Posted by: Peadar Ban | March 4, 2009

An Occasional Look At Things

The view from the window today, Tuesday, March 3rd, was mostly white, a view of yesterday’s snow, which had started late Sunday night. We knew something big was coming, even before we read all of the ominous warnings on The Weather Channel web site and its competition. The build up began on Saturday, when the temperature started to fall into the low 30’s, then the high 20’s, and the sky took on a dirty gray aspect; dullness settling low over head, everything in shadow.

We were worried about Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon. In the morning we provide the music for the 8:00 AM Holy Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Hudson on the other side of the Merrimack. Right after that we would be singing with the Choir at the 10:00 AM Holy Mass at St. Christopher’s, back across the river. I’ve had to cross that river a couple of times already this winter in near thigh deep snow to make the 8:00 Am Mass, and I wasn’t looking forward to doing it again.

On Sunday afternoon we had a trip to take down into Massachusetts to visit Jay, Mariellen’s brother, who is in the hospital near Boston. As important as that trip was, we were going to combine it with a trip to the market in Brighton where we get our tea, the best tea in the whole world, Lyon’s Green Label; Irish tea which brews up strong enough to trot a mouse on it. That was what Sheila’s grandfather used to say of tea. “Tea isn’t tea until you can trot a mouse on it.” I never met the man, but he had to have had a mug of Lyon’s in his fist when he said it.

We got through both Holy Masses and went home for lunch before heading down South for our tea run and a visit. There were a few snow squalls on the way. I’ll confess to wanting to turn back, but Mariellen was reading to me as we drove along. That, and our dual purposes for making the trip kept me going. It had absolutely nothing to do with any weather reports. I have as much faith in them as I have in, well… Truth to tell I really don’t ever believe them. I believe my bones and the evidence of my eyes.

Mariellen was reading a book we found somewhere in a used book bin a while ago, “The Betrothed”, a book by a 19th Century Italian named Allesandro Manzoni. From what I’ve learned about it, “The Betrothed”…or “Il Promessi Sposi” in Italian…is just about every good book rolled into one for Italian literature, a rival to “The Divine Comedy”. Of course one is a novel and the other an epic poem. They can’t really be set off against each other. But, since I’ve never finished the latter, I like this one so much I’m tempted to go back to Dante, finish him and make the comparison.

She had gotten to a particularly interesting part in the book; Lucia, the heroine, has been abducted and is in the clutches of a desperate and tyrannical nobleman. As he is described in the book, and the author takes pages to do it, I couldn’t help thinking of a mafia don projected back three or four hundred years. The comparison of this character and his retainers, the “bravos” as they are called, reads exactly like something from “The Godfather”.

At about this time we reached our first stop, the little store on Fanueil Street in Brighton which sells all of those things I’ve come to believe life isn’t worth living without may having some around. In a few minutes we were on our way again, restored in spirit with a healthy supply of the tea I am sipping as I type this, and on our way over to see Jay in the hospital. Our drive took us past Boston College’s campus, and by twists and turns to the hospital; along a route I remembered having taken a number of times while driving Mariellen’s father back and forth to some of his visits to his own legion of doctors at Mass General Hospital.

I remember them, and him, with ever growing affection as time passes. Each bend or twist in the road on those trips, each remarkable building or bit of landscape, it seemed, called forth a memory and occasioned a tale; a tale invariably associated with a lesson, connected with an event in his life and meant for a purpose in my own. I used to get the feeling that the fellow was, sort of, making me as real a son as I could be. The memory of the trips and the tales, his memory and lessons still unwinding within my own seems to be completing the job, as I now make him a father, joining a long list of men who’ve done me the favor of fathering me; a list headed somewhat unsteadily by my own father, may God have mercy on his soul.

Our visit with Jay couldn’t have been better I think. We were happy to see him doing so well, and he was happy to spend time with us. We talked of old things and new, Jay catching us up on the news from all of Mariellen’s large family and he inquiring about our little one, the grand children and all of our friends. Jay is the “Library” and “Research Center” I think for all of the family. The stories all come to him, and he remembers each of them, dispensing them to anyone who asks in his deep bass voice, rumbling like a distant thunder as he speaks. It was thoroughly enjoyable and cordial. I got the feeling that, as with his father, Jay was becoming my brother.

All visits must come to an end, and so it was we left him at about four in the afternoon. The ride home was uneventful, except for what was going on in the book. I’ll not spoil it for any of you who may be tempted to read beyond saying that once or twice I was moved almost to tears, but thankfully spared them because I was driving and windshield wipers don’t work on eyes.

It was a very pleasant trip home in the fading light. Snow was just beginning to fall as we pulled into the drive. We spent the rest of the day quietly, and after supper watched an episode of an old BBC program on DVD, just the two of us in our little room at the end of the hall, the snow falling outside and all so very quiet. We had tea, and we had the memory, the shadow land of memory.


  1. Well, since we’re heading to Italy in a little over two months, I must find THAT book and try to read it..perhaps while we are there.

  2. It was Pius IX or Pius X or Pius XI who loved I PROMESSI SPOSI as one great books of Christian literature.

  3. Mary Lou,

    Read it before you go, by all means. You will probably find while there that you don’t want to take the time reading. And, if you read it before you go, I believe it will enrich the whole experience for you.

  4. Hello Gabriel,

    Mariellen said today that she read it years ago as simply a well told story. It has an entirely different and richer meaning when read through the lens of the faith. I am glad to agree with the Holy Fathers in this, too. (Who knows but that all three of them weren’t unanimous in their opinion.)

  5. I WILL try and read it before we leave. My local used store doesn’t seem to have it. Perhaps I might even find it in Oregon (visiting Sean, Anne & Owen) this weekend. There’s a great little used book store in downtown Hillsboro.


%d bloggers like this: