Ponder this:

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thank you, Moira

For months, I've been thinking frequently of a particular family who lived down the country road from my home in the 1950s. David was in my class at school, and I remember that in first or second grade he had bright red chinos with a buckle in back. David was solemn and studious. I don't have many memories of his laughing. Our school was across the road from the volunteer fire company. David's father was a member, and David knew the significance of all the siren combinations. "It's a bad one," he'd say with authority, as the siren howled eight times or ten times. "That's for mutual aid." He had three sisters, one of whom was a year or two younger and whose apple cheeks and curly dark hair I remember very clearly, and another two, who were beautiful little strawberry blonds, but really too young to be on my radar. That family was part of our neighborhood . . . an old family who, like us, had owned the land for generations back . . . and summers had us trudging up the hill down the hill around the corner by the one-room schoolhouse that Dad had gone to (and was then falling down) over to their house. Red wasn't mean, but he was a real old-time Irish patriarch. He took his parenting duty seriously. I remember his backhanding David's head if he perceived any hint of disrespect coming from that quarter. He didn't do it very often, but the thought of anybody's father whacking him a glancing (but still, pretty solid) blow on the back of the head shocked me, so the memory stuck. Sometimes, all of us kids would go over to Red's parents' old farm where he still kept cows. The old farmhouse stood in the pasture, windows gone, porch floorboards askew. "You kids stay out of there!" Red would call, and if we'd been having any thought of going inside the spooky old house, we immediately dismissed them.

Moira was the mother of the family, at once serious and cheerful. She had long dark hair that she twisted up behind her head, and ruddy cheeks and, like me, a space between her upper front teeth. I hated my space, but on her it looked good. I remember her always at the kitchen table mending things or at the kitchen sink, beginning to get supper ready. We called her Maura for a long time until one day she said, in her quiet voice, "My name is really Moira. It's an Irish name." I was fascinated. It was as if she had become a different person, exotic. I remember that she spoke to me as if I were a person and not a little kid. I remember her telling me about when she'd been baptized in the old-fashioned full-immersion style . . . and how she'd known it was coming but how surprised she'd been all the same. 

One day, the September after Dad died, I got home from school and was dismayed when, a short time later, Red's truck drove in the driveway. Mom was working and at ten I had already formed the habits of solitude and of hiding like a rabbit. Red went to the barn to do something and the dark-haired daughter hollered my name over and over and over again as loud as she could to make me come out and play with her. I hid in my bedroom and finally heard Red say, "If she doesn't want to come out, she doesn't want to come out. Leave her alone."
I was so envious that she still had her father.
We moved away a year later and I've never seen any of them again these fifty years.

So that's all, I guess. 
I've been thinking of them, and thinking of them, and today I read that Moira died two days ago. 

It's funny how the cosmos makes connections across so much space and so much time.

15 comments:

DJan said...

That's a fine memory of Moira, and a well-told story of a lovely person. You must have had some kind of connection that you weren't even aware of. Thank you for sharing this with me.

esbboston said...

I remember finding out that my friend from across the street from 30 some years ago was dying but I couldn't find him in time to say good-bye. But my mother found a couple handwritten letters from the time we were young fellers dealing with a death. It was the 60's and everyone was learning to protest. My father had killed my German Shepherd dog because he had defended me against a different neighborhood hood. I was upset about this and wrote a letter. My friend from across the street also wrote a letter. When I go back to South Dakota soon I plan to show the letters to his family, because I didn't know about them 5 years ago when I was there, my first visit in about 30 years.

Woodswalker said...

What a vividly told and evocative story!

threecollie said...

Cold chills...what a beautiful story of connections.

Lulu said...

Beautiful story, I'm sorry to hear she died, but glad she left such a positive mark on you :)

Joanne Noragon said...

I think Moira is a strong name. How wonderful to learn it is gentle and enduring, too. I wanted to name my second daughter Moira, to honor my Irish heritage, but my husband wouldn't hear of it.

Thank you for the story.

Tom Sightings said...

Nice story. It's amazing how those long-ago images come back to us. If we only knew what it all meant. . .

Grandmother said...

May she rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

My mother died when I was young, I had a friend Theresa really it was her Mom I adored Martha, old school Italian, spoke just enough to get along..She made the best food on this earth, she fed me and my many brothers all the time, adored my Mother, when my Mom died she planned the reception at the church and made sure all of the extra food she prepared lovingly got to our home with cash from many we had a huge family, my Mothers death tore the living you know what out of our family, my Dad took to drink we were in foster care, but I always remembered Martha, read her obituary she had a daughter late in life named Mary that is my name never met her, I felt so bad she passed from this earth to heaven I sought out where she was buried and I go there near Memorial day my own birthday and wedding anniversary and bring a tiny rose, she had a wonderful love in her heart for all human beings, I watched her cook, bake and make amazing foods and she helped me when I was a teenager always asking if I needed money to get anything she drove me home to where I lived in a foster family I hated so much, she understood heartache, missing Italy and all of her familia but stayed and loved her husband and precious children, she helped me when I was a lost motherless child and teen..When I left the area for good she came to the bus depot and gave me a medal to protect me and a card with cash in it and a note if I ever needed anything to call collect can you imagine this is 1966 and I never ever forgot..she was a saint on this earth. She loved my Mother and felt her passing was cruel it was to me and my many siblings, but she watched over me and my family as best she could and I would never forget her, I cried so hard when they said in her obituary she went to sleep and went to God and the angels, people can have positive love to those who suffer it helped me a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rose ~ from Oz said...

June that is amazing (for the want of a better word) that you had been thinking of this family for some time and then, you read of Moira's passing. The cosmos and connections - a truly intriguing thing.

georgia little pea said...

How clear was that memory! I can't remember things I'm supposed to do today without a list, or the names of people I met last week, but old memories are still singing in my head. No doubt many of them are rose tinted as well. I don't understand how these cosmic connections work, but they do.

Barb said...

Oh, gosh - this gave me a chill. People live in our memories and sometimes emerge to tell their stories.

Wanda..... said...

Very moving story, June. So very well written, I hated for it to end. Just after I read 'the significance of all the siren combinations'...our local siren just over the hill became loud and clear...added to the experience.

Pauline said...

A lovely story of one of special connections we make through life. We often don't know we have made them until the memories creep in and the reason why is revealed.

VioletSky said...

I find it a little creepy and yet warming that we have these thoughts of long ago people at such times.