This story idea comes from the lovely Heather Hammond. I met Heather at a baby shower and we made fast friends. She’s a wife, mother, writer, advocate for healthy living and a theater lover (I hear that she played a killer Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” when in high school). You can find her blogging about food and health here. Here’s her idea…
“Newly married, young Irish woman. 1960’s on a boat dock in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They’re moving to America. She doesn’t want to go.”
Dancing, waving, rolling water crashed against the dock, teasing and threatening to reach up and touch Maura’s feet. She sat on a trunk, back toward the water, face toward the land. It was the only land she had known. Her Ireland. Her Belfast. Her beloved, broken, raw and raging city. Fighting and guns and bombs over religion had turned her Belfast into a war zone. It only promised to become more dreadful.
And yet, she loved it still. She hated to leave it behind for an America full of strangers and change.
“Are you ready?” Terrance asked. “It’s sure to be a long trip.”
“I don’t want to go,” Maura said, not turning toward him. “I want to stay here.”
“But we can’t, Maura. We already bought the tickets. My aunt and uncle will be waitin’ for us. They got a room set aside for us to sleep in until we get a place of our own.”
“It don’t mean I want to go.”
She nibbled on a ragged fingernail. Terrance sighed heavily, she knew he wanted her to turn around, to look at him. They’d been married such a short time. Two months since the wedding. And she was still learning him. She figured that would be a lifelong lesson.
“Well, what do you mean to do, then? Stay here? With the Troubles going on, this ain’t safe for us.” He walked near, lowered himself to her side. “Maura, Ireland is being destroyed by this war.”
“And we should let them scare us off? Fear is no reason to run away.”
“It’s too late. We’re goin’.”
“You’re givin’ the fighters more credence than they deserve, Terry.” She stood. “What’s so great about America, anyway?”
He walked to the edge of the dock. “The boat is takin’ off in an hour. We’ll be on it, like it or not.”
“Will I then? Or will I stay with my parents?”
“Maura, Love,” Terrance said, his voice softening. “It’s our only option. If we stay here, well, there isn’t anything here but fighting. Catholics and protestants, shootin’ holes in each other to see who’ll be around at the end. It’s no way to live.”
“And so we run?”
“Yes. We run. So that we can have a family. So they can have a childhood.”
Terrance had tears, just waiting to spill over. She realized that he was in agony, too.
“Our childhoods weren’t so bad here.”
“No. But the fightin’ wasn’t so hard either. I don’t want any kid of mine to be trapped inside to keep safe. Don’t you want our kids to be safe and happy?”
She thought of her childhood. Playing in the streets with her friends. The gentle, lilting songs her mother would sing, the way the bright green of hills and deep blue of the sea would fill her eyes with beauty beyond art.
They’d been poor. Barely had anything extra. But that hadn’t seemed to matter. Maura’s parents were in love and that love overflowed and poured out on their children. Her father would play his fiddle. Sometimes mournfully, with a shuddering depth of emotion that set deeply into his face as he ran the bow over the strings. Other times he would play with glee. Bouncing, sunshine of music that sent Maura and her sisters to dance and giggle.
All she’d ever known would stay on that island. And she would ride away from it to such a far away, unknown place. She would be alone. All she would have was Terrance. No fiddle in the night. No hills of green beckoning for her to leap through the grass. No Ireland. No Belfast.
Just America. With its promise of dreams fulfilled and money made. A promise of uncertainty and the chance to fail. And the chance to sleep through the night without a battle outside. And to start from scratch and make something wonderful out of life. The good and bad warred in Maura’s mind.
“Maura, darlin’, we must board the ship.” Terrance held the trunk. “Are you comin’?”
New memories would be made. She would sing and dance with her own children one day. They would hear tales of their homeland and ache to smell the salt water mingled with green land. In her trunk were pictures of her family. She would hang them in frames all over her rooms and pray for the people the portrayed.
And she would come back. Yes, one day, she would return with Terrance and the children.
“Yes, Love,” she answered, unable to speak another word.
She stepped up and into the ship, sneaking a glance back at her home.