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"Mother and Child, Tuam"

I wrote this story yesterday morning, after being saddened by this report a few days ago. Ordinarily I sit on new stories for a while, and slowly hone them into shape before loosing them on the public, but this one had an urgency I couldn't resist. For the most part this has been only minimally edited from what was originally written, so I apologize in advance for any errors or inconsistencies. Getting the story out seemed more important than getting it perfect.

Mother and Child, Tuam

Rest assured, dear, that your child is in a better place. Now, I can’t recall, was it a boy or a girl? A boy, yes, that’s right, a dark-haired imp, full of spirit, destined from birth to be trouble. What’s that? Red-haired? A ginger? Oh, I had forgotten that. Even more so, then. Full of trouble, though maybe with the right guidance from the sisters over there he might have found his way into the holy life. Maybe even had the call, and became a priest. Wouldn’t that be a fine thing? Glorious, even.

Maybe that’s what his life has become, though they do things differently in America than we do here. Life there is...freer, they probably say, but I say looser. To them faith isn’t so important, just a part of their lives with their careers and chasing money, and not the biggest part as it should be. The men carouse, the women smile and spread their legs, and if something happens there’s a doctor to take care of it. Carousing men, loose women.

Why no, dear, I don’t mean to say you were loose, wanton, even if the same something that happens to American women happened to you. That Kenny of yours...right, that Gordie, he should have done right by you, marrying and making you an honest woman. Instead of a fallen woman. Now, dear, don’t cry. You can’t deny you’re a fallen woman, no matter that Gordie was the cause of it. Yes, you’re fallen, but the wonderful thing about falling is that you’re not down forever, but you can take the hand of God and be lifted back up. This is 1955, not the Dark Ages, and you won’t be stoned to death for your sins. You’ll be forgiven, if you’re truly repentant, and lifted back up. Which will be easier without the burden of a child.

Your boy is off in America, with a good family - originally from Cork, I recall - and surely has a better chance at a good and holy life than he would here, with you. That is, if he can fight the temptations. The Church isn’t as strong there as here, but there he can be raised in the faith and someday find honest work, in a factory at least and not here digging ditches or the like.

Why yes, dear, of course he’s in America, with a good Cork family. We had to take him away that one night, deathly ill with what we feared was consumption, but after a few weeks in hospital we found it was a false alarm, and we brought him back to you - don’t you remember how he hiccuped and smiled when I handed him to you? - and soon he was right as rain. Yes, he did come back, and not long after the sisters found a home for him in America.

We’ve done well, surprisingly well, in finding them homes. Far better than one might expect from a small order in Galway, and an even smaller mother and baby home, far from America or London or even Dublin. But Mother Eileen has close friends in Dublin and New York, sisters she went through convent school with as a child, who know powerful people who know families eager to adopt children from the old country. We’ve sent hundreds of boys and girls to England and America, and though we’re supposed to be humble I must admit my pride in our success. Indeed, hundreds of children, maybe seven or eight hundred, I’ve lost count...

Yes, dear, we brought your boy back from hospital. Enough. I’m tired of reassuring you, over and over. He was sick, very sick, when we took him from you, but he recovered enough to bring him back. I handed him to you myself, remember? He hiccuped, and smiled. But maybe you were delirious then, even hysterical. Yes, I remember now, you certainly weren’t aware of all that went on back then. After you delivered the baby you weren’t right for a long time. Now, don’t cry. Enough. Enough!

And don’t keep asking about your boy. He’s healthy and safe and living with a good Limerick family. No, Cork - a Cork family in America. Yes, he’s healthy and safe, and there’s no need to worry. So, enough.

June 8, 2014 in Fiction | Permalink