Story for the Day: A Holiday Morning in Tyfferim
A few minutes saw them at the edge of the town square, and while church was just letting Roe Gaumhin at the centre of town and lavished it with attention, admiring the garlanded boughsseanrealta, and glorying in the golden light of midmorning, as everyone in the immediate environs was out and doing something to honour the holiday. The children, liberated from school, were playing boghans and constructing crooked snowmen, women were engaged in lively chat over who had come to church and who had stayed at home, and the older generations observed the younger, esteeming them with toothless smiles and crinkling eyes, anxious for their not catching cold as they were willing to stuff them with caramel apple slices that were giving round. Vendors pushed their carts and rang their bells, offering cinnamon rolls and steaming sweets, taking advantage of the indolence of those who had not yet set up their stalls for the day. Children attached themselves to their carts and leaped up and down, calling for their parents and grandparents to empty their pockets in exchange for caramel apples and promises of affection, the distinction of regard depending on whether they should get half an apple or a whole one. Parents lectured their children about their having breakfasted, and then relented on the point of its being a holiday and therefore all extenuations must be made, whilst men with hats pulled over their eyes milled about town, making their way to which ever tavern and eatery would offer them half a promise of a cure by way of a late and butyraceous breakfast. They slumped down stairs and ambled along the winding lanes in a dirge of grievances, peering through doors and perching on windows with inquiring looks, their steps persuaded by whatever scent their noses could catch. Their mouths hung half open in all the expectation of a meal, their recollections regretting having spent the better part of the evening previous looking at the bottom of a glass. They entered the taverns with languorous claudications, their backs bent, their eyes downcast, their spirits low. They mantled over counters and were sat at tables, their walking sticks and crooks discarded in corners, the abandoned scepters of rural lords. Waitresses and barmen, purveyors of pleasant smiles and merchants of confidence, called out to one another over the strident wambles of stomachs crying out for relief from their excruciating misery. The dishes soon came round, and plates were furnished with soft boiled eggs, bread smoothed over with salted butter, and slices of bacon resting neatly on beds of farl, whilst carrots pearls of pork fat resided in the corners of every bowl as magistrates of the stockpot and carrots in boiling broth was giving round. A silence pervaded the front room of every hall, interrupted by men sooming and slottering into their spoons, their collective countenance rapt in gustatory satiation, adulating their benefactors in a symphony of sobering thrums, a good meal nourishing their strength of mind and slowly restoring their sense and goodwill. Conversation soon filled the room, the dulcet tirl of a fiddle escaped from a far corner, and as an old fiddler began to play, all generosity of character and firmness of mind seemed revived. Backs were slapped in fervent affability, conclamant cachinnations drowned out all remaining woes, and as the sun reigned over the town and ushered in the warmth of midmorning, Tyfferim was looking tolerably like itself once more.
out, the bells clanging with fine holiday fervor, announcing the morning of the holiday, everybody who davered about the lanes issuing from the square in a half conscious state holding them in high contempt for their egregious tintinnabulation, parishioners milling around the open doors of the nave while the less fortunate were invited to a meal of honey and oats, whilst friends and families bore good tidings to their neighbours. Children and parents and grandparents sat beneath the
The blacksmith’s bellows began to breathe, smoke from the baker’s chimney luffed out in heaps, the milliner’s vats seeped in reds and blues for the dyeing lines of new ribbons, the lacemaker’s bobbins clicked and clacked, spinner’s wheels whirred incessantly, looms made their slow applause as their masters worked their pedals, and all the zeal that was endeavouring at idleness for a day began to die away. Sweet breads and buns were displaying in windows, the toymaker marched across the square with puppets and wooden figures, and the choir from the church billowed out from the churchyard and inundated town, carrying their tunes and taking their traditional songs to those who were in want of good cheer. The tradesmen and masters kept to more lenient hours, the keys to their shoppes dangling languidly from fingertips, the market brocades being put up and sellers claiming their places at the head of their stalls as quickly as a clear head and easy consciousness would allow. The scent of Lucentian black coffee invaded the town square, the beans freshly ground, and the brew strong enough to break through the cold. The crosswind carried Livanese tea from someone’s window, mint and lavender in fine vintage wafting indolently through the adjoining lanes. Clouds hung across the warp and weft of the sky, the expanse deepening into the mazarine hue, and as Aiden and Adaoire came to the square, the stopped to honour the tree and admire the sanguine views: a drove of sheep were being herded along the northern lane, children were crowding the high street in quest of maple snow, vendors wreathed round the benches and called out for those interested in battered haddock and cold pies, and in the near distance two foxes were skirting across the snow, bounding into and out of the downs, hunting after a few mice that were burrowing under the drifts.
“See that there?” said Adaoire, pointing to the foxes.
“Aye!” his son beamed. “Aren’t they cold, Da?”
“Aye,” said Little Aiden. “They got fur and all, but they got snow on their faces.”
“Sure they’re cold,” said Aiden, “but when yer hungry and food’s that close, cold don’t matter much, like how yer nose is red from bein’ cold but yer still lookin’ over at that maple snow like you want it.”
Little Aiden glinked at his Uncle and grinned. “Can we have some, Uncle Aiden?”
“Aye, please, Da?” said Little Adaoire, echoing the wish.
Adaoire glanced at the cart across the square, and then looked back at the children. “Yer mother would be after me for ruinin’ yer teeth.” He gave them a yielding but considerate look. “Not this time, boys.”
The sighs of disappointed hopes and pleas were gone through, but Adaoire’s ruling still held: there would be no maple snow just now. It was too early in the day for something half so sweet, and as the boys had already been allowed a slice of cake extraordinary for the holiday, they had better not be allowed anything else. Aiden and Adaoire loved to indulge the children, but the remonstrances that their mother should make over their immoderation made them fearful of giving them anything unsanctioned by her. They remembered how they used to be when they were young, always begging their mother for something or other, some toffee or hazelnut brittle whenever they were in town, tugging on her skirt and singing out their pleases and moaning when she would hesitate, groaking their favourite sweets and turning to her with wide and glistening eyes. Calleen, however, was irresolute compared to Dealanna, the former having grown up in a life of privation and wishing to give her children the things she never had as a child, and the latter knowing luxury and knowing the ill effect it had on one’s health. Where they had hitherto thought themselves to be staunch when it came to the management of children, Aiden and Adaoire now understood the irrefutable power with which a darling child had over a parent, and Adaoire’s heart wrenched in all the agony of a repentant father as he gave his decided no. They were going to Lochan’s anyway, he reasoned, and there Lochan was sure to have something for them, and as they were about to embark on an hour’s journey northward, having the children burdened by sweets and all the maniacal tendencies that eating them was wont to occasion, they judged it best that the children should be denied anything supernumerary at present.