Click here to listen to Caroline talking about writing Greener Grass and reading an excerpt on TeachingBooks.net
They say home is where the heart is. I believed that, once.
There was a time when my heart and home were whole. When Da would sit by the fire smoking his clay pipe and telling tales he’d learned from his Da. Truths passed on from knee to knee. Let me tell you of a time, he’d begin, not your time nor my time, but somebody’s time. And so it goes.
Jack, Annie and I sat around him on our stools, warmed by the fire and the magic in his words. Even Nelly, poor old Nelly, stretched out like a rug by the hearth, wagged her tail as if she understood. Maybe she did. Sure, weren’t her relatives the very dogs of which Da spoke? I have no doubt that Nelly knew, for she had heard it a thousand times before. We all had. It was our gospel, our truth, the story of all Byrnes back to the days of legend and heroes. For we were sons and daughters of kings. Da said so.
When the tales were told, Mam tucked Annie, Jack and me in the settle-bed, like fingers in a mitten. Annie, exhausted, would be asleep beside me before Mam had covered the embers in ash. With fire and children put to bed, Mam joined Da in the back room. His snore rumbled as the ocean waves whispered through the window, lulling all to sleep. But I always knew Jack was awake, Da’s stories still burning in his heart too.
“What’s your story, Jack?” I’d whisper, careful not to wake Annie between us. And in the sleeping ember’s glow, Jack and I stoked what stories might be said of us one day.
It wasn’t that long ago. A year. If that. And yet, it seems another lifetime.
Today, I am as cold and empty as our hearth, for there are no people left to tell the tales. Where do I look when I can face neither past nor future? Where is my home when I have neither heart nor hope.
All is lost.
If Jack were here, he’d whisper into my darkness, What’s your story, Kit? So I shall tell it. I am no hero. I merely survived. God only knows why, but He won’t tell me. Maybe He isn’t listening. Perhaps He isn’t even there. Either way, I’ve stopped asking.
So let me tell you of a time, not your time, but mine. I am Kathleen Mary Margaret Byrne.
This is my story.
And so it goes.