My Mam’s diasporic family return often to the farmhouse and 18 acres that nurtured nine of them. In 2003, a scatter of them arrived together from the States and England. Entertainment being exhausted among the lakes and drumlins of North Longford, we hit for Bundoran.
The first night, we shared a jovial meal. The others claiming satiety, I alone ordered dessert. A big bowl of apple tart and ice cream arrived. The implement provided to dispatch my sweet was a remarkably large soup spoon. Wielding it clublike, I jokingly warned the others that should they sally forth towards my bowl, they’d get the spoon. Shortly after, out of the corner of my eye I saw a fork stealthily approaching my tart.
Some malevolent reflex drew my arm back and I crashed the spoon down on my aunt’s pate.
An audible “Bonk!”
Stuttered apologies couldn’t placate.
Swearwords with deep feeling behind them were flung at me.
She ran out.
Red-faced I stared at my dessert. At a loss for what to do, I ladled every bit into my mouth with the selfsame spoon.
Despite my Nan’s peacekeeping efforts, a family factionalised by errant cutlery could not be reconciled.
My aunt didn’t talk to me properly for a year or so, and relations were a little stilted thereafter.
On Christmas Day 2014, my Granda was in Mullingar Hospital dying slower than he deserved. We took turns with the bedside vigil. At home that night I ate reheated turkey dinner with jetlagged and grief-tired relatives, my aunt among them.
As I launched into pudding and custard, my Nan said “Watch out for that fella with the spoon!”
My aunt and I exchanged sheepish grins.
Nan giggled knavishly.