Monday, March 2, 2009

More Will Be Revealed

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Anne Biggins Murphy's birth...circa 1911! Anne Biggins traveled the Atlantic, arriving at Ellis Island from County Mayo at the age of seventeen. She was blonde and beautiful with sparkling blue eyes. And best of all, she had a job waiting for her. She and her sister, traveled by boat. Kathleen, apparently, was so sick, she barely survived the trip, but eventually regained her health over time. Anne's destination was the Atterbury's home in Plainfield, NJ. The Atterbury's were  an influential family connected to the stock market, as far as I know.They lived in what was then considered a mansion in the Sleepy Hollow section of town, known for its grand homes. That was long before my time. I was a late-life baby, the last of four. My mom had lived through my dad's deployment to Normandy, Sicily and North Africa, where he was awarded the silver star for bravery.  She had raised four kids and built a home here with my dad. They were, as people tell me, the most Americanized of our tribe. Mom received her citizenship ten years after she landed and was proud as can be of that. 

But at the age of 46, just three short years after I was born, my mom died. In those days, no one talked about people after they died. Especially the Irish! My mother was a saint, that was all I needed to know. And...she was was watching down on me from heaven. Jeesh! Try stealing an extra cookie or lying to your teacher about homework when you know that. The 'old Irish', as we younguns called them, were always telling me how gorgeous she was and how I was 'the picture of your mother.'
On a trip to Ireland about three years ago, more was revealed. I got more of a picture of the woman, and the land from whence she came. Turns out, she was not a saint! Yay, I can stop trying to live up to that actually hurts to try! She was a spitfire, loved clothes ("a clothes-horse" they called her) and most of all, she loved people. I stood in the white cottage where she was born and got to see her school house down the hill. We drove up onto the small mountaintop to see where my Granny Biggins was born! 

My cousin Marilyn sent me a letter a number of years ago too, telling me how my mom cared for her and for her sister after their mom died, washing her hair and letting it dry out in the sun, and talking them into the next phase of womanhood during their early teenage years. Another cousin, Eilish, a member of the Australian part of the clan told me how my mom had arranged to have her mom come over too. But Nora met her man, and that kept her in Ireland...and then later off to Australia, so that was not to be.

Many angels have shown up in my life over the years, and like my mom, they've left their mark too. I've recently received all her papers in the mail, as I ready myself to apply for my Irish Citizenship. In that group of papers I found of course, her birth and death certificates, her baptismal certificate and her marriage license. That's what it boils down to, as my dad would say. But you know what...she boiled down to a whole lot more to a lot of people. So Happy Birthday, Annie Biggins! The world is a better place because you arrived in it!


George Stockwell said...

What an awesome story! I loved it. You should forget children's lit for a while and write your family history-starting with Anne. You must have dozens of stories like that floating around in that Irish head! I've been involved with the genealogical history of my family since my retirement. Have you ever thought of doing that for your family?

gael lynch said...

I'd love to, but have no clue where to start! That trip to Ireland was amazing. The family farm is still there. My cousin, Gerard lives there. He has a head filled with info. We also need to track down the commendation
for Dad's silver star!

Smileyblueyes said...

What a great story! I want to know more about her.
And, once again....a parallel. I recently thought about getting my Irish citizenship, also. What research have you done with this?
ok. Saint Patty's day is around the corner, I will tell a story in the next day or two.

Smileyblueyes said...

Oh! Is that a snow angel in the picture??????
You lucky dog.

gael lynch said...

Isn't it amazing how that turned up in my backyard?!

Ann Marie Farrell said...

Hey Gael John sent me to your blog and I have truly enjoyed procrastinating from Saturday housework and reading your stories. I too went to Ireland and met relatives and saw where my greatgrandmother lived ( just a foundation now) which was quite a feeling. Keep writing-you are a natural and I love reading it

gael lynch said...

Hey there, Ann Marie! We'll have to go back to the Old Sod together someday. I've enjoyed Katie's blog! You must miss her terribly. Glad I could help you procrastinate! Blogs are great for that!! :)