Mary has three sisters, a brother, and a dead mother. They are all going, or have gone, the way of the world in this forlorn village. The safe, quiet, accepted, expected, respected way.
The men, to the sea in ships. The women, to the upbringing of the family, the keeping of the house, the cloistered social circuit of the dull and the drudge. The desperate heartbreak of stillborn babies, without knowing why. Mama went at the young age of sixty two, her poor body wracked with toil, worry, and the monotonous diet of the place. Her father, last year, from consumption.
Mary, coming now into age, sits in the pews with her village confederates for the quiet ceremony. The mourners are women, girls, and three or four sick old men. All that is heard is the weeping of the older women, close friends and helpers to her mother. Mary’s siblings sit in sullen silence. She’s not the oldest. There is one sister who is ten years her senior, but that sister already wears the kerchief and faded dresses of the crestfallen, following the anointed path.
The little ones would not approach the crude coffin, but the rest did, and dropped their flowers or cold kisses. Mary has not risen from her bench yet, and many eyes are turned her way in expectation. She is the strong willed one, rebellious but never shirking. She came this day, leading the younger ones to their seats. She alone came dressed in bright blue, an affront to the many, almost a sin in this solemnity. But she knew her Mama would have smiled.
She rises purposefully and goes to her mother, hangs her head in remorse by the coffin. Sees the life planned out for her. The drab houses, the dead babies, the absent menfolk. And then, her moment of epiphany. Mother, we are going. I will take them, any who will go with me. Mother, this has not been enough for you, and it will not be enough for us. I cannot do it. I cannot stay. I have seen all of your faces in my eighteen years. The duty bound stinginess of joy. We are digging our own graves. I am growing. I have grown inside as you wanted me to. I have outgrown this life. Sister, I will come back for you if you will not go now.