In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ode to a Playground.”
As I read this prompt, my mind jumped to a picture – flight of brick steps in the grass in the middle of a field. Starting nowhere, ending just a few feet higher up – I do not have a photo and maybe now even if I returned there – there would just be a field. Just the grass, or maybe a new bungalow, or a car park, or shopping centre. Who knows what is there now. Last time I passed by, about the year 2000, the steps were just about visible.
I was about 3/4 years old when I first saw the steps, climbed the steps, sat on the steps. They were at the back of the house we moved into, a square brick house with more than the usual 4 windows as the middle one on the top was our bedroom (me and my sisters). The steps went up the garden to the greenhouse where my mum grew tomatoes.
Of course it was a BRICK house. My father was newly made manager of the brickyard that was just over the road. In 1947 managers lived near the job. This was the new yard, and he was also manager of Tyrone yard (3 miles away, tyrone brick) and Kelly’s yard (about a half mile, the other side of the village, fireclay drains and pipes and gully traps and stuff now plastic).
The brick house was where I lived, all my schooldays. Then I moved away to university, and coincidentally it was time for Dad to retire. My parents moved up the road a few hundred yards. The ‘managers house’ went to the new manager. And then, managers stopped living on the job, and the brick house became offices.
And then. This is an Irish story.
When my Dad came to Coalisland Brick he had made a big decision. You see, no-one said, but everyone knew, Tyrone was a Protestant yard, Kelly’s was Catholic.
Dad decided Coalisland would be MIXED. And it was. Kiln workers, lorry drivers, foremen, office boys – and girl – some went to one church, some to other churches, even like himself no churchgoing at all. I found some things out when he died about fifty years after the decision. His death, and the day of his funeral, was announced from all the pulpits on the Sunday, and then the men came. So many elderly ordinary men. Telling stories.
After the troubles arrived in Northern Ireland, when the brick house was offices, somebody didn’t like that it was mixed, or didn’t like somebody or something else. Somebody, one of them, one of youse, whose? don’t know, set a fire in ‘the offices’, and the brick house was no more.
Just the steps, up the garden at the back, soon just a field. I saw them on a visit home, I cried. Mum cried too, that had been her house.
The steps I crawled up as we went to get parsley from the back garden
The steps I climbed up to reach the garden swing
The steps I ran up to the place where I could jump to the garage flat roof (!)
The steps I sat on watching the stars (having been put outside the back door to calm down after being ??? bad ??? I still love to watch stars.)
The steps I saw over my boyfriends shoulder when we said goodnight by that back door
The back yard brick steps of the brick house my father built
I pieced the stories together much later, they are as right and as wrong as all memories and anecdotes are. But I know it is not surprising that I know in my bones that putting things together brick by brick is a better way to build than fighting and knocking things down.
Today I look at pictures of destruction, more bombs, more damaged homes where no tomatoes and parsley will grow. I think, My father knew this in 1950’s. Why in this world doesn’t everyone know it?
Put things together.
Learn to live together.
Share your stories, however different.
Then there are stories worth remembering.
For what it is worth, I wish far more, this post is for the displaced people of Syria.