(photo is freely available on the internet and is the First Dáil – I chose it for the look of the all-male, devout looking, cast – This is an old fiction story I wrote a while back, I would probably change it a bit now but it is what it is)
I stand here watching my only daughter getting married and my heart is breaking. Her groom to be is a handsome, intelligent, kind man. I hope she will be happy. He is older, but that’s not a disadvantage because he has lived in different times, war times, turbulent times but better times for women. He knows what is going on in this country, here and now, is wrong. He will take care of my baby girl and protect her in these uncertain times.
He was married before and has children that she will have to take care of but he has agreed to take care of the one she is carrying as his own and I know he will. I know him. I still worry, however, I suppose you never stop worrying about your babies. What other choice had we, had she? The alternative, in this new world of ours, is unimaginable. This man will take care of her. I know it.
What a different world I had. I didn’t marry until I felt like it and my lover waited for me, respected my decision, respected me like the equal I am. I worked, I rose high in my career, I travelled many times, over and back, across the water. I knew the best way to prevent the poverty my own family, and generations before me, had was to have less family and so did my love so we waited, patiently, until I was older. I enjoyed my work and my life even though I missed my love, but he understood and he worked and we agreed to join in our forever union and start a family when we were capable of taking care of them, feeding them, educating them, independently of any state, free. This man, he takes great care of his children. His poor young wife loved them and so does my child, my baby. She’’ll be secure, content, I hope.
The way he talks of his own strong mother who brought them up alone when their father died, a businesswoman, ‘a force to be reckoned with’ he often said. Yes, he knows that this new regime is wrong, is backward, is feardriven. He will do his best for my daughter and his daughters to come. He is a good man. He proved it that day when he proposed this union, in the middle of grief for his own love he proposed this union. He is saving everyone. My child, her child and his children too. I cant believe this state, how did it all go wrong? It was a bright new, better world and now this.
My husband is crying silently beside me for our daughter. Thankfully she can’t see him. She is listening intently to the vows she must take, her devotion to duty and this new saviour is frightening. I wonder what was taught in the school she went to as she never learned that compliance from me. I must watch over her. I will watch over her, him and their children. I have travelled the world and done so much more than she ever will. My poor baby. This was not the future we planned for you.
This saviour, this man, he grew up in a freer world, a more exciting, albeit dangerous time, when the future was full of possibility and he is full of wonder still, he carries that still, despite his grief. He is a good man. His God is a good God who loves his people, not the God this institution we stand in has become. This new God is full of fear, of other people’s versions of him, fear of women, fear of losing his power. This God will do untold damage to this new country. This man understands and he will protect my baby from it as best he can.
It will stay with me forever. His offer, his sense of what is right and wrong. We knew the world was changing, we discussed it often in the parlour with him and his wife. We worried about our children as did they. My baby minded their babies like an elder sibling while they worked until his wife couldn’t work any longer, until it wasn’t allowed. Funny how it’s different when it isn’t your choice to stay home as it was mine. I had made a conscious decision to walk away from my career and devote myself to my new one. She hadn’t, it was forced upon her by the State, this new Republic. Do they even know what that word means in their male filled government offices? Do they? They are elected by the people, all the people, to represent all the people. I suppose they will control who gets to elect next. After our great battle to win the vote, will that be lost too, along with our rights to work?
She died so young, he was so heartbroken but perhaps she was better off. She had known the possibilities that she now had lost. My little girl is less aware, this is her reality, her world. She will do her best in it. Hopefully this man can show her his God is better than the one she has come to know, this one of fear. This God that drove her and her love apart.
We called his parents as soon as she told us and they came over with him. Our friend, their friend, her now to be husband came too, to keep the peace, to keep us calm and logical as he has always been known to be.
“They must be married” my husband said. “It’s what must happen, they want to get married, there is no issue. Let them get married. We will provide a good dowry. That’s all there is to it.”
Perhaps that is where he went wrong, telling a man of another God, a man whose people used to tell us all what to do, that the decision is made.
“No, my son is promised and he will marry who he is promised to, a fine young pious girl of our own kind. Your daughter beguiled him, seduced him, she must live with the consequences. My son is a good boy and will marry his own. That’s all there is to it.”
The young couple, separated by the short distance of a rug looked only at each other and weeped, both heartbroken and defeated. His father wouldn’t budge. We all tried to change his mind, myself, my husband, our friend and even his wife, though her demurity shocked me. It dawned on me then how she hadn’t had the freedom I had, her life had been decided at birth. Was this the future for us too now we were to be the new ruling class? Is this what happens? The women of the ruling class are first to be suppressed?
They left and we knew our baby girl would never see her love again. She knew and he did too. They wept and said their last goodbyes, his father let that small comfort be at his quiet wife’s request. We sat in mournful silence for a while and then he spoke.
“If Lizzy here agrees, I’ll marry her and care for her and for her child as if it were my own. I’ll care for her child as I do my sons, boy, girl it doesn’t matter to me, children are to be loved and that’s what I’ll do. I know Lizzy will love my boys, she already does. It will be different, she’ll be a mother not an older sister and in time perhaps we’ll grow in love together. Love makes love and I will love for both of us a while.”
He looked at Lizzy all the while he spoke and she looked at him and listened to his words and heard his gentleness. I cried, my husband too and when he finally spoke with heart breaking and voice cracking, defeated, we knew he saw no other option.
“You know our Lizzy well, she’s full of love for all, a wild one in her ways but she is the heart of this house and we only want her happiness. Can you give her that?”
Lizzy stood up tall and strong. She took back her control and crossed the room. She shook her future’s hand. She spoke formally, arranging her agreement while all around her knew her heart was breaking.
“I accept. I know you will love my child as yours and I love your children now and always will. I will mother them as my mother has shown me and theirs too, I loved Grace as a sister, it would be an honour to mother her children, I’ll never let them forget the wonderful woman she was. Thank you.”
“No, Lizzy dear, thank you. Now I can bring my boys back home. These new rules meant I couldn’t have them on my own, for I’m a man without a wife. It is breaking my heart and theirs. They are with my sister this long while as you know well and now they can come home to me, to us. Thank you, Lizzie, thank you.”
He bent his head and wept his relief into his hands while my daughter put her arms on his shoulders. Yes, she will be fine, she is strong and this was her decision.
So, here we are and I watch on, my daughter and her future stand before me. If he had not stepped in what future would she have, here, in this new state we all fought so hard to get, man and woman, side by side, together, this new Republic, this Ireland of 1928. What future does she have now and all her future daughters and daughter’s daughters? What will this new regime bring?