• Loretto Leary

Using Writing Prompts

I attended the Catskills Irish Arts Week, in New York State this past weekend. Unfortunately, I could only be there on Thursday through Sunday. A writing workshop, led by author Deirdre Cronin, drew my attention.

Deeply rooted in Irish traditions and culture, Deirdre is an inspirational teacher and encouraged everyone of us who attended the workshop to stay writing and stay in touch with her. I am always gobsmacked at the generosity of writing teachers, time and attention is a wonderful gift to give aspiring writers.

Writing prompts are visuals used to kick start the imagination and get people writing. I used them myself as a middle school language arts teacher. The one Deirdre used triggered a memory and I wrote from the heart.

Mullagh Set Dancers on Tour in the USA, 1976

The picture above made me think of my father and mother.

Between the Jigs and the Reels

Life before us, just two strangers dancing. How did you meet? This was their first meeting. Her version was romantic. She said they met at the crossroads. He was on a bicycle. The curly strawberry blonde hair caught her attention first. He cycled by as she and her sister walked into town to go dancing, wearing sensible shoes and respectable coats. So he stopped, she said, and got off his bike and chatted with them for a little while. The dance invitation was offered and she accepted.

Her exotic Spanish look, the reverse of his Viking features, drew him in. How did you propose? His version had more vim to it. My father said, many dance-hall days later, that he asked her to marry him while they were dancing. Was it a year later? Two, or maybe more? Instead of, "Will you marry me?" he asked, "How would you like to be buried next to my people?" After twenty-five years of jigs and reels, she laughed at his joke, sitting in the home they'd built together and surrounded by their eight children. The gullible youngest child didn't get the joke. It was a North Tipperary saying, my father told me. My mother offered another as an example: ““You won't have a cup of tay, will ya?" How do you answer that to get a cup? No, I won't or yes, I won't,” she said. The Galway woman made the North Tipperary man laugh hard. "How lucky you are to be married to a fine Tipperary man." "'Tis you that's the lucky one, married to a Galway woman."

I was thirteen back then, with images of my mother and father, young, single, before the seven others and me, dancing and laughing. Before the crossroads and before the dance, they were strangers. Then the crossroads of a chance meeting and dance of life brought them together and us as a family into existence.

Between the jigs and the reels, there were slow waltzes, a bit of Rock and Roll and at times, Heavy Metal. The time came when he needed to sit and catch his breath and wish he could dance like he used to. She had to waltz on without him. Until she couldn't dance any longer. The two dancing partners are sitting this one out.