Christmas Day, 1997. Connor and Lori McCann, a lovely couple of 9 years, are about to give birth to their son. Little did they know they would receive an extra gift, this holiday season. Lori McCann gave birth to twins, a girl first and then the boy. Surprised and in no way prepared for a girl, they were happier than ever.
The couple moved to the states, from Ireland, after finding out they were expecting. Knowing his line of work was risky, Connor became a truck driver. Lori experienced the privilege of staying home and raising their two red-headed babies. Their goal was to raise a happy family and keep the secrets of their pasts hidden, forever.
13 years later.
Every year on October 30th, Mom and Dad would take me and my twin brother Aiden, to go visit our grandparents in Ireland. We left on this day to celebrate and help our Nana and Papa prepare for Samhain. Samhain is similar to Halloween, but for us it is the transition from the brighter half of the year (Summer) to the darker half (Winter). Early morning, on the eve of Samhain, October 31st, we would go to the family farm and round up all livestock and harvest all fruits and vegetables.
After the men rounded up the animals and the women gathered the yearly harvest, Papa and Dad would take Aiden to go chop wood. They needed to cut enough for the stove, to last till the first day of Spring. While the men were in the forest, the women stayed in the kitchen. We washed, cut, and canned food for hours.
There was something magical this time of year in Ireland. The cool winds started to blow, sweeping colorful leaves all over the land. We could see bonfires glowing from our surrounding neighbors at nighttime. Before bed, Nana and Papa would tell us stories about Samhain. One in particular was my favorite; after November 1st, all fruits become bewitched and deemed inedible. As they spoke, I would close my eyes and picture fairies sprinkling the fruit with pixie dust and making them dance. It was a lot nicer to picture than The Wicker Man, The Banshee, and the Pooka.
Samhain is finally here. As a family tradition, a pig would be slaughtered and roasted over a fire. It was to be dressed in a sage bath, with other spices. Nana said the sage was to ward off any evil spirits and it also added a savory flavor. Most Celtic families had their own offerings or sacrifices to bring for Samhain, The Lord of Darkness, including actual living creatures. Kids from school would think this is weird, but Aiden and I found it fascinating.
“Lori, Pop and I are leaving for the butcher market. I don’t believe Aiden is ready for this adventure yet.” I heard my father say to my mom. “He seemed upset. Can you check on him for me?”
“Of course, and I agree. 13 is such a young age, maybe in another year or two.” Mom said while wrapping her arms around my father. She kissed him on the cheek and walked away to go comfort my brother.
“Come give your old man a hug, I’ll be back in several hours.” Dad insisted to me.
I ran up to him and wrapped my arms around his neck. He was a bigger man, good and plump. He had a beard that reminded me a lot of Santa Clause, but his was not all white yet. I buried my face in his chest and took a deep inhale. He smelled like wood smoke. It was my favorite aroma in the entire world.
Dad and Papa were gone a little later than expected; mom let me and Aiden carve our jack-o-lanterns early. It still was not sundown yet, and we were driving our mother nuts with anticipation. She told us to go run some of our energy off outside, and we happily obliged. We loved getting our hearts pumping and filling our lungs full of fresh air. This is not a luxury we have in the city. We do not even have a yard to play in or a sidewalk to draw on. We live in a nice town home, in upstate New York. The fanciest of furnishings do not compare to the open space though.
Darkness began to fall and there was still no sign of them.
“Aiden and Adelaide, time to come inside and get ready for bed!” Our mother shouted to us.
We stopped running and walked slowly to the house. Approaching the back porch, we both sensed something was not right. Stepping inside, the house seemed cooler than it did earlier.
“I’m getting a shower first!” Aiden shouted.
“No, I am!” I fought back.
“Rock, paper, scissors?” He asked.
I agreed and sure enough won. “Ha!” I took off to the bathroom.
When I got out, it was Aiden’s turn. I entered the living room and looked around. There was still no sign of Dad, Mom was on the phone and Nana was patting a spot on the floor in front of her, for me to sit. When I sat down, she began brushing my hair and then started playing with it.
“I’m worried about Daddy.” I said quietly to her.
“I am too,” she admitted, “but your father comes from a strong line of men. I am sure they are okay. Perhaps the market is just full.”
She kissed my cheek and told me to lay down. I followed orders but stopped to hug and kiss mom on the way.
“I love you,” I mouthed to her, since she was still talking to someone.
It was my turn to have the top bunk tonight, so I crawled in and made myself comfortable. Aiden stepped in soon after, followed by our Nana who tucked us in tonight. Instead of a story she sang us our favorite song, The Town I Loved So Well.
“In my memory I will always see the town that I have loved so well. Where our school played ball by the gas yard wall, and we laughed through the smoke and the smell. Going home in the rain, running up the dark lane, past ther gaol and down behind the fountain, those were happy days in so many, many ways in the town I loved so well.”
It spoke to my heart, at least what I have heard of it. Nana never sang the whole song through, maybe one day I will find out why. She kissed our foreheads, turned out the lights, and walked away.