Connie sat staring at her Gran in admiration and some amazement. Maura was wittering on about how brave Gran and Grandad had been and how romantic it must have been meeting like that.
‘A hero and a heroine fighting for the people and falling in love, it’s wonderful.’
Maggie laughed and shrugged,
‘We just got on with things in those days. There wasn’t a lot of time for romance. As for being heroes, we did what we had to do.’
Maura blundered on and innocently asked the question which now had been formed in the minds of the rest of the family
‘But you said the Bandoleer had come back to you, but it came to Connie from America. How did it get to America Gran?’
Maggie Cunningham looked at her granddaughter,
‘Maura darling, I don’t know. I only know that when I went to look for it sometime after the Second World War, it had gone and nobody seemed to know where it had disappeared to. I had kept in wrapped in an old chignon scarf in the bottom drawer of the dresser in my bedroom. The chignon scarf was there folded exactly in the same way but my Bandoleer was missing.’
Connie’s mind was now frantically searching for an explanation.
‘But who would send it to me? I just don’t understand.’
Connie’s mum as always was the one to bring things to an end and suggested rather brusquely that it was getting late and it was time that folks started to think about getting organised for bed.
Maggie gave the Bandoleer back to Connie.
‘Perhaps you can decide what to do with it now. I have no further need of it and I sincerely hope no members of this family will ever feel the need to use it again. It’s good to see you home Connie. You keep the Bandoleer as my gift to you to remind you of the history of your family. Always be proud of where you came from. Your education is the way forward not bandoleers and bullets. Goodnight, God bless all.’
Maggie Cunningham left for her house a few doors down the street escorted by her eldest grandson. As they walked along the street it was as if she was reading his mind.
‘You listen to what I just said to your sister. You’re clever, articulate with a wonderful personality and everything in life ahead of you. Don’t get distracted from the future by romantic myths of the past. People are people wherever they come from, good, bad and indifferent. It’s the politicians who stir it all up to suit their own selfish ends.’
‘I know Gran.’ he said softly, ‘but how long do you carry the yoke of oppression before you break free. Some people only understand a certain kind of argument and it doesn’t come from talking, it comes from action.’
‘Well here we are son, thanks for walking me home.’
Michael bent down to kiss his Gran goodnight
‘You take care. I’ll see you through the week.’
‘Good night son.’
She looked at him intently.
‘Beware of the myths and legends, real life is tough enough without complicating it with fanciful hopes and dreams.’
As she turned the key in her front door Maggie Cunningham thought again about the unexpected re-appearance of the Bandoleer. She would have to talk further with Connie. She remembered that time when she had found the Bandoleer was missing from her bedroom. She had wanted to show it to a local historian who was putting together a pamphlet about people involved in the Republican movement over the years. Her irritation at its disappearance led her to accuse Sean of selling it to get money for a bet. He had, of course, denied it and was affronted that she would even think that he would pawn something like that which had been so important in their lives. He in turn accused her.
‘We have lived together all these years Maggie and still you don’t know me. Do you seriously think I could have done that?’
She had softened her tone and looked straight at him as he stood by the fire.
‘But Sean you became a changed man after Spain. I felt there were times when I just didn’t know you. You never talked about it. All I could see was that you had given up your religion and any belief in God. You gave up discussing politics and worst of all I never heard you sing again. You just got more and more addicted to your gambling. My only consolation was that you weren’t a drinker and at least when the grandchildren arrived you became more like your old self.’
Sean stepped forward from the fire and put his arms around her.
‘Maggie, Maggie, Maggie. I love you so much. I have always loved you. I would never do anything to hurt you. I swear, I did not touch the Bandoleer. Not even when my addiction was at its worst would I have taken it to make a few bob to bet on a horse. I know I haven’t been easy to live with and I’m sure you wanted to walk away many times over the last number of years.’
‘But you never talk. You bottle things up and I’m left guessing what might be going on inside your head. When we were younger we used to have the great chats about anything and everything.’
‘I know, I know. Maybe it’s part of getting older? Maybe it’s all the knocks I’ve had? Maybe it was choosing the wrong sides all the time?’
‘What do you mean?’
Sean looked at Maggie as if he was seeing her for the first time.
‘You were always the stronger one of the two of us. I always felt you thought things through to their conclusion and then once you made your mind up you stuck to any decisions without any regrets. I always acted instinctively to events that were happening and perhaps if I had been more of a pragmatist I wouldn’t have ended up in many of the situations I found myself in. Like the time I nearly lost you. I’m sure Collins or De Valera wouldn’t have given a damm if we had separated and Loyd George certainly didn’t give tuppence about the likes of you and me.’
‘I know, but we’re still here, Collins and Loyd George are long gone and Dev is still praying for his mistakes. I do sometimes wonder how we survived that period of our lives.’
‘I do too.’
He kissed her and held her close.
‘I promise you, I will tell you about Spain.’