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July 30, 2012

Life was good (and fun) when....

In today's newspaper, I read an obituary about a wife and mother, survived by her husband of many years. The obituary stated that her husband "survived to cherish her memory." That struck a chord with me, as I do indeed cherish the memory of my departed loved ones. It also served to remind that cherishing can be a daily affair in  present tense and in present company of loved ones. 

Part of this blog's purpose is to address getting along with grief broadly--as fact of life, work of the heart, an ongoing art and science. We cannot separate how we live in the present from "getting along with grief." What we communicate now to, with, and for our loved ones makes a great difference. One of the best antidotes to grief is to live fully and consciously cherish what is in our life and remember what has been good about it to now. Donal Mahoney's delightful slice of life does just that. I hope it will inspire you to write and record your good and happy memories with loved ones, as well.

What did the cows think?

Behind the Barn with Carol Ann

By Donal Mahoney

Back in 1957, kissing Carol Ann behind the barn in the middle of a windswept field of Goldenrod with a sudden deer watching was something special, let me tell you. Back then, bobby sox and big barrettes and ponytails were everywhere.

Like many farmers, Carol Ann’s father had a console radio in the living room, and every Saturday night the family would gather ’round with bowls of ice cream and listen to The Grand Ole Opry. It was beamed “all the way” from Nashville I was told more than once since I was from Chicago and sometimes wore a tie, so how could I know.

On my first visit, I asked Carol Ann if the Grand Ole Opry was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir of country music and she said not to say that to her father. She suggested I just tap my foot to the music and let him watch me. Otherwise, I’d best be quiet and say, “Yup,” “Nope,” or “Maybe” if asked any questions, which she didn’t think would happen. No need to say much more, she said, and after a few visits, I understood why.

Over time, I learned to tap my foot pretty good to the music because when I’d come to visit, her father would insist I have a bowl of ice cream with the family. I liked the ice cream, but not so much the Grand Ole Opry. I’d been weaned on Sinatra in the city. Big difference, let me tell you.

But back in 1957 kissing Carol Ann behind the barn was something special since we couldn’t do much more until I found employment. Only then, her father said, could we get married. I found no jobs in town, however, for a bespectacled man with degrees in English.

Still, I always found the weekend drives from Chicago worth the gas my Rambler drank because kissing Carol Ann brought a bit of heaven down behind that barn, especially on summer nights when fireflies were the only stars we saw when our eyes popped open. It was like the Fourth of July with tiny sparklers twinkling everywhere.

Now, 55 years later, Carol Ann sometimes mentions fireflies at dusk as we dance behind the cows to coax them into the barn for the night. I’m still not too good with cows despite my John Deere cap, plaid shirt and overalls, which proves, she says, that all that kissing behind the barn in 1957 took the boy out of the city, but not the city out of the boy.

“Hee Haw” is all I ever say in response because I know why I’m there. It’s to keep tapping the cows on the rump till we get them back in the barn so we can go back in the house and start with a kiss and later on come back downstairs for two big bowls of ice cream.


Donal Mahoney worked as an editor for the The Chicago Sun-Times. His poems have been published in The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Commonweal Magazine, Catapult to Mars (Scotland), Public Republic (Bulgaria), Revival (Ireland), The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey), The Camel Saloon, and Dead Snakes, among others. Read more of Donal's poetry here.  See Donal's previous post on this blog here.

Photo by Ysabel de la Rosa, all rights reserved.


  1. Dear Ysabel,

    I thank you for running this piece.

    It will make my wife very happy.

    Donal Mahoney

    1. I am so glad you sent it. It's delightful, and I hope it will make others as happy to read it as it does me!