by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
Sleep, O babe, for the red-bee hums
The silent twilight's fall,
Áibheall from the Grey Rock comes
To wrap the world in thrall
“On La Touraine….? Montreal…” She put her hand to her face and shook her head in confusion.
“I’m sorry, darlin’…. You fell overboard. My brother Marty saved you….”
“But Onkel Dieter…Wo ist…Onkel Dieter?” The girl practically sobbed.
“Oh, he’s alright. Not so, I’m sorry to say for so many of those dear ones who perished…the Volturno….it sank….folks from your ship and this one and others…they saved many, including you, darlin’ Your Onkel knows yer on this ship. The captain told me to tell you that your Onkel sends his wishes and something about havin’ a future? Anyway, the radioman said he was cryin’, but he didn’t sound at all upset.
“Aber…mmm….b…but…. Montreal… La Touraine?”
“Sorry, child, but you're not goin’ to Montreal. This is the Kroonland and you are on your way to America.”
“You’re a sham… you’re not real and you never will be.” The girl’s head felt what seemed like the glare of ten thousand suns, and her accuser was obscured in the bright light; almost eclipsing it.
“Please…I am sorry. I am so sorry,” the girl cried. She knelt at the feet of her accuser and wept. She looked up to see her own face as the girl before her shook her head and frowned angrily before disappearing. The light dimmed even as another figure took the place of her accuser.
“You’re as true as can be.” The words were soft and soothing; a balm that began to take away her guilt and shame. She tried to argue, but the words failed to give sound to her thoughts as wave after wave of calm assurance washed over her, continuing to heal. She seemed to recall something someone had told her…
“...plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for?' ” The voice was old and wise and kind, but in a moment it was joined by another voice, speaking the same words.
“The future you hope for…”
Ellis Island, October 26, 1913….
Yudi stood next to her friends; newly found and welcoming friends who had taken her under their wings, as it were. Her gaze darted back and forth as sounds pulled her attention around the large open area in the crowded room. Little children and babies crying. Loud and animated discussions in every tongue; some exotic but many of them familiar to the girl. She shuddered as Maggie placed her hand on her shoulder.
“Now, darlin’? Nothin’ to be worried about. We’re here for you, and we’ll get everything sorted out good and proper. “The girl winced slightly; more from Maggie removing her hand as any gesture was greeted with caution even though she wanted to trust. Losing Eitel Kotler and then to be separated from a kind old man who reminded her of her father? It was almost too much to bear.
“NEXT!!!!” The voice came from a stern looking man sitting at a large table. He peered over his glasses at the girl.
“NAME?” Yudi hesitated; the abrupt manner of the man almost felt like it was physically pushing her back as she recoiled from the word.
“Come, on, child. I don’t have all day?” He had all day and then some; the lines never ended and the only respite from the sea of people was that he got to go home at the end of the day while they were literally herded into other large rooms to be poked and prodded before being ‘released,’ as if they were livestock. It might not have been pretty, but it was the gateway to a new life for everyone on the other side of the table. Yudi stepped close to the table and spoke.”
“Meine namen ….Yuhudit Sokol von…. “ She turned back to Maggie; the apologetic look on her face pleading for help in what to say.
“Dublin… yer from Cardonagh….” Maggie mouthed just out of sight from the man at the table.
“Ca…ar…do…nah?” Yudi mouthed the word back; haltingly and with a great deal of dread. She turned to the man. He was busy in conversation with another man who held papers that he was pointing to urgently.
“Judith McDonough?” He said almost absent-mindedly. She went to protest, but he had already written something down on the list in front of him. He looked at the tag on her sleeve.
“Max? Kroonland stop at Belfast?” The man to his left nodded.
“Well, Judith McDonough from Belfast, welcome to America,” the man said almost dismissively before he looked over her shoulder.
“Now, darlin’, you just follow my lead, aye?” Maggie said as she stood in the line leading up to a very kind looking old man; he tapped the chest of the girl at the head of the line. A look in her eyes and down her throat evoked a relieved nod.
“She’s just fine.” The woman behind the girl shook her head. Looking at the tag on the girl’s shoulder he smiled at the woman and spoke.
“Votre fille est sain.”
“Oui….Oui…merci….” She nodded and the man nodded back. A few moments later, the doctor had given Maggie a clean bill of health and was ready to examine Yudi.
“Beggin’ yer pardon, doctor? This here is my cousin Judy. She doesn’t speak but a wee bit of English, and I expect you don’t speak the old tongue?” The man shook his head no.
“She’s a bit shy, so if she pulls back? She’s an orphan, and her only kin is here in America.” Maggie lied only a little. The girl winced at the word ‘orphan.” Her English was sketchy at best, but she had heard the word often enough to remember just why she had left home and she began to cry.
“There, there, child. “ The doctor smiled kindly and looked back and forth between Yudi and Maggie.
“I’ll make this as painless as possible,” he said. A few moments later the two sat outside the room in another area.
“We’ll be okay, darlin’,” Maggie said. Her fib about family wasn’t entirely untrue since in only a few days since their meeting, she had adopted Yudi as a little sister, along with everything that accompanied the girl from Russia all the way to America.
“Maggie?” Yudi’s tears had abated only somewhat, and she looked around the room in the same dread that nearly overcame her earlier that morning.
“Now, don’t you worry, darlin’! No one has found out yet, and yer safe for now.” The words seemed less daunting as time had gone on, and while she didn’t speak English well, she understood exactly what Maggie meant. And those words, as comforting as they had been intended to be, latched themselves onto the girl’s already ever-present shame and she sobbed in fear.
“You know we’ll be makin’ sure you’re okay, right?” Yudi looked at her friend…her sister in truth…and nodded nervously. Looking down at herself, she shook her head in sad recognition, but Maggie smiled and touched Yudi’s cheek.
“Now none of that,” Maggie said softly as she pulled the girl close for a hug.
“Between me and Marty, you have a family, and we’ll be just fine, darlin,” She laughed softly, but Yudi winced at the mention of her erstwhile new brother. Something about the young man frightened Yudi enough to push her further into her shame, and she buried her face in Maggie’s shoulder and continued to sob. Maggie shook her head in frustration as she sang a lullaby; even if the words were foreign to Yudi, the heart behind the singer soothed the girl into a less fitful weeping as Maggie held her as sweetly as Yudi’s mother ever had….
Sleep, O babe, for the red-bee hums
The silent twilight's fall,
Áibheall from the Grey Rock comes
To wrap the world in thrall.
A leanbhan O, my child, my joy,
My love and heart's-desire,
The crickets sing you lullaby
Beside the dying fire.
Kingsbridge, Bronx, New York, April 1914
“Marty? How did it work out?” Maggie had just finished setting the table. The young man sat down at the table in the small kitchen looking frustrated. Judy sidled over in her chair and looked away, but she listened sympathetically.
“Nothing but a pat on the back and a promise that they’ll be happy to raise a pint when I get a job. But….” His eyes widened and his smile emerged.
“Paddy McNeil says his Uncle Bill is looking for new players. Not much to start, but it’s a beginning.”
“That would be playin’ a game? You’re a man now, Marty. What do you suppose you can do with your life just playin’ a game.”
“It’s not just a game, Maggie, Darlin’, but a real way to put food on the table. We can only get so far with you takin’ in laundry and such, and I’m sure Judy wouldn’t mind a new dress now and then?”
At Marty’s words, the girl shied further away and faked a cough. Maggie smiled at her as she sat down. She grabbed the girl’s hand and urged her to grab Marty’s as she said grace. She squeezed Judy’s wrist and the girl winced; more at the understanding her friend conveyed, but the squeeze was quite emphatic. She looked at Maggie and shook her head slightly.
“I know….” Maggie started and the girl looked away, repeating the anxious gesture as she feared that she might reveal how she felt.
“I know yer doin’ the best you can, Marty lad, but we can’t build a future on a game.
“Paddy said his Da saw me play over at the park the other day, and he knows I can…. I can really make a go.”
“And what will we be callin’ ye, darlin’? Mister? Sir? Yer Highness? Seein’ how you’ll be royalty among the lads down at the pub.” She laughed but he glared slightly before his face softened into a half-smile.
‘You’ll still be callin’ me yer brother, Maggie my love.” At the word ‘love,’ Judy winced once again. Maggie still held her hand. She nodded and shook her head in succession; hoping to reassure the girl that she knew what the girl feared, but that no words of Maggie’s would ever betray a confidence. Still, the word left the girl saddened at the promise of sorts that she would never experience it in her lifetime. She stood up suddenly and spoke with a nervous stammer.
“You….Please…..I don’t ….mein….my….” Maggie took her meaning immediately and replied.
“Yer lookin’ a bit pale, Judy…. Here…” She stood up and gently took the girl’s arm in her hands.
“Marty….be a dear and see if Mrs. O’Brien has somethin’ for the girl?” She used her eyes in a gaze at the girl’s stomach. Marty got up and nodded.
“I’ll be back in a few, darlin’,” he said as he walked toward the door. He might have been speaking to his sister, but his eyes were on Judy as the endearment left his lips. She blushed and turned toward the wall.
“Away with you then, and thank Mrs. O’Brien for us all, aye?” He nodded again and was out the door and down the stairs. Maggie gently tugged the girl’s chin toward her.
“Now then, what’s goin’ on, Judy girl?”
“I….b…besodik….’ She blushed a deeper red and tears began to fall from her chin. Maggie didn’t understand the word, but she knew the meaning.
“Your secret is safe with me, darlin’. I know we barely know ye, but you’re a good one, you are. I would never….” Maggie patted her chest and shed sisterly tears.
“But you have another secret….yes?” Her eyes strayed toward the open door.
“I…” Judy shook her head as words got jumbled and shoved around. Yiddish crashed into Russian and German and the little English she knew until she spoke through sobs….
“Maggie’s eyes widened only a bit in surprise, since she had wondered since they met. She leaned closer and tilted her head in silent question. Judy nodded before finally saying,
“Ich…. I….Luf…..nein….lu…..love….Mmmmm Marty….” The dam burst and tears cascaded in shame mixed with sadness and only a tiny bit of hope. Maggie pulled her close and into her shoulder as the girl sobbed.
“Shhhhh shhhhh….. Tá mé anseo, mo dheirfiúr. Shhhh shhhhh….”
A few days later….
“’You’re a good one, kid, but not good enough,’ was all he said,” Marty shook his head and turned away.
“You mean after all that, you didn’t get a job. Oh darlin’ I’m so sorry.” Maggie shook her head in response and Judy sat quietly. Marty bit his lip but he began to laugh.
“Mr. Taylor has need of a groundskeeper and guess who he asked to help?”
“You got a job? That’s wonderful….” Maggie’s voice trailed off. Judy barely understood English but she completely understood the look of disappointment that crossed Marty’s face. She reached out and touched his arm. He smiled at her and patted her wrist, causing her to wince.
“There, there, darlin’. It was just a dream…. But I’m okay, really.” He smiled warmly at her and she returned his kindness with yet another dark blush.
“Gut….good. I…am….happy for you,” she said slowly. She wasn’t happy at all. Not for him, since he had wanted to play for the Yankees. And she wasn’t happy at all for herself, since she worried that she might reveal how she actually felt about the kind man who had saved her life.
“Then it’s all good.” He reached behind his chair and produced a bottle of wine.
“Let’s celebrate, aye?” Maggie nodded with a smile. Judy’s nod was weak and her smile weaker. Marty reached over and touched her chin; feeling the tears that had started to roll down her cheek.
“Really, darlin’….it’s all good.” And he surprised everyone including himself as he leaned closer and kissed her cheek.
“Now I know yer just figurin’ out what we’re sayin,’ but I know you understand that.” She didn’t understand his words but she knew his intent as his smile displayed, and she responded by bursting into tears. She stood up and walked quickly into the bedroom and shut the door.
“Now look what you’ve gone and done, you idiot!”
“Never mind….” Her voice trailed off and she continued the conversation in her thoughts. Thoughts left unsaid that should have been spoken.
“You’re either blind or stupid, brother dear. Can’t you see the girl loves you?”
Two weeks later…
“Judy? Can ye’ come here?“ Maggie spoke over her should and the girl stepped from the kitchen and sat down at the table.
“I’ve got some good news, and it affects us all.” At the word ‘all,’ the girl winced. Maggie smiled and patted her on the wrist.
“My uncle owns a public house down on DeKalb, and he’s getting’ on in years. His son just joined the army, and he needs someone to run the place.” Judy tilted her head; making sense of English and Gaelic mixed with Yiddish and German and French had become a daunting task, but she was quickly picking it up.
“Seamus…. He’s been here forever, and the Pub is a good business. Not only that, but he takes care of his own. Not like some bars and such that don’t take care of their girls.” Maggie frowned.
“Ich….I …I don’t…verstehe… understand.”
“So long as you’re with me, darlin’, yer secret will ever be safe.” What was meant as consoling news nudged the girl instead into worry.
“My secret….Aber….I…. I mean….what about Marty?” She put her head down. Maggie patted her arm and leaned closer.
“You’ve got to decide, darlin’. I can’t promise what he’ll do, but I know with all my heart that he cares for you….even if ….” She shook her head and looked away; feeling disappointed for the girl
“He….he will love me…..like he loves you?” Maggie nodded reluctantly, but took a deep breath and spoke again.
“You’ll never know unless…. You’ve got to tell him.”
“I…I know…” Judy sighed and shook her head. It was almost too much to bear.
“Maggie….w…why am I….I…I cannot….” She gave into the moment and put her head on the table and wept. And Maggie put her head down on the table and wept along with the girl.
Kennedy’s Tavern, Bainbridge, Bronx, New York, early May, 1914…
The place was filled with men raising pints and waxing eloquently about how good it was back home. In the midst of the clamor, a happy ruckus seemed to sweep into the tavern. Marty walked up to the bar and placed a few silver dollars down.
“Drinks until that runs out for my lads, and then there’ll be more, aye, Uncle Seamus.”
“And what would be the occasion for such largesse, Marty, my boy?” The old man smiled, revealing a toothy grin that included a gap between his eye teeth.
“Well, you know I’m not one for rejoicin’ in any bad luck for someone else….” He tried not to grin, but his smile grew wider.
“But the left fielder broke his leg, and I’m gonna be playin’ for the New York Yankees.” He laughed. Maggie walked up and gave him a big hug. Judy stood off to the side, a relieved sigh accompanied the smile on her face.
“Well, darlin’,” Maggie grinned and continued.
“You’ve arrived, and I’m happy for my baby brother,” she looked up into his eyes and saw a glimmer that went beyond his new fortune. She only then noticed a small figure standing behind Marty. She breathed out heavily and shook her head, fearing the worst. Marty caught her gaze and turned around.
“Oh, and in all the rush, I hope you’ll be forgivin’ me for this, aye?” He turned around and nodded enthusiastically at the girl who held his hand.
“This is Kate…. Kate Taylor….Mr. Taylor’s daughter.” Marty squeezed the girl’s hand and she shook her head, but with a soft laugh.
“That’s Kathryn Taylor….” She began to speak and Maggie’ eyes widened in fear as the girl continued,
“Kathryn Taylor O’Phelan, if you please?” Maggie stared at the ring on the girl’s left hand before pulling the girl into an awkward hug, even as her thoughts were immediately drawn to the shy girl behind her. Judy bit her lip and smiled nervously; wanting so much to be brave in the midst of a lifetime of loss that called all too frequently for courage. She walked slowly to the three and held her hand out to Kate. The girl shook it and smiled
“And who might this be? You’re a pretty girl, ye are.” The attention hurt more than anything Judy could have imagined since the young lady was a very sweet girl who had captured the heart of the man she loved. No complaints about the life he’d lead; she loved him that much. But nothing would heal the ache in an already overwhelmed heart. She practically whispered.
“J..Judy….Mmmm….McDonough.” Maggie came to her rescue.
“You might say Judy’s a cousin of a cousin of a cousin, aye? Judy darlin’, would you mind helpin’ me in the kitchen for a few?” She ushered the girl into the open door and out of sight where the girl collapsed in her arms, sobbing. Maggie held her and stroked her hair.
“Yk byn….Aram….” The girl gasped. Maggie knew what the girl meant. She lifted the girl’s chin and spoke softly,
“No, precious girl. No. Yer name is Judy McD…” She paused in mid-sentence, shaking her head.
“No, darlin’! Yer name is Judith Sokol, and you’re my sweet baby sister.” Maggie tried very hard not to cry, and her soft sobs were almost soothing, Judy looked at her and the sobs grew deep and filled with lament. She would bless her creator for Maggie, but her heart still broke in two knowing that Marty would never be more than her brother.
“Shhhh, shhh,” Maggie spoke softly but inside her heart ached for the girl her arms; if only she had said something to her brother, but now it was too late and the kind soul she held was weighed down with yet another disappointment in the long line of loss and sorrow. She cursed herself and redoubled her efforts to sooth the hurt, but Judy just shook her head and continued weeping.
Several weeks later at Kennedy’s Tavern….
“Maggie….” Judy was standing by the door leading to the kitchen. The girl shook and tried not to cry. Maggie stepped next to the girl and scanned the bar and frowned. Over at the end of the bar, one of the lads was pointing and joking. She got her uncle’s attention and gazed down toward the men. Seamus calmly laid the bar towel down and walked around from behind the bar. A moment later he stood next to the fellow.
“Givin’ my girl a bad time, Timmy?” He leaned closer and the young man laughed nervously; a bad decision under best of circumstances, but it was late and Seamus was never one for suffering fools. He grabbed the fellow by his collar and belt and walked over to the front door. A moment later the fellow was lying in the street. Seamus turned to the others and shook his head.
“Well, lads? Class is dismissed unless one of ye wants yer own lesson, aye? I suggest you get yer bleedin’ arses out of my establishment!” He had hardly finished speaking and the young men had all scattered but for one. He held his hat in his hand and his face was downcast.
“Jimmy McCarthy? Your brother is a fool and a coward, and I’m not in the mood.”
“I wanted….I’m sorry, Mr. Kennedy….Timmy brings my mother a lot of sorrow, and I canna say I’m sad you tossed him out on his arse.” He avoided grinning, but Seamus knew Jim McCarthy was telling the truth, having known the boy since he was small.
“I’ll convey your apologies to the girl.” He turned around and looked at Judy and Maggie. Judy had stopped crying and was leaning close to Maggie. The young man sighed and nodded once before putting his head down.
“That’s all I can ask, Mr. Kennedy. I’ll be thankin’ you and takin’ your leave.” He nodded again and walked quickly out of the tavern.
“Are you alright, darlin’?” Seamus asked. Judy nodded slowly and wiped her face with her sleeve. The man smiled and walked back behind the bar. Maggie squeezed the girl’s shoulder; a gesture of understanding. But Judy’s attention was squarely on the back swing of the door through which the young man had just departed. Something familiar seemed to grab the girl and shake her to her core. Something that frightened and soothed her soul at the same time.
Maggie followed Judy’s gaze to the doorway and tilted her head in question. A moment later, her eyes widened in realization and she breathed out a long, drawn out sigh followed by,
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph….”
Dusk is drawn and the Green Man's thorn is wreathed in rings of fog
Sheevra sails his boat 'til morn upon the starry bog
A lyan van o, the paly moon hath brimm'd her cusp in dew
And weeps to hear the sad, sleep tune I sing, my love, to you
To be concluded…
"Gartan Mother's Lullaby" is an old Irish song and poem written by Herbert Hughes and Seosamh Mac Cathmhaoil, first published in Songs of Uladh [Ulster] in 1904. Hughes collected the traditional melody in Donegal the previous year and Campbell wrote the lyrics. The song is a lullaby by a mother, from the parish of Gartan in County Donegal. The song refers to a number of figures in Irish mythology, places in Ireland and words in the Irish language. As sung by Meryl Streep
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