Confusion: A short Story  

This tale is about the confusion that surrounded us as children growing up in an innocent long-ago Ireland.  To be honest I am talking about my own childhood, which in retrospect and with due consideration was probably no different than the childhoods of most of my peers.  Then again I wonder if anyone could have been as naive and as gullible as I was?

Take for instance the arrival of new babies in our homes and the mysteries that surrounded this event.  Before I start I might ask: did you ever notice that the word PREGNANT was never mentioned in front of children then?  A typical conversation might go like this: my mother might say to her neighbour:
 “Did you see Mrs. Walsh from the top of the Hill, I’ll swear she’s on the way again!”  Or she might sometimes say that such and such a woman is “expecting again”.  We youngsters were not supposed to understand that sort of statement — well we didn’t anyways.
The answer from the neighbour confused the issue even more.  She would say:
“Oh I think you’re right there, it must be all that fresh air up there on the hill!”

It was a good few years later that we realised that fresh air had very little to do with the situation Mrs. Walsh found herself in. Of course Mrs. Walsh’s husband Paddy never came under suspicion.  He was over six feet tall and well able to make use of the fresh air that was causing the problem.  But he never had a baby.  Strange!  Due to all this double talk and innuendo I spent a lot of my young life thinking that boy babies were found under heads of cabbage in the garden while girls were definitely brought by the stork — something to do with the weight we were told.  Boys were too heavy for the stork.

Now, let me deal with the miracle of growing your family in the garden, because that’s what it was: a miracle!  Even now I can’t picture my Dad as green fingered.  And there was nothing to connect him with the fact that my mother, normally a small slim woman, had become almost as big as Nephin Mountain.  Well, almost.

Let me explain how I remember the arrival of one of my younger brothers.  It was a lovely day and I was playing out in the garden at the back of the house.  My granny arrived suddenly and unexpectedly from Ballyglass and unceremoniously press-ganged me down to her house.  My Grandad needed me to help him she lied.  Of course what the poor man really needed was peace and quiet at his time of life.  A busy grandchild running amok around the house was not his idea of fun.

Next evening on my return home there it was: a cot in the kitchen with a brand new baby in it.  I had a new little brother I was told right away.  My Dad had found him in the garden under a head of cabbage while I was away at my Granny’s.  Now even at that tender age I knew there was something strange going on.  But, there was no other explanation forthcoming so it was a case of believe it or not. After a few days trying to figure things out in my child’s mind, curiosity got the better of me.  Facing up to Mammy I asked:
“Mammy, what sort of seed do you need to grow babies?”
As soon as I had asked the question I knew there was a problem.  There was an awkward silence, you know the sort of silence you can almost feel.
“Arrah how do I know” my Mother said then, “you had better ask your Dad, he does everything in the garden!”
When I asked him he was even less helpful.  “It must have been mixed in with the cabbage seed that I got in the shop,” he said.

I was more puzzled now than ever because you see I was with him when he bought the cabbage seed in Patrick Fahey’s shop on the main street.  The man weighing the seed and putting it into a little brown envelope fascinated me.  Nothing went into that envelope that vaguely resembled the little fellow in the cot at home.  Looking back now perhaps it was the first instance in Ireland of genetically modified seed!

And as for the stork.  Has anyone ever seen a stork in Ireland?  Well of course not!  And that’s rather strange because given the amount of babies they deliver they must be criss-crossing our airspace at an alarming rate.  The only stork we ever saw was the picture of one standing on one leg on the margarine packet.  That’s the one we whipped off the table if we heard a neighbour coming long before eating margarine became fashionable. What intelligent birds those invisible storks must have been whizzing about the countryside and always finding the correct house to make their delivery!  It was no easy job.  After all it wouldn’t do if a little babóg intended for Tourmakeady Gaeltacht was dropped in Ballyvarry where they haven't gach aon focal.  You know what I mean?

Our Health Minister, Mary Harney, is so clever she ordered a whole bunch of storks there a while back to save money for the Health Board.  Sligo's Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology, Jimmy Devins, had them up in the Phoenix Park training them until a Dub down from Moore St. for the day claimed they weren’t storks at all, but ostriches!  They kept sticking their heads in the ground when anyone went near them.  Some said they were politicians because that's what they do when you ask them a question, but a DNA test proved they really were ostriches. Just like the automated voting machines the stork/ostriches have been put in storage for the time being until they can figure out what to do with them.

Anyway it probably doesn’t matter as things have come on greatly in Ireland and, unknown to Mary Harney, there’s new ways of getting babies these days.   

Health Minister Mary Harney

Minister Devins & Cllr. Byrne demonstrating smoke and mirrors

I am grateful to my friend Pat Staunton of Castlebar, Co. Mayo for contributing this story.  







website copyright Joe McGowan 2005. design: mangiare