I love the blog, “Imaginary Garden with Real Toads,” several writers who toss out different prompts. I saw Kerry’s challenge to write from the oral tradition, a story one would tell a small audience seated on the rug all around. Instantly I heard my grandma Blanche and imagined how she might tell of her long-ago relatives in the old country. I don’t do prose very often, but I do hope you enjoy this, offered with all my Shanty Irish heart. Peace, Amy
Long Ago and Far Away (the soil from which I spring)
Long ago, our ancestors dwelt far away, in a harsh land. Soil so rocky, for every shovel that dug in, two stones came out, and the walls and cottages were built with these. What was a hindrance became a treasure.
Men and tall enough boys tilled the landlords’ fields or worked the mines. Hardship was their way of life; the flintiest labor therefore must be rewarded in a friendly, communal atmosphere. Those who had pushed a plow or descended into the pitch black nether to dig for coal gathered nightly at the public meeting house, which was meant for all meetings pertaining to village life, but mostly beloved for its bar. Every village had a “pub,” as well as a church or two (the second being Anglican, depending on how England’s will held sway in town).
Soon, a tankard was banged on the bar and silence would come over them like a fog. A singer – Lord, you cannot toss a pebble in all of Eire without hitting a fine tenor! Someone offered a song. The verse was his to sing, and all voices joined in on the chorus. Some were mournful, in minor key, recalling a death or the loss of a plot of land, such as “Four Fields.” Others were rollicking, bawdy reels sung so loud they’d bring on the need for “just one more drink, and then I’ll see the missus.”
Meanwhile, the lady of the house, having milked the cow, drawn water from the well for washing faces of little ones, cleaning clothes, and scrubbing floors on her knees; having beaten blankets, spanked a naughty one or cupped another’s face in her palm, chopped wood for the fireplace to keep the house warm and roast the meat, stoked the stove for baking and invited the widow over to gossip over a cup of tea; having worked miracles with the potatoes yet again, fed the children, told them a story before prayers and kisses… After all this, she’d sit in her rocking chair, waiting for her man to stumble in, doff his hat, and eat his portion.
Then it was up the stairs together and, should the drink not have deprived him of his manhood, they would have a go at making another baby. As for how that happens, my dears, well, that would be a story for another day…
© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Also at my poetic pub, Poets United, for their Poetry Pantry!
For Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, ancestry, oral tradition