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Blackbirds Return

It was a bright morning in springtime when your father sailed away from me. I ran to the headland out in the bay and watched the boat leave, just stood there, didn't wave or nothing. The crew was rushing about the deck like ants, but I saw a man standing at the stern, looking back to shore. It was too far to see anything but a shape, maybe it was your father saying his goodbyes, maybe some other sailor? I couldn't say for certain.

All those months I waited, hoping every day, praying every night for his return. The ship was bound for the Archipelago and back. We'd all heard tales of those treacherous waters, the Death Straits is what some sailors called them. But I was young then, flushed with first love, full of hope. I'd given my whole heart to him that last week before he went away. I'd loved him in secret for many years before that though (I only had eyes for your father).

As the weeks passed by, I started getting pains and changes and I was getting bigger. I realised I had his baby on the way - we made you on that last week together. I was lucky I didn't show too much otherwise I would have got a hiding from your Grandfather. But I was excited to have my little one, to hold you in my arms.

Now the waiting was worse. I was desperate to see your father again, but I was nervous he'd turn away when he found out there was a baby on the way. And I was terrified that he'd not come back at all.

The day his ship returned is so clear to me, even after all these years. I was getting water from the well and a blackbird landed on the paving stones right next to me. It was a brave little bugger, hopping about the well, staring at me with it's beady eyes! Your father loved blackbirds and had a tame one that flew onto his hand, that was years ago when we were kids. As the bird was bouncing around I heard the bells toll for ship's return. The sound always came clear up the valley, all the wives and sweethearts would make their way down to the harbour.

I tell you, I fairly flew down that hill when the ringing started, even in the condition I was in. I was frantic to see him. Waiting all day at the harbour, I watched every sailor come ashore and witnessed every barrel shipped off the ramps. When it got dark, I knew he wasn't coming back. My heart went cold then, my thinking got all screwed up tight. I pushed my way into every inn along the harbour, going where no respectable woman should go to ask about him. None of the sailors knew anything, hadn't seen him for months.

I didn't sleep a wink that night. In the morning I tracked down the ship's captain and fairly blew up at the man, shouting and cursing. He took it calmly I remember. I broke down then, sobbing, begging for my love to come back. I think he took pity on me and went to check the ship's log. There was a single entry listing your father's name, it said 'missing'. On the third day of setting sail, he'd vanished with no trace left. The captain thought it likely he'd been washed overboard, said it sometimes happened and that he was very sorry to break the news and all that.

I cried every day until you were born. Nights were the loneliest. The days were better, that little blackbird would visit every day to cheer me up. He was cheeky just like your father, the days went quicker with that one around. Once I had you safe in my arms, I was happier. The blackbird kept visiting, it used to sit at the side of your crib and sing, do you remember it? It stayed the summer after you were born and was gone by winter, I never saw that little creature again.

I always think of your father when a blackbird comes to say hello...

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