them. Though he could not be called old enough to regard the observance as a trite formality, he was sagacious enough to understand that birthdays brought undue celebration. Gifts would be forced upon him, drinks would be shared in his honour -especially where Aiden and Adaoire were concerned, a family party would be demanded, and upon the whole the celebrating of his birthday would be an insalubrious affair, one he was certain to like but one he could not condone; work would have to be missed, businesses would need to be closed, and Sheamas felt it best to remain silent when the particular day arrived to save everyone the trouble of exertion. There were always a few nagging assertions from his mother, demanding that she be allowed to celebrate it by making him a supper and procuring a present, but his brothers knew better than to overthrow his desires and merely gave him the requisite tidings of the day with a promise of drinks when his work for the evening had done. When his wife was alive, she maintained the quiet celebration that Sheamas preferred: something in the way of a small and meaningful gift, the meal that secured his affections for her on their table, and a sparse outfit for herself to be torn away at the end of the evening by a most satisfied and eager butcher.
The instant Martje realized that her brother’s birthday was swiftly approaching, however, she, as the most intrusive in the family, demanded that something be done to honour the day. A cake was usually baked and conveyed to his shoppe as her contribution, but as this would be the first birthday spent without Margilesse, Martje thought it advisable and necessary to do more than was asked. A grand celebration must be made and the whole of the Donnegal and MacDaede family and the extended friend therein must be prevailed upon to come. The celebration must be held in Tyferrim so that the usual excuses of distance, travel and dislike for the capital made by her other brothers would be nullified, and everyone attending must bring something, whether fare or music, to animate and enliven the general merriment. Martje had done well to tell her mother of her designs and had done even better to provoke the whole of the family, the Cuineills, the Brennins, the Reghans, Kai Linaa and everyone of the island relatives to attend. She calculated that with everyone’s assenting replies, there should be nearly forty people in attendance, and though one or even two of them could be borne as absent, Sheamas’ attendance must be secured. She knew that her brother would not be pleased at such a large and extravagant commemoration made in his honour, but it must be done and therefore he would have to endure it more for her need to be sisterly and officious than for his desire for a commemoration at all. She was sensible of how difficult his concordance would be to obtain, but a few remarks on how everything was already settled should quiet him.
When Sheamas made his delivery of rations for the Diras regiments the morning before his birthday, Shayne was standing in the kitchen pretending to wish a good morning to his wife after having some tea and toast for breakfast. He had been stalling for the last fifteen minutes, whispering of what he was desirous of doing to her after their workday had done while peering over her shoulder and keeping a watchful eye on the door near the larder, listening and waiting for Sheamas’ shuffling step. He had heard nothing for some time and was willing to relinquish his office as lookout when a sudden scuff outside the door, a turn of a lock and a scraping of a barrel warned him of his brother-in-law’s presence. With all the alacrity his lumbering form would allow, Shayne leapt away from his wife and toward the larder with entreaties for the butcher to avoid entering the oven room no matter how much he should wish to greet his sister. Sheamas seemed bemused by Shayne’s odd request, but a flickering look toward Martje, a nod toward the door, and Sheamas was conscious of the impending horror about to befall him. The two turned to leave the keep and busy themselves elsewhere, but they were impeded by Martje’s strident calls behind them.
“And where are you two goin’?” shouted the cook, hastening after them.
“Nowhere, Mar,” said Shayne in a restrained voice. He pushed Sheamas out of the larder door but was instantly hauled in by his wife’s persistent motions.
“In the kitchen with you,” Martje demanded. “Shayne, you off to the smith with Tomas. Sheamas, you sit at that table and you don’t move.”
Sheamas obliged his sister and only felt sorry that Shayne would now be chided for attempting to save him from a most terrible fate.
Once Shayne was shooed away to the yeoman’s quarter with a vicious glare from his wife and Sheamas was sat at the kitchen table, Martje stood before her brother with on hand on her hip and the other pointing at his nose. “You’re gonna have a birthday,” she said heatedly.
Sheamas sighed and covered his eyes with his hand. “Martje, you know I don’t like makin’ people fuss-“
“What fuss? Everythin’ already done. Food’s made –most of it, family’s invited, Ma has the house ready for us and all-“
“It’s not right to make everyone feel obligated,” he argued. “I’m not goin’.”
“Sure you are.”
“No, I’m not.”
Martje humphed, stamped her foot, and crossed her arms. “If you don’t come, Mr MacDaede’s gonna guilt you into goin’,” she said with a defiant air.
The food being prepared and family being summoned on his behalf, Sheamas could have contended, but the refutation of Jaicobh MacDaede’s superior powers of remorse he could not. Sheamas took off his hat and moaned into it, “Why did you have to tell Da?”
“’Cause I knew you’d say no when you found out.”
Sheamas stood from the table and towered over his sister with feigned anger. “You can’t make me go,” he huffed.
“Aye, I can,” Martje said firmly. “Can’t take back those invitations, so you’ll just have to enjoy your cake and the supper we got planned for you.”
Sheamas false pride vanished and he seemed thoughtful. “Martje,” he hummed in a warning tone, “I know you meant well, but I can’t ask everyone to come just for me.”
“Aye, you can, Shea, and they’re already comin’. They’re happy to come and celebrate with you. You deserve it.”
Here Sheamas was unable to refute Martje’s proclamations, and though an immense celebration was hardly what he wished to receive on his birthday, a visit from his entire family and peace from Jaicobh would be a most welcome gesture. “All right,” he exhaled, looking down. “I’ll go. But no presents, you hear me?”
Martje waved a hand at her brother and scoffed, “No presents! Who ever heard of a birthday with no presents?” She made a few more professions in Old Frewyn, claiming that gifts were a prevalent part of every such celebration while wringing a tight fist toward the ceiling and asking the Gods why she was given Frewyn’s most obdurate brother.
Sheamas’ apprehensions began to diminish and his want to repudiate this celebration had done. He well knew that with Jaicobh’s ready remonstrance to furnish Martje’s assertions he could not succeed in convincing his sister of any moderacy for this occasion. He could only acquiesce to her demands and hope that in all the largesse professed for the event he would at least find enjoyment in seeing those he had not seen in far too long.