Jack McCann has been writing seriously for the past few years and attends KARA (under Maire Holmes) and Oughterard (under Pete Mullineaux) Writers’ groups. He has published two collections of poetry, Turning on a Sixpence in 2011 and Escaped Thoughts in 2012. He is included in two anthologies, Off the Cuff (KARA) in 2012 and Oughterard Voices in 2013. He has written plays and is currently finishing a novel.
THE CREAKING DOOR
By Jack McCann
Lady with head shaven holding a cleaning rag, wearing a smock with pockets. Rosary beads and headscarf in pocket. Scrubbing brush, galvanized bucket and mop on stage, chest of drawers at side of stage, with vase of flowers and book of poetry on top, in drawer there are 2 wigs ( one with short brown hair, one with blue rinse perm), a hat, a pair of Sixties style glasses, wedding and engagement rings. Duffle bag containing teddy bear on floor beside her, a little pile of sand to the side. Mirror on wall and holy pictures and crucifix on either side of a door.
How would you feel if you were left
On the steps of the orphanage at the age of four?
That was I, with nothing except what I was standing in
And the teddy I was holding.
My mother was crying
After knocking on the door telling me
To stay with the nuns and to be good.
I have stayed with them and I have tried to be good!
Yet I have been told constantly that I am bad, a bold girl, an orphan!
I will always remember mam crying
Weighed down by her tears and by me and teddy!
She was getting rid of us, all at once.
I hoped that that, made her better, not crying.
I prayed for that special intention,
that her crying had stopped
And that she would smile again.
I did not find out that she had stopped crying ‘til Christmas
When she visited and every Christmas after that with a packet of Marietta!
She still looked as if weighed down but by what?
Now I know, by me being there!
Never a visit from anyone else!
I was alone!
Mam’s visits stopped when I was twelve, I presumed she died!
I was afraid, but why? No hope of being claimed!
No hope of Mam coming to bring me to her home – our home,
Where we would live happily ever after! No such luck!
I learned not to rely on dreams.
I tried not to dream at all, but they still came and tormented me.
Showing me free, walking down the town,
Eating in a restaurant, going to moving pictures,
Which one of the girls saw before she came to join us.
Her stories were incredible and we all listened in bed
With great attention, consideration and delight!
And so we were educated by others who had experienced things
We knew nothing of. It was flavours of a different world!
And what do I do all day? I pray, I clean, I pray again!
She starts scrubbing the floor with scrubbing brush
I pray while I clean, while I scrub. I pray the Lord
Will take me out of here and deliver me into society.
But am I ready for society? Is society ready for me?
Always intimidated, verbally and physically abused
So that I cannot think for myself!
I cannot do anything unless I am told, when to start, when to stop.
How much elbow grease to use? Lots! How often? All the time!
Is it ok Sister? It’s not! I’ll try harder after you stop hitting me!
What! I didn’t mean to use so much wax polish. I know it doesn’t grow on trees!
But the floor needed it as I could not see myself in it!
Now you can see yourself in it – beating me!
You beat me because you care for me
And you want me to turn out right!
Will I survive to turn out at all?
How many others have succumbed to the barrage of blows?
The downgrading, the mental torture knowing I am going
To be pounced upon. But when and for what?
For being forgetful! For not polishing your shoes!
I am not worthy of polishing your shoes, washing your feet,
Making your tea, and your life better!
Because I am a sinner, (blesses herself ) born outside of marriage,
Conceived out of lust and fornication, on the road to damnation!
Do penance on earth you tell me! Not to look at you
In case your eyes are afflicted by mine
And my eyes will turn blind for looking!
Yes, you send me to school but with my head shaven!
So that I and all the orphans stand out in our smocks
Made from flour sacks and sackcloth!
And being told we should be glad of them, which we were!
The front door, the creaking door, only opened
Announcing the arrival of a sister or a special visitor.
Otherwise it was shut, locked, barricaded so no one else could pass through.
To lose your freedom as a child, means losing your childhood.
Working instead of playing, silent instead of gesticulating,
Backward instead of forward – for forward is forbidden, now and forever.
I wash in cold water, yet the floors, the toilets and clothes get the hot stuff!
I don’t hold it against the floors or clothes, for they are better than I!
Because they can be made clean and there is no hope for me!
I would love a Marietta biscuit now but Reverend Mother
Is feeding them to the Priest
With his afternoon tea and brandy – purely medicinal!
For the love of God and not for my fellow man!
I not only once thought of terrorizing my captors
Change their prescriptions for a lethal dose.
Take their rosary beads to make a bead ladder to escape.
Now I need a cuddle but I have lost – somebody has stolen – my teddy bear!
I think it was the Reverend Mother. She wants it to replace
The infant Jesus in the crib at Christmas as he is missing!
Even the three wise men can’t find him.
My teddy bear being breathed upon by a cow and donkey
And being watched by sheep
My only relic of the past, gone!
When I leave or escape I will have lots of teddy bears
So I can have loads of cuddles.
Sister calls me a bastard child! ( blesses herself again ) I like that word bastard!
It seems so strong. I do not like the word child, as I do not know what a child is!
I am a bastard survivor! Victorious in having stayed alive for so long
To have made my first and two hundred thousandth confession,
My unholy Communion, my uneasy Confirmation, Sacraments they are called!
O Sacrament most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, release me from
This Valley of Tears that wash away my iniquities!
Sister says they are my periods or monthlies, given by God to all women
Because Eve had tempted Adam and he gave in!
Maybe they should have been given to all the Adams for giving in?
What’s this? Sister Concepta giving me a sweet! ( shows a sweet in her hand )
What does she want?
Just to thank me for my silence and for not telling on her when I found her
Reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover, where else? But in the garden shed!
She’s too nice, too different, that the door doesn’t creak when she enters or leaves!
Even with all the oiling and adjustment of hinges, it still creaks
If, you are one of them! The door tells on them. It never lies!
I am years here! I wish I could float away on a baggy white cloud
And be dropped on a desert island with the rain!
The natives would be so grateful to see the rain they would be happy to see me too!
They would make me their Queen when I married their chief
And they would copy everything I do!
How I clean and scrub and look in polished floors!
They would all bring me gifts of teddy bears, all different, all individualistic
( saying in div id u al is tic slowly) The Sisters were always telling us we were
in div id u als. As different as chalk and cheese! All these teddies I get, would need
lots of hugs and kisses and no one would steal even one of them!
I would lend one for the Christmas crib and get it back afterwards as I was the Queen.
Life would be on my terms and it would be worth living!
There would be no orphanages only happy homes, each with a mam and dad.
Children with a childhood, playing games, singing and dancing!
Learning about faraway places and people and no laundry to be done,
No floors to scrub and polish, no darning of socks, no hypocrisies.
I wonder if such a world exists and if so where? Someone please tell me
So I can have hope and desire, two things that are forbidden.
Meanwhile, I can make believe and I am happy in make believe! For it’s magical!
I am alone, no one shouting or pulling my hair. I am free!
I can fly with birds, rub noses with horses and take a piggy back ride on dolphins
She mimics doing all of these
I might even want to live, even forever!
Be able to look everyone in the eye without turning blind!
To be able to eat when hungry and sleep when tired.
In other words to be in charge of my own life! To have my own Marietta!
She takes a head scarf from her pocket and puts it on
I am nearly eighteen, they say I will be leaving soon.
Leave to do what? Where to go?
Here I only go to bed, to the laundry, to the kitchen,
To the chapel, to the laundry, to the darning room.
All within one hundred yards.
The garden is off limits since Sister Concepta was caught in the shed.
I wonder if everyone lives in orphanages?
Orphanages for different ages.
Am I going to one for over eighteens?
She blesses herself
I bless myself thinking of it, to protect me!
It’s great that blessing yourself, can make things alright!
The Sisters like to see you blessing yourself!
She takes out rosary beads from her smock pocket
Saying the Rosary while you soap, scrub, shine without stopping.
No rests allowed either in the Rosary or the work.
She puts the rosary beads back in her smock pocket
I have two mouse friends,
They only like me because I feed them some of my porridge each day
Which I bring them in my cupped hand.
I wonder will they come with me when I leave
Or do they like porridge too much?
Once a crow came down the chimney when I was cleaning the fire grate.
He was shocked to have landed in front of me and looked at me with one eye
And when he had taken stock, he turned his head
And looked at me with the other eye!
He allowed me pick him up and brush the soot off him
And moved his back, up against my hand.
When I stopped he asked for more.
I wish someone could brush me the same way!
They say I will go to a house first where I can stay till I get a job.
I have a job here – loads of jobs to do here!
I mustn’t be good enough if they don’t want me to stay!
I must remember to scrub harder and polish better in future!
What job can I get?
All I know is to clean and polish, wash and shine,
Arrange and re-arrange; so that’s what I’ll do!
I will clean for someone, for anyone, for many, for money!
I will need money to live, to stay somewhere
By myself or with other orphans.
To buy food, so I can have it when I want it and not fixed by time.
Eat at 8am, 1pm, 6pm.
Sleep at 8.30pm, wake at 4.30am,
Cleaning and polishing at 6am, laundry at 8.30am
Again at 1.30pm and 6.30pm.
Wash- water, sweat, tears mingle with the clothes,
Stain them, leave with them and are worn
On the backs of their owners,
Not knowing what has been spent to dress them.
Some lives have been spent, many lives have been wrecked.
What of the survivors?
They all carry baggage,
Wounds, some still festering
Which will bring their downfall.
Others will wear the scars till they enter their graves
And will be able to show them to their God
When they arrive at the gates of Heaven.
And He will say “You have had your hell on earth,
Now enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven!
Come in and meet all your friends that have gone before you,
They are here too!”
She takes off the headscarf and puts on a wool cap
She puts a duffle bag over her shoulder
The day has arrived.
I am to leave today.
I can walk out through the creaking door
And I don’t ever have to come back.
And I have a job!
Sister Concepta told me yesterday that I am to work
As a housekeeper for a doctor in the country.
He has a large growing family and his wife needs help in the house.
It will be the first family I’ve been part of.
It will show me what I have missed all these years.
The childhood that has never been, but work, work, work!
I will not let them down.
I have packed all my things in this duffle bag
Which Mags made for me and I am ready for the off!
Some quick goodbyes to my closest orphan family
And to Sister Concepta
Who is the only nun to see me go out into the world!
Would you believe it?
The door did not creak when I opened and closed it!
I insisted that I do it myself for my self-esteem and confidence,
And the feeling was all the better when it did not creak,
Getting a big hooray from those left within!
I walked, glided from my fourteen year residence sentence,
The air smelling sweet with pink and white cherry blossom.
The birds were singing, wooing each other.
A collie dog came up and sniffed me and I sniffed back.
A beggar, who had just begged from the nuns,
Put his hand in his pocket and gave me a shilling!
With a “you need it more than me” retort!
I did not look back; I did not want to turn into stone!
At the end of the lane a car was waiting,
The door held open by the doctor.
“Your car is waiting Miss – let me take your bag”
I got into the front seat but I held onto my bag
I had never been in a car before
And found out that they have bonnets
To keep the engines warm, like bonnets keep our heads warm!
I felt that I was being pushed very fast in a big pram
And me looking out at fields surrounded by stone walls.
Animals everywhere, horses, cows, sheep, I had only seen in pictures.
Each welcoming me with sounds I had not heard before
Speaking a language I did not know.
I had never seen so many trees – of all shapes and sizes
And I thought that all houses were orphanages
With children scrubbing, polishing, and washing inside!
The doctor said that they were family homes!
Mostly with a Mam and Dad and children inside.
Some with no children at all! No children?
Those houses must be empty, quiet and eerie
Like in the orphanage when everyone is at Mass
The tiled floors sounding hollow when hobnail boots smack it
But the sound being dulled when the hustle and bustle returns
We stopped outside one of the biggest houses,
Bigger than the orphanage and probably bigger than the Pope’s Vatican House
From the pictures that Sister Concepta showed us.
I immediately thought of all the washing and scrubbing needed
The miles of floors that would need polishing
And that it would be very easy to lose yourself in it
So that you might miss dinner, because you may not hear the bell!
The doctor’s wife looked at me and asked to feel my shaven head,
It was her first time she said, so she was treading softly, like me!
All their children had plenty of hair – some in curls, others in ringlets.
I would brush it for the girls and they mine, when it grew!
She puts on wig and looks in wall mirror
I would look at it, stare at it, in my very own mirror!
We weren’t allowed to look in mirrors in the orphanage
Vanity is a sin – we would go blind!
I did not want to go blind, so I didn’t look in mirrors
Except the odd peep when no one was looking.
This was the only family home I had seen.
Everything was new, bright, and beautiful to me.
I was amazed at the amount of laughter
Coming from the rooms, from up the stairs
Out in the garden, by the river
People were happy, able to talk to each other,
Sing out loud, dance a jig, run, skip and jump
Without been told to stop. “Stop making a nuisance of yourself!
The devil loves idle hands! Go and say your prayers!”
Everyone looked each other in the eye
Especially, when they talked to one another
And they did not go blind, even a little bit!
She takes off the smock and is wearing a blouse and skirt and apron underneath
I sat at their table and ate their food
They talked to me and I shyly talked back.
I walked with a big stride, head in the air like a giraffe
Forgetting my shuffle and bent head, looking at the floor
And the tips of my toe caps
I helped the doctor’s wife, cooking, cleaning, polishing,
Minding the children when needed.
She said I worked hard, the best she has had
And gave me Sundays for myself, to walk, run, admire nature
I did not leave the house at first ‘til I gained confidence
When I could decide what I could do
“No! – do this, do that! Come here, go there!
Don’t you know, you should be seen and not heard!”
It took some time to realize that I could decide.
That I was mistress of my destiny, my life.
Able to walk through a door into the open and walk in again!
I did this many times and waited for the door to creak – it did not!
I found myself, I blossomed in that household,
The family brought out the real me, my inner self
They believed in me, so I learned to believe in myself!
I started to make decisions, not to bless myself so much.
To look people in the eye, when talking to them
To see into their souls, as they saw mine,
And I was always the better for it.
No longer afraid, no matter what the problem.
I started to smile, to laugh, I even cried
When the family puppy died from eating poison.
I did not remember when I last cried?
I think it was when little Molly Duff died of the pneumonia!
Then I was told –“don’t be silly, dry your tears girl!”
She arranges flowers in a vase
I love flowers from the garden – I arrange them in the house
I have them in nearly every room and they smell of joy and peace
If someone gets annoyed, I give them a flower.
She picks out a flower as if handing it to someone
They see the beauty of it and their annoyance goes away.
The doctor’s wife gave me my first birthday party.
She said she got my birth date from the nuns.
We had cake with my name on it and plenty of candles.
I had to blow out all the candles and make a wish.
I wished that Mags in the orphanage could be as lucky as me.
They all gave me a present – I have them still in my duffle bag
She picks up her duffle bag and takes out her teddy
Beside my teddy bear – did I not tell you?
When I opened my bag in my own room
What was in my bag but teddy! My infant Jesus!
She cuddles him
I do not know who put him there, but he was there!
My only possession from my past life with Mam.
Was it one of the other kids that had him all along?
Or was it the Reverend Mother having a conscience attack?
I did not care, I hugged and cuddled him and he cuddled me back!
I went to the seaside with the family on a sunny day.
Everything was new, beyond belief, full of happiness.
I wanted to stay there, live there, fill my lungs with sea air,
Warm my white cold skin with my new friend, the sun,
Which up to then, I hardly ever saw,
Never mind hanging around for it to warm me!
She takes off her shoes and socks and tests the sand with her toe
I walked in the heated sand in my bare feet,
Then tiptoed at the edge of the water to cool my toes.
She runs backwards as if a wave is chasing her feet
I watched the children swim and dive and have fun
And wished all the orphanage could do the same!
They would talk about it for months afterwards
And the beatings would not hurt if you thought of it.
It would act like an anaesthetic to get rid of pain,
It would be like physiotherapy especially for the brain.
The waves rhythmically beat on the shore, kissing it,
One can neither do without the other!
Like me and my past, not to be forgotten.
Like the sailboats can’t do without the sea and wind.
The shore listens to all the stories brought to it
From far off oceans and lands by the waves.
I caught a creature called a crab – walking sideways
It’s nippers pinched my toe and hung on for dear life.
I was having none of it and gave him back to the sea!
Holds up her hand, opens her fingers as if dropping the crab
The doctor recited a poem in the car on the way home,
By William Butler Yeats
“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the crickets sings.
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep hearts core.”
It sounded lovely! My introduction to poetry.
He later gave me a book of collected poems
She picks up a poetry book from the top of the cabinet and leafs through it
Allowing me to escape to other worlds!
It has fired my imagination beyond belief.
I am so glad Sister Concepta taught me to read and write
But I got no chance to practice either!
The doctor said I should travel and see the lands of the poets,
So I would better understand what they are writing about.
I can see them in my mind when I close my eyes
But I always have to pass through the creaking door first!
With the doctor’s help I found Mam’s grave.
A stone marked the spot, nothing on it except moss and weathering.
It stood out because of its simplicity
And I loved it all the more.
We all said prayers and I left flowers
I recited part of the poem “Elegy in a Country Churchyard”
Which I had learned off by heart to make her proud of me.
I felt this poem was written just for Mam and me!
Especially the last verse.
“Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”
I visit Mam’s grave and talk to her.
I love to sit and recite poetry that I think she’d like.
I had her name put on the stone.
And the possible date she died – during my twelfth year.
I really hope she is happy in Heaven!
O Mam! Rest in peace! I’m alright!
I cleaned the doctor’s office as well.
There, I saw him treat rich and poor,
The rich paying for the poor, God bless them!
I liked it there amidst all his medical books and instruments.
With these, along with his knowledge and kindness, he made people well.
I believe he has the cure in his hands,
They would be on fire when he would be examining you
You could feel the pain ease almost immediately.
He did not know where the heat came from
But said that he once got a shake in his hands
Which gradually got worse and worried him.
It was noticed by a lovely old man who was a patient of his.
This man was a carpenter, just like our Lord.
And he had his hands blessed by the Pope.
He asked the Doctor if he could say a prayer over the Doctor’s hands
To pass on the blessing, for all the good work he was doing.
That night, while he was sleeping, didn’t the shakes leave the Doctor
And he has not seen or felt them since!
The old man on the other hand, died soon afterwards.
It’s as if he knew he was going to his Maker and wanted to pass on the blessing!
I regularly shook hands with the scrawny skeleton in the corner!
We were great friends but he was the quiet type.
I dressed him handsomely to the amusement of patients
Using some of the Doctor’s cast off clothes
Or some from the pawn shop or a second hand shop
But only the best, you know?
The doctor said it broke the ice with the children!
They would tell the skeleton their problems
As he was really attentive to them
And he had to be one of them as he had obvious problems too!
I also accepted all clothes given to me, for myself
Whether they suited me or not!
Eventually, those I did not use I gave to the doctor for the orphanage.
It would give them something to wear instead of the smock when they left.
I liked to buy occasionally the best of clothes.
Most of the time I would just look at them
And I would know I had come a long way!
Clothes and things I could only have dreamt of in the orphanage
Never thinking that some day I would be looking at them
Never mind having them in my wardrobe, or better still wearing them!
I have bought brothers and sisters for teddy bear
The only reminder of my past besides my memories
My most treasured possession, my listener, my confessor,
Who dried my tears so often he became waterlogged!
The family set up a teddy bear hospital for me
As I have repaired, patched, sewn injured bears,
Returning them proudly to their little owners
Who no doubt will comfort them through life?
In time, again with the doctor’s help, I got my own flat,
My own space! I would walk from room to room,
All four of them, from kitchen to the sitting room,
To the one bedroom, and lastly to the bathroom!
Then, I would start all over!
I would switch on the light and switch it off again,
On again, off again, and laugh as it obeyed my every command.
I would open and close the doors, waiting for them to creak
Which they never did, even a little bit.
It was another dream come true and I used to pinch myself.
I would invite the Doctor’s children, they were young adults then,
To tea, for a chat, to fill me in with what was going on in their lives
As I had been part of their young lives for so long.
I would also have some of the orphans around.
Sorry, young ladies from the orphanage,
Who had left the home and like me, were free!
They were having their eyes opened as mine were
And we were a big help to each other.
We were a family again but on our own terms,
Learning to laugh and cry at what we had been through
And thanked God that we had survived to see what was on the outside.
I introduced them to books, especially poetry.
I taught some of them to read and write,
To lose their fear, to hold their heads up high.
I watched them blossom, skip along the pavement,
Run on the strand, bury their feet in the sand.
To see them lick an ice-cream cone for the first time
And catch the hidden sparkle in their eyes as they do so!
They kept me down to earth with their stories
Of their so called life before they passed through the creaking door!
Yes, the door still creaked, some of the old nuns passed on,
And there were new ones, with different names but with the same ways.
Heads were still shaven, smocks were still worn.
Times were still regimented, heads still bent,
Eyes to the polished floor, so you could see yourself in it.
Do this, do that, and still get a beating with hand and tongue,
Good for nothing wretched girl, day in, day out,
Seeping in under your skin, ‘til you believed it, all of it!
When will it all change? Who will change it?
What can I do to stop this torture of innocents?
Who will listen and take these young Jesuses down from their crosses?
Meanwhile, young helpless creatures, not people are treated so!
Open the creaking door, let them all out! Let them breathe!
Let them see the light, feel the sun on their faces,
The rain on their heads, the sand between their toes!
Let them smell the roses, the hawthorns, the new mown hay.
Look at the oceans and the waves that caress the shore.
Let them stand up straight and be proud of who they are!
Let them live, it’s not enough being alive, let them live, live!
She puts on a hat and a pair of glasses, sixties style
As years slipped by I grew in stature,
Like climbing a stairs, I took it step by step,
Building a foundation not with blocks but with friends,
I wrote poems, stories of what it was like to be in an orphanage,
A “home” ( she indicates inverted commas with her fingers )
A laundry or sweat house, at all ages, with no names.
I spoke to Politician, councillor, journalist. I even wrote to the President!
Some listened, some took it in, many did nothing at all.
I gave talks, readings, sometimes to a handful, sometimes to many
Reaching out and happy to be there!
One day, my mother’s brother’s daughter, my cousin, came to see me!
I did not know my mother had a brother!
Her family disowned her after she had me.
My cousin lived in America and while tracing her roots, traced me!
I was gobsmacked! I had family! I was not alone!
We got on like a house-on-fire, swapping stories.
She was able to give me some history of where I belonged.
It was like my jigsaw life was coming together.
The lost pieces were found and they fitted perfectly!
I was found, had found my identity, found my family!
Which now hit me like a bolt of lightning!
She had pictures of my Mam, her father, Mam’s brother,
And one of me when I was about two, in a sailor suit.
What was I holding but my teddy bear friend!
Mam was smiling and this took my breath away.
So, there was a time when she seemed happy!
My cousin told me my father was a Priest.
The same Priest that visited the nuns regularly
Having brandy with his afternoon tea – and my Marietta!
Mam was his housekeeper, they fell in love and she had me!
My father would not give up the Church, so I was given up instead!
Having kept me, fed me, cleaned and loved me for four years,
Thinking, hoping, praying we would be a family.
My mother’s heart was broken and it eventually killed her!
I decided to go and see the Priest in the presbytery
He got the shock of his life, asked what I was doing there?
I came to see my father I said boldly! I came to see you!
He went from pale grey of shock to red with embarrassment.
What do you mean your father? I am not your father, dear woman!
So you still don’t want me, I said. You don’t know what you’re missing!
I walked away and that was that! I never saw him again.
And that did not bother me a bit! It’s what I had expected!
What I didn’t expect was a letter from his solicitor!
He died soon after I had descended on him.
He left half of his estate to me, the other half to his sister,
Who also had been his housekeeper after my mother and she contested the will.
She won, as his name was not on my birth certificate.
I could not prove he was my father anyway. Let the scandal lie!
Why he didn’t want me and Mam as a family I’ll never know.
My cousin said it was a sign of the times!
How did he explain me to his Maker? I’d say it was fun!
No wonder the creaking door creaked loudly when he entered and left!
May he Rest in Misery!
My cousin wanted me to visit the land of Opportunity!
The land where dreams can come true, if you have one!
Where the Irish went by the boatload to seek their fortune.
Which for many was a loaf of bread at that time!
Some succeeded and others were buried with little to show,
Most pining for the country of their birth or the country of their ancestors.
My uncle did well and was happy.
He wanted my Mam to join him – she said she couldn’t.
She needed to see me each Christmas and be near if anything happened to me.
She would not visit more, her heart would not allow it!
It was broken each time she saw me and she cried herself to sleep.
She never stopped loving the priest.
She had hoped we would be together again but it was never to be.
She wrote all this in letters to her brother,
Letters which I was able to read and cry over!
After a number of visits to Ireland by my cousin I went back with her
Flying in a big metal bird, high above the clouds where the day’s sun shines.
It seemed more Irish people were still emigrating
Changing the boats for these flying birds!
Florida – sunshine state, land of the retired and rich
Was beckoning me to come and explore, which I did.
I saw swamps and alligators that would eat you!
But when they heard my story, they didn’t bother!
I drank coffee and ate doughnuts with ladies with blue hair
Who wanted to talk to me because I was myself.
Who else would I be? Not one of those primadonnas.
I was being invited to this house and that,
Each one bigger than the other with all mod cons,
Including a swimming pool, or a tennis court or private pier with boat attached.
The best fun I had was with my cousin’s neighbour.
We met at a barbeque given in my honour.
He was doing the cooking and had been doing so since his wife died.
He loved poetry and knew hundreds of poems
Which he would recite to me either by the ocean or at an opportune time.
He even had written his own book of poetry and short stories which I enjoyed.
He is a realtor, selling houses and property.
He is very successful and is semi retired
As the business is running itself with his able staff.
You could see he is a leader but a quiet one, leading by example.
He has worked hard to get to where he is but is still down to earth.
That’s why we get on so well, he calls a spade a spade.
As you know, I grew up with no airs or graces.
There was no one more down to earth than me!
He visited Ireland and me after a few months
Saying he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me!
This swept me off my feet. I was flabbergasted!
I did not need time to think, I accepted graciously!
She shows off rings on her wedding finger and has a blue rinse
I am now in Florida with teddy in a big house,
Mistress of our house of teddies, poems and stories
Which, needless to say I keep spotless, being able to see my face in the marble floor!
I am his Lady of the manor – his Cinderella.
He is my Prince Charming – my Romeo!
The creaking door, creaks no more.
The shiny floor, mocks no more.
I look him in the eye and smile.
He smiles back with understanding in his expression
He holds me tight, wipes my brow, whispers in my ear
When I awake with the same nightmare,
Of being locked behind the creaking door and I’m unable to open it!
But they are getting less now.
I still wonder at how the cards of Life were dealth,
Of what might have been if my father had really loved my Mam,
If he left the priesthood, would God have really minded?
If we were a family would we have had his blessing?
Would Mam and Dad still be alive now?
Would I have my own brothers and sisters
Rather than my sisters in the orphanage?
Life has taught me, to always be true to myself.
Not to dwell on what might have been
And my life has come a long way,
Since I came through the creaking door!