Her Uncles had found her alone, a little girl sitting quietly in her family home in the county of Mayo. For the Irish, the famine was just the last straw; they had a litany of Cromwell’s leftover reasons to leave anyway. And so they left in their thousands. Sinead O’Leary was no different; first to Liverpool, then to Canada, on to Boston. When she finally moved to New York City, now a grown woman and married, she rechristened it New Cork, and no-one she knew dared disagree. She made it so.
She simply refused to remember anything unpleasant, and seemed to forget nothing else. She regaled her children and grandchildren with stories of Cuchulain, and Medb, and faeries and wee people, Naomh Padraig and his clovers and snakes; a living encyclopedia of fun and fantasy.
She saved what little money came her way, and she bought and sold things. Her long lost relatives would send her this and that from the Auld Sod, and she’d sell them to Yankees who collected such as her family had, as if the Irish were as exotic as Babylonians, not right across the Irish Sea from their own forefathers.
One fine spring morning, she opened a bible box her uncle had sent her. Inside, sheepskin glowed with monastic filigree. She knew the Lord’s word was on those Latin pages. Oh yes, she knew. She was wise enough to know also: There was a devil of a ransom in it from a collector too. And when a trim woman appeared at her door, sent by her employer, the Colossus of Finance, to buy it for that mausoleum of manuscripts he was constantly stoking on Fifth Avenue, Sinead was ready. He wanted it like the damned wanted icewater. Sinead knew how long to hold out before acquiescing.
Into real estate the money went. Then her son invested it for her in the stock market. Soon the simple woman, who still retatted her own lace when it frayed, was rich. She always was, if you asked her, even though her Uncles could have told you they had found her alone in that stone cottage, all those years ago, because her parents were dead and gone right outside the door, their mouths green from trying to eat grass when the potatoes failed.
She was very old when that awful day christened “Black Friday” took her fortune, just like the famine had taken her family. Her son sat with her on the simple wooden settee she still favored, like a pew in her own church. “It has St Patrick’s clover in it, and to put a cushion on it would be extravagance itself!”
He gently told her that he had lost her money, over a million dollars, in one afternoon.
“What a blessing!” she said.
Her son, now grown grey himself, and ruined along with his mother, couldn’t comprehend.
“How kind of the Lord to wait until I could afford to lose a million dollars. Imagine what a blow it would have been to lose such a sum when I was poor!”
Her son burst out laughing. And he knew then, that his beloved mother was placed on this earth for a reason. And they would rise again. Surely.
“Besides,” she said, “I have three more Bible Boxes”