Flood my Mornings: Samhain
@abreathofsnowandashes said: There would have been A LOT of Irish emigrants in Boston in the 1950s, particularly Irish speakers. There would have been Scots too, but in much smaller numbers and Gàidhlig would have been much less likely to have been spoken for obvious reasons. I’d love to see Jamie overhear Gaelic (Irish Gaeilge or Scottish Gàidhlig, he’d understand both) being spoken, or maybe come across a hurling/shinty game and make a connection
Notes from Mod Bonnie:
- This story takes place in an AU in which Jamie travels through the stones two years after Culloden and finds Claire and his child in 1950 Boston.
- See all past installments via Bonnie’s Master List
- Previous installment: Twentieth of October (Claire’s birthday dinner)
October 31, 1950
“Happy Halloween,” chirruped the pimple-strewn lad pumping the Gasoline.
Jamie gave the boy a smile and a nod. “Aye, many thanks, and the same to—Bree, no!” He lunged across the wide seat of the Ford and grabbed her round the middle. She protested and scrabbled vainly for the door latch she had very nearly gotten open. “My apologies,” he said out the open window as he righted himself, holding the lass firmly on his lap, “she’s quite the handful.”
The boy gave Brianna a little wave. “Got big trick-or-treating plans tonight?”
“Ach, no, not this year. Just a bonfire with some friends.”
Burgers, marshmallows, candy, and beer! Nothing fancy! Tom had assured him. Just bring you, the family, and maybe some ice?
Jamie had left work an hour early to drive home, shower, change into clean clothes, and pick up Brianna to drive the two of them back to Fernacre for Tom and Marian’s gathering. Claire was working overnight, this evening, and Jamie was feeling just that wee bit awkward about the prospect of a social gathering without her at his side. Granted, he would know nearly everyone present; and they were his work comrades, after all; hardly strangers.
Still, when the convenient topics and tasks of work were removed from his social scenarios, there would always come the odd moment where his ignorance of modern times or American tastes or both would be thrust into the spotlight (“What did you think of the game?” or “What’s your favorite John Wayne film?”) and it was Claire who so adeptly diverted attention so he might collect himself, even as he wracked his brain to recall where he had heard the name of Mr. Wayne before.
Still, Claire had her duties, and a festive night shared among good folk (for whom he had genuine affection) certainly outweighed the other available option: being obliged to bide by the door all evening, passing out sweeties to any costumed child that cared to ring the bell. Would that strangers had been so generous when I was wandering Boston looking for Claire. Baffling, the lot of them, these Americans.
“Whoops, I’m sorry, mister, I don’t have enough change,” the boy said apologetically. “Can you hold on a minute while I run inside?”
“Aye, dinna fash, lad.”
The boy blinked and made a face of incomprehension. “Dinner what?” Then, realizing how rude he sounded, he raised his hand, looking distraught and about to start babbling.
“I only said,” Jamie interjected, “‘Take your time.’”
He said it patiently, wanting to be kind, but as soon as the boy was out of sight, Jamie closed his eyes and felt himself sighing, wearily practicing the proper phrases in his mind for the next such time. ‘No problem, man.’ ‘Don’t worry about it, Sport.’ Flatter “R”s. Shove sound to the back of the tongue. Quieter. Less.
“We c’n go-to play th’game, too, Da?” Brianna asked suddenly in Gaelic.
“Game?” He blinked his eyes open and studied her face, looking up from his lap excitedly. “What game d’ye wish to—”?
But then he, too, heard the voices drifting across the lot.
“Oh, definitely: Dan’s crew don’t have a chance.”
“I don’t know, they’ve been training hard—and they’re giving Michael and the boys a run for their money, so far!”
He craned his neck out the window. They were men of about his own age or a little older, their arms loaded with sweeties and Soda Pop bottles from the wee store. And they were speaking GAELIC.
Irish, from the sound of it, the Gaeilge; but the cadence and syllables were so like his own mother tongue that he actually was gasping from the rush of shock and euphoria.
He was just about to call after them, but at that moment, the young attendant reappeared. Jamie hastily completed the transaction, tipping a bit too heavily as he watched the men out of the corner of his eye, feeling a pang of dismay as they disappeared down over the hill beside the filling station. Jamie thought he could hear the sounds of a small crowd not far off.
“Beg your pardon,” Jamie blurted, as the attendant was walking away. “What’s going on over the hill, there?”
“Just a bunch of Irish playing—it’s kind of like football, but with sticks and they’re loud as all get out!” he laughed confidentially.
“Game, Da!” Bree whispered in Gaelic.
“They’re harmless, though, I promise,” the boy said hastily, leaving Jamie to wonder what exactly might be feared from a bunch of Irishmen. The boy blanched. “Oh but you’re–you’re Irish youself. I didn’t mean any–” He didn’t bother to correct the boy as to his heritage, simply thanked him once more and sent him on his way.
He checked his Watch, and finding that they were still ahead of schedule, he set Bree on the seat next to him, saying in Gaelic, “Aye, a leannan, let’s DO go see the game.”
It was a group of about thirty men on the field, playing a fast-paced game that Jamie wagered was very close indeed to shinty. The players’ wives and families (and a fair number more, it seemed) were congregated on the sidelines, tending wee coal-grills, drinking, chatting, and calling after the swarms of children running about hither and thither. And all of it was in Gaelic. Jamie wanted to cry, just hearing and seeing this slice of something so like home, the drink-fueled joy of a Gathering, something he hadn’t experienced in many, many years. He could feel the warmth of it all surrounding him with every step he took closer, like the arms of a long-lost friend slowly coming around him.
As he and Bree drew within a few dozen yards, a whistle sounded and the match broke. The players jogged to their wives and comrades to drink and chat. One man on the nearest edge of the crowd, dark-haired and wiry, caught sight of Jamie and did a double-take, turning sharply to face him in the first pink rays of nearing-sunset. “Can I help you?” he called in English, strongly accented; not unkindly, but definitely on guard.
Jamie called back a greeting in as close to Gaeilge as he could recall, though he wasn’t at all confident in his pronunciation.
It must have been close enough, though, for the man’s face brightened at once. “HEY, NOW!” he roared, walking forward with his arms raised in welcome. “A new kinsman! What county?”
“County *Scotland,* I’m afraid,” Jamie replied, slipping into the Gàidhlig without thinking as he returned the man’s warm handshake. “James Fraser, and my daughter Brianna. Do forgive me for intruding; it’s only that it’s been so verra long since I heard anything like my own tongue. I just couldna resist seeing what was what.”
“And we’re glad you did! It’s grand to get to meet a new cousin from the old places.”
The Irish tongue did have its differences, certainly, but Michael Riley seemed to have no trouble understanding Jamie, nor he, him, with only the occasional What was that word? or confidential laugh over differences in emphasis or tone.
Bree had been staring at Michael intently, apparently astonished at hearing Gaelic spoken at close range by someone other than her Da. When Jamie nudged her, she gave a tiny, startled ‘Hi’ in English, then grinned and buried her face in his shoulder, making both men laugh.
“D’ye live in these parts yourself, Fraser?” Michael asked eagerly.
“Not far, but no—I was just stopping for Gasoline on my way out to the countryside. Do all of ye live nearby, then?” Jamie asked, astonished, surveying the huge, lively crowd of players and onlookers.
“Sure do—the station owner turns a blind eye to us using the field, thank the saints, else we’d all likely be arrested.”
“Arrested? For playing a wee game?”
“Well, technically, it *could* be considered trespassing—have a drink?” Jamie politely refused and Michael shrugged, wiping his sweaty brow and taking a deep swig from his own bottle. “There’s a long history of bad blood between Irish and the other folk in Boston. I’m sure there’s plenty of arseholes that would love to see us get comeuppance for whichever dumb mick offended great-great-uncle so and so.”
Perhaps that went some way toward explaining the odd looks Jamie tended to get when speaking to strangers about Boston. He’d always tacitly assumed something in his manner was out of place in some indeterminate way—some eighteenth-century way, that is—but perhaps it was that he was being assumed Irish in a place where that wasn’t altogether a pretty thing to be. He would have to ask Claire.
Christ, he chuckled to himself, an Outlander thrice over, he was, in Boston. At least he wasn’t the only one.
Michael introduced him to the members of his team, one and all bringing Jamie and Bree further into the crowd, offering drinks, and asking about their history and family. He felt as if he’d walked into a clan gathering, even after only ten minutes among the Irish. “And what about you, then?” he asked of Michael, after giving his (presumed) backstory for the half-dozenth time, “From whence in Ireland do you folk hail?”
“Well, we’re mostly Corkmen here—” Michael said, which elicited cheers from the Cork contingent. “Some like me, born here stateside, but plenty of folk fresh off the boat, like Barny, there, except he’s from Tipperary. Then there’s Fergal whose folk are from Sligo,” he said, scanning the crowd and methodically cataloging. “Then Vance and Peter and the other Michael, of Galway. And then over there, there’s Charlie, but he’s not—OY!” He gave a sudden whoop of excitement and cupped his hands around his mouth to yell, “EY, CHARLIE!! COME OVER HERE!! FOUND YE A WEE CLANSMAN!!”
A stocky blonde man jogged over eagerly and Michael clapped him on the shoulder. “Charlie, here, plays for those bastards on Dan’s team, but we won’t hold it against him just at present. Charlie, this is James—James, right? Aye, good—James Fraser. He’s from your precious highlands!”
Charlie was an open, eager sort, ruddy-faced and jovial, quick with a joke and an easy word. Jamie quickly learned from rapid conversation in the Gàidhlig that the man was a Highlander-born, a MacAlister whose family had come to America when he was nearly sixteen. He’d hated the new place, and had planned to return to Scotland the moment as he was of age; but then war had broken out just days before his eighteenth birthday, and he’d been compelled to go fight. He worked as a builder, now, feeding the demand for suburban homes from families in the growing prosperity of the post-war times. Jamie decided he truly liked the man, and knew without asking that he must have children himself, when he grinned at Bree and said, “And hello there, a leannan,” with a little bow.
“Hi, how-wer you?” she responded, to Jamie’s astonishment, in almost-perfect Gàidhlig.
“I’m verra well, thank ye verra much for asking, sweet lass,” the blonde man laughed, straightening and looking impressed. “Does she speak it at home, then?”
“No, not often,” Jamie said, rather apologetically. “I do try to speak it around her when I think of it, but her mam is English, so we—”
“American, you mean?”
“Nay,” Jamie laughed, with a mock-sneer, “an honest-to-goodness Sassenach.”
Charlie matched Jamie’s manner with groan of false-disgust. “Christ, but ye must have balls of steel, Jamie, to — oh!” he said abruptly, looking a bit embarrassed, “Sorry—is it alright that I call ye Jamie?”
Jamie could feel the warmth of kinship flood through him like water. “Of *course,* friend,” he said with feeling.
Charlie introduced his Irish wife Saoirse and their two small boys, to whom Bree took at once, sharing their toys on the grass.
They talked about Scotland, about America, about Boston. About Gaelic. About talk of a free and independent Scotland. About the Celtic traditions that had crossed the ocean, and those that had not. Of gatherings that apparently took place all around the country, in hill-and-mountain places, for folk to remember the old clan ways, even if in naught but a faint imitation. Even of bannocks, whiskey, and wool; the simple things of highland home, even two hundred years hence, it seemed. It was more a balm to Jamie’s heart than he could comprehend: that the Scotland he knew hadn’t vanished entirely.
A whistle blew and Charlie brandished his stick deftly as the crowd began to shift. “Ever played a game of hurling?”
“It’s like shinty, no?”
“Not too far off, not at all. Here,” he said, beginning to walk backward toward the pitch, “come wi’ me and I’ll give ye the rundown.”
With a jolt, Jamie noted the position of the sun and remembered the ice in the back of the Car. “Sadly, we must be going, Charlie.”
“Oh, come on!” Charlie wheedled, taking one last deep swig of beer and kissing Saoirse exuberantly. “Wee Brianna seems to be having a fine time wi’ Nolan and Will. And I’ve got some extra gear if —”
“it isna that at all,” Jamie said, turning an apologetic smile toward his new companion, “it’s only that we’ve got a Halloween gathering to attend, and we’re expected shortly.”
“Och, that’s too bad. First one since you arrived? Weel, it isna nearly so ghostly as Samhain, let me tell ye. All the spooks you’re like to encounter look as if they came out from a children’s book or a Walt Disney film. I tell wee Nolan when he’s scairt in the night that all the ghosts are back in Scotland. No doorways to the otherworlds in America, so no Old Folk to be afraid of.“
(Oh, aye? Ye have one right in front of ye, man.)
Charlie held out the stick once more, inviting. "Sure ye canna be persuaded to celebrate wi’ us instead, Jamie?”
“I truly canna stay, but thank ye, Charlie, I should verra much have liked to.” Jamie knelt to break up the play-circle. “Can ye say ‘farewell’ to your new friends, Bree?”
“Farewell,” she chirped, waving her chubby hand enthusiastically.
“That’s not’th’right way,” chided Nolan, who was a year or two older. “You say it funny.”
Bree looked crestfallen, but Charlie ruffled his son’s hair, laughing as he gently scolded. “Nay, a chuisle, you’ve just grown up wi’ Gaeilge—YOU’RE the one who ‘says it funny.’”
Jamie scooped Bree into his arms, whispering in her ear about how proud he was of her before turning back to Charlie. “Do ye play every week, then? I’d truly be honored to come back another time.”
“Oh aye. The winter snows will start falling soon, but we’re here most every chance we can get, when the ground’s clear.” Charlie sized him up frankly, nodding with approval. “You’re a braw-looking fucker, alright. Dinna let Michael steal ye for his lousy crew, aye? They’re naught but loud bastards. The *real* talent’s wi’ us.”
Jamie made a general farewell to the crowd and received a hearty chorus of well-wishes and toasts in return.
“At the risk of seeming too eager, Jamie…” He turned to see that Charlie was looking sheepish, “might the wife and I have ye and the family over for dinner, sometime?”
When Jamie didn’t immediately respond, the man shrugged, but didn’t falter. “Mebbe it’s daft, but as much as I love my Irish folk, it’s grand having someone to talk to in the old ways again; who’s truly my countryman. D’ye ken what I mean?”
Jamie swallowed down the lump in his throat as he clasped the man’s hand. “Aye, a caraidh, I ken it more than ye can possibly know.”