For the next few weeks, we are sharing writing that happened during AWA’s marathon weekend of writing workshops, Write Around the World. This is one way we are celebrating the AWA-certified workshop leaders & writers who joined together to raise money in support of AWA. Thank you to those who shared their voices in each workshop and especially to those who have offered their words to be shared in this space. If you’re inspired by our work and would like to be part of the fundraiser, please donate!
Writing from Eilís Coe’s St Gabriel’s Writing Group in Ireland:
What’s under the bed?
“Plenty of memories” she said
Some precious, held in a box
Some open, some with a lock
The christening robe of her son
Veil of her girl’s First Communion
Pictures of people long dead
Books that her children read
Papers of news long ago
Boxes with button and bow
Recipes for jam, how to cook Christmas ham.
Her son said, “Get rid of that stuff.” She left the room in a huff.
“What harm are they doing?” she said
They’re my memories under the bed.
Soundless, voiceless, tickles, tockless
No one could value this round-faced clock less.
Hands upraised in surprise or shock
Was it’s last beat a tick or a tock?
What great fright, in the night
Caused the works to cease, the hands to freeze
At ten to two? An owl, Whoo Whoo?
A mouse running up its shining glass?
A large white moth that chanced to pass?
The moon so round, so bright, so clear
Appearing to draw near, draw near?
Or was it when it saw my facemask
Of yogurt, turmeric and wheatgrass
To iron out my wrinkles and frown
And make my cheeks as soft as down?
Or was it age and wear and tear
That left my timepiece silent there?
I’ll never know and the clock won’t tell
Its secret it will guard so well.
“Everything begins at the kitchen table'”
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach so what’s on the kitchen table and how it’s set out provides a big percent of assistance on the road. We all begin to talk, walk and regulate our time from the kitchen table. It’s a simple but important starting place, greeting after a day’s work, eating, sharing, complaining, laughing, learning, listening. It’s not a spectacular piece of furniture, just a prop with a plain flat piece of wood on top. It nearly always enjoys the day’s sunlight and the evening sunset. It exudes calmness and power. No architect’s drawing, no fancy etching, it stores memories galore. It’s my favorite place to rest my arms, read, do my crossword, maybe chat when the busy day is over and the house is still. The table’s influence and what goes on there reaches the ends of the earth, pole to pole. Emigrants associate it with Mother, the heart of the home. You’ll find her there when she couldn’t find another quiet place in the house. Maybe a long lost friend or an old school pal has returned from abroad and we sit with them at the table, where in childhood we played games, win or lose. O that kitchen table of my childhood, covered in brightly coloured oilcloth! Now we have moved on to placemats and wipe-clean materials. The scones that were made, the dinners dished out, maybe a spillage and Dad’s shout if you messed up your place. Then, tummies full, places to go and the order “kneel down now and say the Rosary before you disappear.” It’s a quiet place today. Generations grown and gone. No need to protect the surface. It will last like the memories and achievements of the people who once gathered around it.
Recently I was clearing out some old bedroom furniture to make space for a lovely new chair. I was clearing out the drawers and in the smallest drawer, I found a train ticket. The date on it was 1979 and it was from Killester to Phoenix Park, quite an unusual destination. Our Holy Father Pope John Paul 2 was visiting Ireland. What a wonderful occasion! The flags were everywhere and His Holiness was to say Mass at noon at a specifically built altar. Every parish in Ireland had someone to represent them. My daughter and I were to sing in the huge choir. Young sons were altar boys and my husband was one of the many stewards. We boarded our special train at 10am, got to Connolly Station at 10:15 and there we stopped!! Our train could go no further as the tracks were blocked. Someone had a radio, so we knew where the Pope was – he was leaving Italy. We waited. Next we heard His Holiness was in Dublin Airport. Then, the helicopter had reached the Park and we were still on the train in Cannoolly. The train started at last and we reached the Park just in time for the Mass. It was a wonderful occasion and well worth the wait. I laughed when I looked at the ticket and remarked that the Pope flew from Rome to the Park in less time than it took us to travel the few miles from Killester!
Only recently I became aware of the word “dyspraxia.” I am not even sure how to spell it and my old, usually reliable, dictionary let me down for the first time. Too old, like myself, I suppose. A young mother told me that her six-year old son had just been diagnosed with that condition – luckily, on the lower end of the spectrum. It was when she wen on to tell me what the occupational therapist had advised that I suddenly recalled the words, “What’s under the bed?” almost exactly the first words of a skipping rhyme chanted on the streets when I was young. It went: “There’s somebody under the bed. Whoever shall it be?” A list of games and exercises had been prescribed to help the boy with what was called “spatial problems” and as I listened, I realized that our parents who had never heard of dyspraxia or anything affecting our perception of space, had all unknowingly provided us with remedies by just allowing us to play street games. This little boy needs to practice juggling coloured balls against the wall. We were experts at that, though out balls were an ill-matched collection of old tennis balls or anything resembling them. Skipping helped our balance and hop-scotch or “piggy beds” fulfilled the same function. Turning a skipping rope exercised our arms and jumping in and out of the rope as others turned it helped with leg-eye coordination. Running, jumping, marching round and round to the sound of our own voices raised in the well-known chants, not to mention taking our turn and learning to be good losers was occupational therapy, though we did not know these words. Some boys and girls may have grown up clumsy and awkward, but no doubt even these benefitted from hours of careless, happy play.
Everything changed when I stood on the first tee of Royal Dublin Golf Club. I forgot all my little worries. Did I put off the cooker before I left the kitchen? Did I feed the birds before I left the house? Etc. etc. Now all I could see was the green fairway of the first hole stretching out before me. I hit a great shot down the middle and my pals shouted “You are getting better with age.” My two pals and I were off on our four-hour long trip around the links. All the worries of the world disappeared as we concentrated on getting the little white ball into the holes in the least number of shots. Our links is built on a sand base surrounded by dunes. The fairways are narrow and woe betide you if you stray off them into the long grass on either side. It is a course that is highly regarded by the best golfers in the world apart from our own Christy O’Connor, such names as Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros have graced it. It is the favorite course of Bill Clinton, the past President of the United States. Part of the enjoyment of our golf trip is our visit to 19th hole afterwards for a cup of coffee and cookies. Our course was founded by the British Army at the beginning of the 20th Century. During World War 1, it was used as a practice range for the military.
Miriam was thrilled. She had just achieved the dream of her lifetime when she finally out the key into the front door. All her life she had scrimped and saved for this day – a home of her own! It was a brand new little house, exactly what she had longed for over the years. Everything brand new, it would be so easy to keep. The icing on the cake was the lovely little front garden. At least it would be lovely when she got rid of all the junk the builders had left behind. Never mind, she had all her life ahead of her to get it in order, so she started right away, clearing it bit by bit, filling the brown bin. It was not such a difficult task. Miriam’s joy at having this new home was boundless. There was just one snag, something she had never expected – she was lonely! People passed by as she worked in the little garden each day but she did not know any of them. She missed the Camaraderie of her previous neighbors. Her phone was not yet connected and her mobile was out of credit. A peculiar lethargy settled on her. She must shake this off and proceed to dig again and keep herself busy. “I know what I will do,” she thought. “I will plant a little tree in the centre of the garden, a flowery one like a lilac.” Out came her new spade and rake and shovel. She measured and dug and as she worked, she was cheered by the song of a little robin. The task was much more difficult than she had expected and soon perspiration ran down her face.
“That’s a tought jon for a lady like you. I’ll give you a hand.” A sturdy-looking country man was leaning on her wall. Maybe she would not be lonely after all!