Small Things: Akron Irish

Akron Irish: Small Things
By Lisa O’Rourke

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a seanfhocal (shanukul), that is the Irish word for a proverb. Sometimes the metaphors for these proverbs have something to do with thatching a roof or a cow gone wrong and can be what I would call head-scratchers, their meaning forever lost in some generational rural difficulty.

This one was different. It translates to a fly is a small thing until it flies into your eye. While that might kindle remembrances of little irritations that we like to complain about, the, “ yeah it doesn’t bother you until it is your problem…. “ kind of thing, my mind went in a different direction.

I thought of positives. I thought of all those things that can seem small but are really the seeds of happiness. Our son got married and I received an education in the process.
First off, I like weddings as much as anyone, but I am not sure that I got it. I have been invited to so many things that I mark on the calendar, and I am ashamed to say that they can take on a chore-like patina at times: get the dress, the gift, the RSVP.

I just don’t always enter into them with the best frame of mind. I don’t think that I am alone either. I am not so bad that I don’t have fun when I am attending events, don’t get me wrong, but it seems like in this busy world, it can be hard to attach the right emotional pitch to other peoples’ life events.

I am cured of my crabbiness for at least awhile. My Irish in-laws had a lot to do with the cure. We have been apart for the longest time that we ever have the last few years. When the wedding was first announced, my brother-in-law declared that there was to be a westward movement from Roscommon unseen since the Famine.

While we knew that travel wouldn’t work out for everyone, we were so excited. Fourteen people bought tickets and traveled thousands of miles to be at a wedding, what we will call our wedding. A wedding is by nature, a family celebration. We had family members who have never been here before, and some who had never been to America at all, land in Cleveland, Ohio.

From the minute they arrived, they made things better. Not one thing that we did for them went without sincere thanks. I’m not talking about a perfunctory thank you. I am talking about the type of thanks where details are cited, like what they really liked about something, how wonderful it was or how it was the best ever. 

They showed curiosity and asked questions about everything. Questions like, “What does this look like in the winter?  How do you make that? What was this like before?” And there were many more like those.

This might sound like it would drive you a little mad, but it doesn’t. What it does do, is show genuine interest and that feels like a compliment. That interest means that what is happening is worth knowing more about.

It is also nice just to see how happy people were. They showed joy. While I am sure that every moment was not delightful, I did not know about it.

Everyone knew that this was a happy occasion, and they went with it. It just spread. There was a moment that is stuck in my head where the whole family was in a circle on the dance floor, bad dancing to Abba and laughing their heads off. To call that moment priceless is an understatement.

They did not complain. When things went wrong, and a few did, they treated them with laughter, or they were given grace. We all have moments that could be used to complain. But no one did. I know that they did not think every moment was rainbows and unicorns, but at the same time it was because we were all together.

It is also just good manners and makes your host feel wonderful to hear how great things are. As an example, we took our in-laws to a friend’s house for a cookout with a few local friends too. My brother in-law complimented the hostess about her yard, “Beautiful flowers, so much space, fabulous trees….” In another conversation, the local man said, “What does this look like in the fall? You must have way too many leaves to rake.” You know who she wanted to invite back.

This dark time may not be all the way over, but it is time to shake off the pandemic gray. We continue to hear that the last few years took a toll on everyone. I am sure that is true.
We are also making choices about what we do with our fresh emancipation from seclusion. But let’s let one of the choices that we make be to share some unbridled joy with each other, enjoying each other. Let the small thing that goes into your eye be a happy one. I, for one, will.

Please send any Akron events to my email!

*Lisa O’Rourke is an educator from Akron with a BA in English and a Master’s in Reading/Elementary Education. She is a student of everything Irish, primarily Gaeilge, and runs a Gaeilge study group at the AOH/Mark Heffernan Division. Lisa is married to Dónal and has two sons, Danny and Liam. She enjoys art, reading, music, and travel and likes spending time with her dog, cats and fish. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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