Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hannie Rising Excerpt 5

Kate Kelliher, nee Enright, was angry. She’d been angry for a long time. It felt like years. She’d narrowed down the root of her misery to her marriage. Ever since she’d been mindless enough to marry Dermot Kelliher and set up housekeeping in the tiny apartment over the hardware store his family had owned for generations, happiness had eluded her. The flat was no place to raise a child, not to mention two adults who were constantly banging into each other every time someone wanted a cup of tea or a snack from the cupboard. The washroom was so cramped there was no need for a lock on the door. All she had to do was sit on the toilet in the natural position. One knee, the left one, and the corresponding forearm would be involuntarily pressed up against the door so tightly there was no possibility of anyone surprising her in the act.

She hadn’t intended for her life to end up this way. Kate had been to America on an exchange during her third year at university. She’d easily acclimated to automatic transmission, garbage disposals, French toast with maple syrup and mixers that guaranteed water would pour from the tap at the perfect temperature. She wanted frost-free refrigerators and ice makers and coffee shops that opened for breakfast on Sunday mornings and restaurants that weren’t pubs. She wanted perpetual hot water without having to remember to flip a switch thirty minutes ahead of when she needed it, and heat that turned on and off according to a preset temperature.

She wanted to live in a world that wasn’t obsessed by trash, where to store it and where to dispose of it, in the brown, green or white recycler, in the paper and package dumpster, in the compost pile in the garden or, God forbid, surreptitiously into one of the bins opposite a grocery store, strip mall or take-away express.

She wanted to never see another clothesline with flapping drawers and baby nappies. She wanted ranch dressing for her salads, Splenda for her coffee and tall, sweet, sweating glasses of lemon-flavored iced tea on an outdoor patio with a thermometer that read eighty degrees. She wanted checkers in supermarkets to bag her groceries instead of watching with their arms folded while she juggled plastic bags, a coin purse and a baby pram. She wanted plastic bags at no charge when she forgot hers in the car. She wanted to pay three dollars, not six euro for a pastry and a cup of coffee and she wanted to sit in an outdoor café to eat and drink them. She wanted to wake up without thinking about the weather, engage in conversations that had nothing to do with weather and shop for food without taking an umbrella.

America was perfect. So what if no one could brew a decent cup of tea or that the doors in the bathroom stalls only came down as far as a woman’s knees which really wasn’t very nice at all. So what if white woman never pushed their own babies in their prams or cleaned their own houses? These were small things, hardly significant at all. She wanted it back, the life she left, the entire package.

Most of all, Kate wanted Ritchie O’Shea to divorce his American wife, come back to Ireland and shock all the gossips by walking down Castle Street with his arm around her waist. Actually, if she were completely truthful with herself, and she nearly always was, it wasn’t Ritchie she wanted. She’d given up on Ritchie long ago, but she did want someone very like him. She wanted all the spiteful women who remembered that she’d been jilted to fall off Fenit Pier in the middle of a very cold rain. She wanted them to know that once upon a time she had a career, not a job, that their deliberate references to her marrying up were rude and boring and that, in another lifetime, she could have bought and sold every one of them ten times over if she’d cared enough.

God, how she missed Mickey. Twin tears collected in the corners of her eyes. Hurriedly, she brushed them away. How dare he up and die like that when she desperately needed him, before anything was settled? Nan was no help. She was dotty as a loon and getting worse every day. Liam was only concerned about himself and the latest Miss Ireland he could talk the drawers off of. That left Mom.
Normally, Kate wouldn’t have minded asking her mother for anything. Johannah Enright had always been a soft touch. But there were some things her mother steadfastly refused to consider, and one of them was the breaking of a sacrament, particularly the marriage sacrament.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Baby John

Four weeks ago, Jennifer had a baby boy. Months of nervously awaiting the results of every heart monitor, every fetal size measurement, every glucose test, every pelvic examination were over in 12 hours of miraculously easy labor and delivery. John Hogan Readey IV made his appearance at 7:55 in the evening, all 7 pounds 11 ounces and 20.5 inches of him, a healthy beautiful baby with all his parts intact and working properly.

Delivering a baby in 2013 bears no resemblance to giving birth 40 years ago. The birthing rooms today look like large hotel suites with the exception of all the monitors attached to the mother. Parents, siblings, the husband, of course, and an occasional friend or two walk around freely or sit in comfortable chairs making casual conversation and sharing memories while the laboring mother decides when the contractions merit an epidural. Today’s epidural need not be given at the last moment. Modern medicine has come up with an incredible invention, a pain reliever that does not block contractions allowing the mother to relax, even sleep, through what was once such an uncomfortable experience that I waited six years between children.

Delivery, in Jennifer’s case, was not nearly as dramatic as in the movies. All went smoothly and quickly. Baby John, eyes wide open, was vigorously rubbed into color, his Vitamin K shot administered with only a mild protest, his sugars tested, eyes doused with antibiotics, a beanie pulled over his head and a blanket swaddled tightly around his little limbs. Dad held him first, then mom.

Still only minutes old, my tiny grandson was placed in my
arms. All at once, my universe shifted. For thirty years there were two people on this planet for whom I would step in front of a runaway truck. Now, as of September 16th, 2013, there are three. As Melanie Wilkes in GONE WITH THE WIND said, “Everyone loves babies, Captain Butler. Babies are life renewing itself.”