Old joke: What’s the difference between heaven and hell?
In heaven, the English are the innkeepers, the French are the chefs, the Germans are the mechanics, the Italians are the lovers and the Irish are the cops.
In hell, the English are the chefs, the French are the innkeepers, the Germans are the cops, the Italians are the mechanics and the Irish are the lovers.
The first time I heard that one, I understood all but the part about the Irish being lousy lovers. A friend explained that if you lived in a Catholic country where birth control was verboten until 1980, every sex act might not be a joyful consummation of love between two people but rather, an occasion for gloomy acceptance, furtive counting, whispered prayers and, of course, not too much noise. (Musn’t wake the children.)
I’ve wondered about the Irish and sex ever since, particularly as we’ve learned so much awful news about how the church and its most faithful secular government dealt with sex and its inevitable fruit. The Magdalene laundries, the atrocities uncovered by the Ryan commission, Philomena Lee – Ireland has a very dark side, and it seems to have a great deal to do with sex and religion.
So it is that today you can see a headline like this – Bodies of 800 babies, long-dead, found in septic tank at former Irish home for unwed mothers – and hardly be surprised.
Tainted women went to the home for unwed mothers and, eventually, left. It seems their children weren’t so lucky:
More than five decades after the Home was closed and destroyed — where a housing development and children’s playground now stands — what happened to nearly 800 of those abandoned children has now emerged: Their bodies were piled into a massive septic tank sitting in the back of the structure and forgotten, with neither gravestones nor coffins.
It sounds as though the children were basically starved into fragile health:
According to Irish Central, a 1944 local health board report described the children living at the Home as “emaciated,” “pot-bellied,” “fragile” and with “flesh hanging loosely on limbs.”
The home was closed in 1961 – eons ago, but within my lifetime. The children of “sin,” starved to death and buried in a septic tank. By nuns. What went wrong in Ireland that didn’t in Italy, France or other Catholic countries? (I’ve heard Quebec was almost as bad as Ireland, so maybe it has to do with gloomy skies and dreary winters.)
Enough with the downers! Let’s all look at Rihanna’s fanny. It has few peers in this grimy world, I’d say.
I’m not much for mourning deceased actors, but I thought Hank Stuever’s piece on Ann B. Davis was sweet. Hank’s about a decade younger than me, and his post outlined the difference between the Boomer and Gen X after-school experience, although ours were the same. The difference was, I came home to an empty house and rejoiced, while he was a little lonelier:
Like “The Brady Bunch,” being a so-called latchkey kid was a byproduct of the ’70s. Some of us had moms who were among the first American women to boldly attempt the juggling act of earning a paycheck and running a household. Some of us had divorced parents, or soon would. Some of us knew it was our job to fend for ourselves for a couple hours between 3:30 and 5:30 each day. None of us had a live-in housekeeper.
But we were not entirely alone when we had reruns. As early as the mid-’70s, when Paramount Television first put the show into weekday syndication, “The Brady Bunch” felt immediately and almost profoundly nostalgic.
No matter how quiet and empty the house was when you got home, you could turn on the TV just as the theme song began (“Here’s the story…”) and Alice was there, in the center of that joyful, blended-family “Brady Bunch” grid. She was in the kitchen getting dinner ready. She offered cookies and milk and sound advice.
She was, I suppose, whatever June Cleaver had been to the previous generation.
How long are we going to fight over Bowe Bergdahl? Will someone let me know when it’s over?
Happy Wednesday to you and yours.