Like a rock in the sea, islanded by fields…..
Reading Mary Lavin’s story ‘In the Middle of the Fields’ in the recent anthology of Irish Women Writers The Long Gaze Back, I was reminded of a visit to East Walpole on the outskirts of Boston several years ago. I had travelled along Washington Street which seemed to extend forever in straight lines south-east of the city. I remember the harsh-sweet smell of hot asphalt when I reached the sleepy town.
It was here that Mary Lavin, the only child of Irish parents, was born in 1912 and passed the first nine years of her life. At the brow of a hill on the town’s edge, I entered the Francis William Bird Park which slopes down to the Neponsett River across which was the mill where Tom Lavin worked. Here the the small black-haired child was thrilled by parkland, flowers and water, imaging that she flew over the place like a bird. In October 1921, Mary Lavin left East Walpole and crossed the Atlantic to Ireland with her mother for a new life.
The shadows were lengthening when I departed William Bird Park to a chorus of bird song, soon facing the long stretch of Washington Street back to Boston. Next day I crossed the Atlantic through turbulent skies.