like a pair a’ trousers
gone bar tight across da arse.
Mudder can’t feed us sure,
starving offa cod fish
and anyt’ing else me fadder
can pull out a’ the sea.
“The Lord will provide”
they says, but he haven’t yet.
Sends me up da coast,
up wit’ me grand parents.
We lives in the light house,
and I don’t understand a Jeezly t’ing
‘cause they only speaks French.
Sixteen years old
when they packs me up and
sends me off again.
“Not a youngster no more”
and should be holdin’ me own
Sends me to the new
mill town, hours away.
Right full of company housing
and people w’it money.
I gets on right away w’it a family,
Ol’ man works the mill
and everything else in between,
he’s wife is sick as a dog
and can’t take care of her youngsters
so I does that too.
Neider bit o’ time to meself
Cause suddenly I’m woman of the house.
But it gets so her youngest
starts callin’ me “mudder”.
I’m doin’ all the stuff a good wife should
and the ol’ man starts lookin’ some good…
God forgive me
I’m packin’ up to go back to Port Aux Choix
when her baby is born.
All figures the two of em’
won’t make it to spring,
puts the little t’ing in a basket
on the stove door just to keep it warm,
Then the poor mudder passes away.
The ol’ man don’t know what to do,
4 small youngsters and a sick baby.
Almost had her give away
to another family when
he finds out why I’m leavin’.
Says he’ll make an honest woman of me
if I takes care of he’s youngsters.
And I’m all smiles
cause t’is nothin’ I haven’t been doin’ anyway
For the past t’ree years,
but feels some bad when poor T’resa
isn’t cold in the ground
and I got a ring on me finger.
Hopes God’ll forgive me
If I takes good care of her babies.
Now there’s six,
I’m not even ten years older than the biggest one.
But thanks be to Jesus
T’rese’s last was born premature,
There’s barely 9 months between our two as it is,
And people ‘round here loves to talk.
Gets to be so that I spends
the next 20 years
with a youngster growin’ inside me.
Has 15 to add to his 5,
16 if you counts the baby that died,
and loves them all the same.
me youngsters is all born strong
when I knows better women than I
has baby after baby
that never draws a breath.
One hard labour,
a baby girl,
Sweet Jesus the pain.
Born with a crippled arm because of it
and they tells me “don’t have no more”.
Try tellin’ a man that.
I has three more,
but one got something wrong,
throws fits, will stay a child,
even in old age.
I wonders if that’s my penance
and if it is, I’ll gladly take it.
By the time I has me last
the oldest are grown and gone
and gettin’ married,
T’anks be to God.
Gets to be so that I’ve spent 20 years
cookin’ and cleanin’,
hands in a pan of bread,
tellin’ this one to watch the youngsters,
that one to start supper,
and I never knows where the b’ys are,
just knows the babies is outside
tied on in the yard so’s they’re out from underfoot.
Grabs a young one as they runs past,
can’t get a name straight in me head.
Gives him he’s fadder’s lunch basket
and tells him to run fast as he can
down to the mill
so it don’t get cold.
You drags them to church every Sunday
‘til they’re old enough that
they takes off first t’ing Sunday mornin’
and it don’t do a jeezly t’ing.
The by’s is always in trouble,
starts comin’ home with girls
wit’ babies in their bellies.
I wants to give ‘em a knock in the head,
Makes their fadder tell them
they’d better do right by them young girls.
One of me own
heavin’ her guts out in the mornin’.
sees her belly swellin’ out
and she, scared to death to say.
But I hears her sisters whisperin’.
Jesus loves me,
I’m no one to judge.
She pours it outta her one day
while I got me hands into supper.
Still got me own little ones yet
and gonna be a grand mudder.
“Yes my dear, I knows.”
I says, and warns her;
Now she got herself into it.
But shes the last of my girls
that I’d ever worry about;
hard as nails,
tough as a boot.
Down to Maggie’s;
room t’ick wit’ smoke and
half of ‘em’s drunk.
Dealin’ out cards to all hands
who can manage to hold ‘em.
My youngsters scattered
halfway down the coast
just so’s they got a place to sleep.
No baby-sitters in them days,
just big ones takin’ care of little ones.
Someones b’y breaks in the door,
“Uncle Mike’s house is on fire”
and everyone is runnin’.
T’ick as the smoke is inside
t’is t’icker out here,
blackin’ out the moon
and flankers swirlin’
instead of stars.
Only half Mike’s kids is standin’ outside
and neider one got the baby,
one triplet lookin’ lost.
All hands passin’ buckets or
runnin’ for a length o’ hose.
The roof caves in and a huff
of air scorches faces,
singes off the eyebrows of some.
I finally spots my youngest,
12 years old,
standin’ wit’ Yvonne’s b’y,
face lit up in orange by the flames.
T’anks be to Jesus
none of mine was into Mikes tonight.
I spose it says something for me
that half me youngsters never left home.
Built their houses
to surround me
and moved their own families in.
Me house is always full o’ youngsters,
and I learns all over again
to block out the noise
and find me own solitude.
Knittin’ little mitts and sweaters
For grand babies,
Cycles goin’ again,
great grand kids born before
the last of the grand kids comes along.
No break between generations,
all ages mish mashed
from 80 to infant.
Things don’t change,
but now me own is getting’ a taste.
What you wants from them
and what you gets;
Two different things.
Loves them all the same
because that’s what you does.