Why can’t we say the things we really want to say to our emigrant children?

Catherine Fahey on why she chats about daffodils on Facetime with her son in Australia instead of how she feels


This poem began as a very early morning rant, 6am on Monday last, when thinking of my son, John, living on the Mornington Peninsula, near Melbourne.

He went to live in Australia in 2000. We regularly chat on Facetime, but often at the end of the chat, I know I’ve talked about incidental things, going from one topic to another, and not said the things I really want to say to him, like “why can’t you just come home and see us?”

Married, and with three young children, I understand getting the whole family over here is quite a daunting task, but that doesn’t stop me feeling a bit curmudgeonly about it, now and again. Last Monday morning was one of those times.

When Facetiming - Talk about the daffodils

Talk about the daffodils, then ask him how the children are
The bushfires and that earthquake down the way
Then talk about the weather and the fog
That awful fog that covered every single thing surrounding us
The orchard and the meal-house and the bog.
Then talk about the dog.

And talk about the daffodils
The Yes/ No referendum
The water and the household tax, the Church
And what’s this nation coming to? Is it just as bad down under?
Is Australia just as shaky? In the lurch?
Then talk about the daffodils, how they grew in great big yellow clumps
That the neighbours when out walking stopped to stare
How you plucked them - not the neighbours -
Tied them with a strip of cellophane
And passed them through the wooden fence to share.

Then talk about just anything- the state of the economy,
Will they re-elect poor Enda come next spring?
But don’t ask him any questions to disturb the equilibrium
Don’t talk of Michael Noonan, Gerry Adams, or of Ming.
Then talk about the hospitals, the queues, the food, the lavatories
And tell him any stories that he’d hear -
If he lived near.

That a baby was discovered on a roadside out of Dublin
How a couple in a passing car, stopped by
(when something caught their eye)
And wasn’t it a wonder, but wasn’t it just great
That they found her - when they found her. Not too late!
How she’s being well-looked after in the Coombe
Fed and cared for, and her photo - is in every daily paper
Talk of fate!
Then talk about the daffodils again.

But don’t mention coming over
Or this call will soon be over.
Are there any bargain tickets on the net?
A long journey… so much bother. Talk of something other, Mother.
And his father won’t be in the house - when he tries to call… he’ll bet!

In the pump-field feeding horses. In the paddock fixing fences.
Gone to visit the sick neighbour in a home.
In Tipperary for Confession (it could be a drawn-out session)
And then back to feed the donkey, mare and foal.
And the phone is in the hall
He won’t hear it through the wall,
Or he’s dreaming by the fire, wishing pensions were much higher
Or the price of sheep and cattle

And you’re trying to do battle
With a garden-full of dandelions and weeds.
Did he hear that Pat got married?
That the Water Bill was carried?
Of the day the house burned down across the fields?

Then talk about the daffodils, the boxes on the window sills
The shouts of homophobic, if the NO vote will-be-SO-big
And then Bob can’t marry Joe and link the farms.
The sixteen proclamation, and the state of this poor nation,
How the job he left, fell into someone’s arms.
Keep it simple, keep it clean so this Facetiming machine
Won’t stir up any thing it shouldn’t stir,
Be a cause of contradiction or of instigating friction,
Or a difference of opinion to occur.

And talking of the daffodils, that he’s the one that planted them
And how every year in spring you watch them them grow,
That their roots are going deeper!
(Does he know they trimmed the creeper?)
And the helper at his feet that day was Zo…

And the Rugby World Cup looming, and the summer heathers blooming
And Ban Ki-moon arriving any day
For a Peace Prize recognition, to fulfill a life’s ambition
And to see the Glen of Aherlow in May.

Now his dinner’s nearly ready
Yes, the trading’s fairly steady
And the kids are yawning - time to go to bed
And your time for chat is over. Whether daffodils or clover
And you smile and keep the real stuff in your head
The things you never said….

While you talked about the daffodils
And waffled on and on -
Then you pick up Tina - wave her paw
And say goodbye to John.

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