Thomas F. O'Neill
Songs of Angels
She listened somberly as the Priest read the prayers at the graveside. Her mother’s casket was slowly being lowered into the ground. A six year old girl grasped her Mother’s arm as the Priest slowly walked toward them, “She is with Jesus, now,” he said, but his religious platitudes rang hollow for the woman who just buried her mother. The Priest’s words and manner seemed somewhat rehearsed to Sally Stoner.
She tried desperately to hold back her tears, “Don’t cry, Mommy,” her daughter whispered.
Her family, friends, and neighbors walked stoically by her side as they turned from the graveside. They then quickly gathered at Sally’s home and spoke openly about her Mother. They shared food with one another it was their way of showing that they truly care for each other.
They shared stories as well about the old neighborhood were Sally and her friends grew up. She is one of the few that stayed behind in her hometown. Most of her friends after graduating high school and college left for better opportunities and a better life. They knew it was a rough year for Sally and her daughter, Morgan.
husband had left her, and the outsourcing of the local plant left her unemployed. Now the death of her mother only added to the fact that life was beating her down. She drew on every fiber of strength though, to remain strong for her daughter. She wanted desperately for Morgan to have a better life and future.
“Remember old Mr. Pompasko,” Sally’s cousin Fred said, “He taught Ninth grade English, whatever happened to him.”
“He retired long ago,” said Sally, “I remember the fun we had. The tricks we played on him. Remember when we glued his chalk to the chalkboard?”
“Boy did he get mad,” said another cousin, “I was too scared to laugh after that look he gave me.”
“Everything was so different then, the whole town is different now,” said Fred, “It sure changed from when we were kids.”
“I know,” said one of Sally’s neighbors, “this town is going downhill really fast.”
“I would give anything to move from here,” Sally said, “I want my Morgan to have better opportunities.”
“Nixon is resigning,” yelled Sally’s Uncle who was sitting in front of the TV, “do you believe it? Gerry Ford is taking over.”
“I don’t necessarily see Nixon resigning as the end of the world, Mr. Shishitski,” said Fred, “in a matter of time he would have been impeached.”
“Yeah, I suppose so,” said Sally’s uncle, “but Gerry Ford taking over, what the hell is this country coming to?”
Sally and the others continued to reminisce and laugh about their childhood experiences. The conversations stirred up deep feelings and emotions. Sally’s feelings welled up to the surface and she was unable to hold back her tears. She began to tell them stories about her father who immigrated to America from Poland. Like most of the immigrants in their hometown, they’d come there to work deep in the coal mines. But when Sally’s Mother died the coal mines had closed for twenty some years and their hometown has been on the decline ever since.
The stories stirred up some of her earliest memories as well. She told them how her father would sing Polish songs to her when she was her daughter Morgan’s age. One song in particular was of an Angel watching over a young orphan child. He sang the songs with such passion, love, and warmth. She still remembers how he would hold her in his arms as he sang. She would try and sing along with him. It was her father’s way of putting her to bed. The memories brought her both comfort and pain though, because her father passed away when she was only seven years old.
His body had been laid out in the living room and she could remember the miners dressed in their Sunday suits coming to pay their last respects. Her father only had one suit and that was the suit he was buried in. She had also grasped her mother’s arm at the cemetery the day her Father was buried.
At the age of seven she tried desperately to write the words of the songs her father sang to her. The harder the little girl tried the more the tears flowed. Her Polish mother held the grieving child in her arms. She told Sally, “Your father will always sing to you,” as she wiped the tears from Sally’s face. “Your father’s love will always be with you,” her mother told her once again in Polish.
While holding young Sally with all of her might, “his love will always be sung to you, you will see,” said her Mother with certainty, “Like the Angels in his songs, he is with you.” Young Sally with all of her might believed her Mother’s words. The thought of her Father watching over her like an Angel brought her great comfort.
A few days after her mother’s funeral, she moved into her Mother’s home. The house brought back so many recollections. They were memories of relatives and her Mother’s friends that have also passed away over the years. The memories came with each new discovery of old postcards, photos, and old letters from bygone days. Sally was an only child and the thought of not being able to talk to her mother weighed heavily on her.
It was just a few days after she moved, she enrolled her daughter in a new school. She was very much concerned about how Morgan was handling the change. Morgan’s father was no longer in the picture either. That just compounded the feeling of abandonment. She felt that she and Morgan were now alone in the world.
Sally decided a few weeks later to visit the school once again. She talked to Morgan’s homeroom teacher, Miss Crone.
“Morgan is such a bright little girl with an extraordinary imagination,” Miss Crone told her.
“My only concern” said Morgan’s teacher, “is your daughter has been sitting with the children during recess rather than playing the games they normally play. When I questioned them about it, Morgan said a nice man is singing songs to them. There’s never a man there singing. The others sing along with Morgan all huddled together. It’s been going on ever since your daughter arrived at our School. Her over active imagination is having an effect on the other children.”
“That doesn’t sound like my Morgan,” said Sally.
Sally called her daughter over to ask her, “Who’s the man that sings songs to you.”
“He’s such a nice man, Mommy, funny, and kind,” said Morgan. “He’s teaching me Polish too. He sings to me in Polish, and then he explains the songs to me in English.”
“That is what I mean,” said Miss. Crone, “your daughter has an extraordinary imagination.”
“How does this man look, Morgan?” Sally asked.
“He has a brown suit with stripes and a purple hanky sticking out of his pocket.” Morgan went on to say “he wears the same suit every day.”
Tears began to well up in Sally’s eyes as she knelt down to talk to Morgan.
“It’s normal for children to make up stories,” said Miss Crone.
“What songs does he sing to you,” Sally asked her with a tear rolling down her cheeks.
“Don’t cry, Mommy, they are happy songs,” Morgan said to her, “they are about angels and love. You find out at the end of one of the songs that only the children can see the Angel.”
“Wait here, Mommy,” said Morgan, as she ran over to her desk and grabbed her book bag. She then quickly ran back to her mother and pulled out a notebook from her bag and handed it to her.
“I wrote the songs down for us,” said Morgan, “one song is about an Angel watching over a young child but only children can see the Angel. The songs are about love.”
Sally began to wipe the tears from her face and she said to Miss Crone, “those were the songs my father sang to me when I was a little girl. I tried so hard to write down the words to his songs after his death. My mother told me his love would never leave me and I believed her.”
“Where did you get those songs, Morgan? At your nana’s house?” asked Miss. Crone.
“No the nice man sang them to me and he told me to write them down so I did,” said Morgan, “He said the songs are for the children.”
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Stoner, I will get to the bottom of this and find out who that man is,” Miss Crone said.
“That’s quite alright I know who that man is,” said Sally, “and he can visit Morgan and the other children whenever he wants.”
As Morgan was walking home with her mom, she said, “Mommy that is Pappy that comes to my school isn’t it?”
“Yes it is,” said Sally.
“You are so lucky to have him as a daddy,” said Morgan.
Always With love,
Thomas F. O’Neill
Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by
Thomas F. O'Neill can be found at the links below.
Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.