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Breakfast with father? made Sundays special

As a child, I loved to stay in bed on Sunday mornings listening to the outdoor sounds while I waited for my father, Jim Fitzpatrick, to come back from early Mass.

First I heard the rooster, sporting his mahogany-colored pantaloons and shimmering yellow-hued shirt, crowing from the top of the henhouse. When the Angelus rang out from St. Andrew's Church, it carried over our small market town of Bagenalstown on the Barrow River.

I listened to the rowdy racket the birds made under the eaves above my bedroom window, the rain drumming on the slate roof and gurgling into the rain barrel, and the passenger trains steaming and whistling into the railway station on their way to Dublin and Waterford.

My heart beat faster when I heard our gate squeak open and my father's black leather shoes crunching along the gravel walk to our house. By the time he opened the door, I was at the foot of the stairs to welcome him home. A fat Sunday newspaper was tucked under his arm.

"Well, are ye ready for breakfast?" he asked, poking the coal fire in the range and putting the kettle on to make a pot of tea.

We went out to our field and picked mushrooms that had suddenly sprouted up in the grass, and brought them home in his cap. He held up double links of shiny sausages and asked how many I'd like. I said two. He cut off six and arranged them in rows in a frying pan. He whistled while rashers of bacon sizzled in another one.

He cracked big aqua-colored duck eggs on the side of the pan and plopped them into the hot bacon fat and added the mushrooms. He cut thick slices of bread and gave them to me to dangle on a long fork in front of the red bars of the fire until they were dark brown and smoky. During the preparation, I felt important and nurtured.

He brought a breakfast tray upstairs to his invalid wife. Back in the kitchen, he put some of everything he cooked on my favorite plate that had hunting dogs painted on it. He filled his own plate that had no picture at all. He poured the golden tea and slurped his out of a mug. Then he shook the newspaper open.

"Ireland's goin' ta become a republic at the end of this year," my father, who fought in the trenches of Belgium in World War I, read to me.
While he flipped through the pages, I craned my head so I could read the cartoons on the back. Then he thumbed to the sports page.

"I put a few shillings on the favorite ta win the horse race next week," he said. "Oh … I bet me money on a bob-tail nag, but somebody bet on the bay … doo dah, doo dah! …" he sang and his bushy eyebrows danced over his laughing blue eyes. When the St. Andrew's bell rang again, it was time for me to go to church and sit with the children answering the Mass in Latin.

As a grandmother, I love to stay in bed on Sunday mornings and listen to the chorus of song birds, the peaceful sounds of the Angelus bell from a nearby convent, rain tapping the leaves of the maple trees, the goods trains bellowing along the tracks to New York and Chicago, and Buffalo's church bells calling people to worship. I still love the sounds of someone cooking breakfast for me and the rustle of pages being turned while we read the newspaper together.

Veronica Hogle, who was born and raised in Ireland, has lived in Buffalo for more than 30 years.