BECOMING BETTER

Jean Croker Petke


How are your cockles?

How are your cockles?

As a child, my favorite song from my mother’s Fireside Book of Favorite American Songs was:

In Dublin’s fair city,
Where girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”
“Alive, alive oh,
Alive, alive, oh.”
Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

Mother must have explained that cockles and mussels were similar to clams and oysters we saw at the ocean and that they also lived in shells. I’ve known about cockles most of my life.

But there’s more. Sometime the phrase “That’ll warm the cockles of your heart” crept into my vocabulary. I’m sure I heard my parents say it; their conversational context gave it meaning.

Cockles of the heart was first used in the mid seventeenth century. Though it’s actual origin is unclear, it could come from the confusion and corruption of Latin words for cockle and a heart chamber. You can find detailed explanations on line if you’re interested. The phrase is more metaphorical than physical. To warm the cockles of your heart means to make you feel good at the very core of your being.

It seems a good time, this time between summer and the holidays, to consider those things that warm our cockles. A few things that heated up my cockles in recent weeks are:

family in my house for a few days
an unexpected thoughtful gift from a friend
a little boy playing in the dirt with his shovel and dump truck
hearing music I’m learning played by a concert pianist
laughter with a friend
lingering conversation over a cheap hamburger
quiet coffee on an early autumn morning shared with the birds and sun
sitting between friends at lunch

So what warms the cockles of your heart?

What moments do you remember from times long gone?

What about last week? Anything get your cockles moving?

What about yesterday?

What about today?

Warm cockle moments enrich our days. If we can’t remember any such moments, I suggest it’s because we haven’t been paying attention. Cockle warming can certainly happen when we’re with others, but it can also occur when we are alone.

While you were doing your yard chores, did you notice the fall nip in the air?

When you lit the candle, did you remember the friend who gave it to you?

Do you savor the memories when you hear a familiar song?

When you restore order to your house, are you grateful for a home you can share?

Your morning tea — do you feel its warmth working its way through your body?

When did you take a deep breath and say, “Aaaah, yes . . . .”?

Every day — every single day — find or do something that warms the cockles of your heart, that brings happiness to your core, and creates a moment of deeply-felt contentment. Some moments will set your cockles dancing — perhaps nearly setting them afire. It’s these very experiences that enlarge our hearts, that cause them to spill over to warm the cockles of another.

Until next Tuesday . . .

3 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • Linda Dingus -

    This is the first time I have heard that word. Nevertheless, I experience a warm heart every day.

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