St. Patrick’s Day Trip to the Past

On St. Patrick’s Day, there are plenty of images of leprechauns, pots of gold and shamrocks.  Shamrocks look a lot like clover, and the image of clover brings a warm memory to mind.


When my sister and I were kids, we often went to Uncle Everett’s house with our mom. Uncle Everett’s wife, Freda, had died of a heart attack and he was left to live alone there. My Mom and her Aunt Freda had been very close for all of my mom’s life. Uncle Everett had become family too.  When Freda died, my mom was there for him in every way she could be. He didn’t live far from us and we went there regularly to clean the house.  We must have done that for years because I have solid memories of shaking bright purple bathroom rugs and making the bed up with freshly laundered sheets. Mom even saw to special touches, like making the bed just the way Aunt Freda used to. She would lay the pillows flat on the bed and then give them a forceful karate-like chop horizontally down the middle.  When folded over, they had a rounded shape and when covered with the bedspread and tucked just right, it presented a very finished look to the bed.

I write that “we” did these things, but in reality I was likely not as much help as I like to think I was.  Rather, I was present there and observed what love looks like as I watched my Mom care for her uncle while they both adjusted to life without Freda.

During our visits there in the spring and summer months, we would admire Uncle Everett’s flourishing flowers.  There were comments about the color, size and shape of the many beautiful species growing in the yard.  My least favorite, though, was the prickly pear cactus near the back door. They sported beautiful exotic-looking flowers for a while each season, but the rest of the year they just posed a hazard for clumsy footing and I never understood their placement there.

53- Everett Matthews and hollyhocks  49- Everett Matthews (Freda Vredenburg Matthews' widower) (2)  ppc

Uncle Everett love to tinker. He was a machinist by trade and his garage was set up like a lab of sorts with a gazillion screws, nuts, bolts, and nails of different sizes and shapes. There were a number of outbuildings in the yard. They likely served as housing for animals years earlier, but at that point accommodated the overflow of things from the house and garage. The yard was large and easily accommodated those buildings while leaving plenty of extra space. On numerous occasions, my sister and I and our Great Uncle Everett would find ourselves sitting in the grass of that large backyard. The soil was rich there not only for grass to grow, but for beautiful extras like bright yellow dandelions and clusters of clover. Even back then, many thought of those as weeds, but to a child they were bouquets to make and fields of fun to romp and rest in.

We sat there in the grass and clover, often in quiet contentment and conversation.  Each time it was a game to see who would find a four-leaf clover first. We watched and copied his technique, slowly and gently brushing the palms of our hands over the top of the green growth, to see each detail of leaves and stems and bugs below.  There was never really a question who would spot one first, as Uncle Everett was a master at finding them. In no time at all he would pluck one and hold it up so we could examine it, deem it worthy, and proclaim him once more the winner. Sometimes the prized clover would be carefully placed in plastic wrap and taken home to be put in the pages of a heavy book to ensure it dried flat. I wonder how many of those clovers fell out of books years later and possibly held by unsuspecting new owners, not realizing the trophy that simple clover had been years earlier.

And that’s why seeing a picture of shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day makes me think of clover every time. It takes me back to a slower, simpler time in life when things like sitting in the grass was both calming and an adventure….when flowers were examined and marveled at…..when old men like Uncle Everett were champions to be cherished.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.   I hope something that you see or hear or taste or feel today brings back a special memory from your past.  Watch for them, there are triggers  everywhere that can transport you to a previous time.  Those times can be relived as often as you like. A free trip, if you will, to a happy place….maybe when you need it most.

About Climbing Downhill

Wife and mother of grown kids, in my 60's and dealing with MS, making life's moments count and trying to offer something of value to others along the way.
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