Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Once I Was Fearless! No Really!!!




The second year of my life was a time of great change. My father left Ireland for the United States on January 22, of that year, leaving my mother and I behind.  Immigration required a family man prove he could provide for his family, before they would be granted permission to join him. He had to have steady employment, earn a wage to sustain his family and also have a home address established before final permission would be granted for us to join him.

We traveled to Cobh on that winters day to see my father off.   His ship the 'Nieuw Amsterdam' sat in the harbour waiting for my father and his fellow Irish passengers to board. When the time came to say our final adieus, I wailed and howled as if my heart would break.  I did not want to let my father go. My arms had to be pried from his neck and he slipped away, boarding the ship that would carry him across the ocean and thousands of miles away.


I spent the next six months living between Abbeyside, my maternal grandparents home and Emmet Street, my paternal grandfather’s home. As the weeks wore on more and more time was spent in Abbeyside. I loved my grandparent’s house in Abbeyside. The back garden was huge and filled with cats. All sorts of cats, big ones, small ones, black ones, white ones, grey cats and spotted cats. Everyday I watched Nanny put bowls of milk out and the cats came out of the garden’s overgrowth from all directions. They fascinated me the way they magically appeared when the bowls of milk were set down and just as magically disappeared when the bowls were empty. Nanny sometimes allowed me pour the milk in the bowls she set on the ground for them. Pouring the milk into the bowls without spilling took great concentration. 

I liked to hug the cats. I hugged them with such loving determination, I nearly strangled them. It didn’t take long for the cats to become wise to my ways and they quickly scampered off when they saw me heading in their direction.

I loved the smell of Grand-dads pipe. Remembering the smell of Grand-dads tobacco wafting around me always transports my mood to ease and brings a smile to my face. My grandfather was a big man and I had to strain my neck back to look up at him. When he sat in his chair by the fire, with his pipe lighting he would lift me up onto his lap and bounce me until I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. He told me wondrous tales of fairy queens, magical mists and little people. I sat on his lap mesmerised, my imagination totally engaged as he wove amazing tales filled with rainbows, magic dust and a world just waiting to fall at my feet.   I adored everything about my grandfather. Right down to his large flannel slippers which I liked to clip clop up and down the hallway in.


Time was drawing nearer to our departure for New York.  Nanny was very concerned for my safety due to what she perceived as my mother’s relaxed attitude towards my supervision. My grandmother decided to run a little test. One day the coal man came to the house with a delivery for the coal bunker.  The story goes that Nanny met the coal man at the front door and asked him to do her a favour. The coal man agreed. Nanny made her way to the back door,  opening it to let the coal man into the scullery. He began emptying the burlap sacks of coal he had hoisted in on his back into the coal bunker. Hearing the commotion, I ran out to investigate what was going on. Nanny smiled, thanked the man told him to pull the door out behind him when he finished and left me alone with him. I chatted happily to the coal man as he emptied one bulging sack after another into the coal bunker.

“Do you make the coal,” I asked?

“Why are you all black?”

So many questions. He closed the door to the coal bunker, rolled up the empty sacks and stuffed them under his coat. I laughed at his big tummy. He asked me my name and I told him. He asked me how old I was and I proudly pronounced I was two. I asked him where the coal came from. He told me if I came with him, he would show me.  He held out his hand and asked me if I would like to go with him. I took his hand without a moment’s hesitation and we walked out the back door together.

Nanny and my mother were waiting for us at the front door. Nanny thanked the coal man for helping her with this experiment. She handed him an envelope and a package covered in waxed paper. The coal man thanked Nanny for her generosity, doffed his cap and said he was glad to help.

Turning to my mother, he said,” You have a beautiful little girl there Missus. Very friendly, full of the chat and not afeared of anything.” 

My mother nodded at the coal man in stunned silence.  The coal man winked at me as he turned and walked back to his horse and coal laden cart.
Nanny turned to my mother,  “You see I told you," she said wagging her finger sternly.
"You need to be ever watchful of that child. She has no fear.  If a strange man covered in black coal dust didn't frighten her nothing will. She might wander off with anyone who catches her interest or tells her a story that fascinates her. New York is a big city, with many dangers. You must be diligent and ever watchful.”

I look at the photos of this brave and fearless child that once was me and wonder where did that fearlessness go.  If I could find a fraction of that fearlessness and tap into it today, what might I be able to achieve.

20 comments:

Joanna St. James said...

lol was that really you? I read a study that said the part of the brain that promotes fear in female toddlers is not as developed as it is in their male counterparts till they get older.
My friend's toddler jumped right back in the sea after she almost drowned whereas all the yoghurt cups in the world can't tempt my son to dip his foot in the sea.

Old Kitty said...

Awwwww!! That fearless and fabulous child is still with you - don't you worry, Ann! She is just resting and waiting for you to summon her. She'll come awake once you call to her. She's never left you and never will.

Take care
x

Al said...

What a beautiful tale.
Thank you for that little bit of you.
Here's to finding our courage!

siobhan said...

What a beautiful, nostalgic, and well crafted piece of work Ann, well done! Never forget that sweet fearless little child because she will always be a part of you (I love the pictures!) x.

Theresa Milstein said...

In Gregor the Overlander someone isn't considered brave until the know their ABCs. I think that was the rule.

I love that story. Ann, you must've been adorable. And how lovely you kept your spirits up during such a big time of transition. Not every two-year-old is so bubbly and brave.

Agnes said...

I love this!! I still think it's better to be fearless than paranoid... but of course your grandma was right :-)

Agnes said...

I love this!! I still think it's better to be fearless than paranoid... but of course your grandma was right ;-)

Liza said...

Half the battle is knowing what you need to do. You had the courage then, it can come back to you now. Lovely story too.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

My Sunday post was about something similar. As kids we were so much more evolved than we are now. If we could tap into a fraction of what we were then, how much better off we would be now.

And great pictures, and great story.

catdownunder said...

I am also glad to see that you were supervised by cats!

Boonie S said...

Lovely photos and a deeply moving post. Thanks for sharing this.

All the best, Boonie

Christine said...

What a wonerful post! I loved the way that you told this tale and what a clever grandmother you had.

Talei said...

Hi Ann - this is lovely. ;)

I have an award for you at my blog, please do stop by and collect when you have a few minutes! ;)

Susannah said...

What a wonderful story Ann! I just loved every word and was drawn back into those places with you. Really well told... and I think those photos of you with the cats is just adorable! :-)

Val B said...

Ann, I had to smile at how un- policitically correct it was to have your Grandad blowing pipe smoke all around you!So much for the smoking ban now.Makes you wonder what to-day's 2 year-olds will associate with their grandad's.My memory of my Grandad is,on Sunday, a 3 piece pinstripe suit and a fob watch in his top pocket.Thanks for remininding me of family to-day.

Hart Johnson said...

What a fabulous story! I love the evidence of no fear so young, and the rich history you've got. Your grandparents sound wonderful (though I wouldn't be surprised if your mom had had mama issues *teehee*)

Eddie cantwell said...

Wonderful stuff, just came across this by accident...keep up the good work..if you ever feel like making a contribution to my Blog...it would be most welcome at www.abbeysideheritagearchive.blogspot.com
at any rate continued success to you
Eddie cantwell

mise said...

Your poor father - it must have been so tough for him to have to leave his family like that. And I love your post title!

Mary said...

What a lovely post Ann. Memories of your granddad smoking his pipe took me back to spending time with my own maternal granddad who always smoked a pipe and always had a twinkle in his eye and a tale to tell ... happy, carefree days ... thanks for the memory jogger. Great photos too!

Plain Jane said...

There is something about tales from the past that I really love. I get nostalgic for other peoples lives.