A small child, her hair the color of the abundant Fionnan, the wild moor grass climbing the hills dwarfing her; eyes, like the grey horizon harnessing the gathering fury, she stands solid and silent in the gusting wind, under open sky, endless buttermilk and dust. And the others taunt her for speaking her Irish words. The wreath of branches round her neck smells like dirt and cold; it scratches her pale skin through the dress handed down to her from her sister, Bridget, just above the place where her Miraculous Medal rests. The jeers jab her consciousness, but she gazes upon the sheep on the slope aside the school; links her look with her brother, wary, sly, gathered in the last row of the circlet with Bridget and Mary and Tommy and the other valiant ones who would rather wear the wreath themselves than shame her for her honor and her words.
A lifetime later, in another world, where the lilting words spill freely from her mouth to spouse and dearest friend, if she should choose; when she will not teach her own small child her cherished Irish tongue, she confesses this tale.
It breeds in her child’s imagination.
In a small and darkened corner of a large fragmented city, concrete and black top intermittently receive the sun, interrupted by hard, brown dirt sprouting patchy grass and clover. Separate places set aside for Irish and Italian and for Polish; for the Catholic and the Protestant and the Jew;for black and white, and “yellow.” The mother’s tale conceives the dismantling of boundaries. Born childhood notions that defiance and resistance is a prideful means to meet injustice; delivers her to hope that words engaged in the cause of fairness could change the world.
And that child grows into a woman who cannot fail to break the mother’s heart.
Another small child, her hair kissed golden by uncounted days of summer sunlight spent capaciously under bountiful skies, widens her blue eyes in delighted exuberance, her dextrous shape gliding across the field. Sunday morning ritual not a substitute religion. No rote chants clutter her penetrating mind. The mother hails the daughter from the sidelines,no convention to confine her regard. Her granny, silent, watchful, and not approving, whispers words of prayer that the child will find the path. The young player stumbles and then quickly falls hard on the fresh mown field, limbs all tangles, her eyes spilling her own distress..
The words she utters, and what language, we will hear another day…