This slideshow requires JavaScript.

No matter how you came to be at the Home, it were a awful start. Stripped ya naked, lookin for scratchers ‘n things. Rubbed my skin raw, they did, with carbolic soap. Made them bumps and such unscabbed and pusy-like.

They drowned me head and hair (everywhere) with kerosene, washing it like but leaving my head all wrapped up. Matron did that 3 times, makin me sleep like that.

Warned to be careful, but I saw one little thing catch right on fire. It were horrible – burning smell, her cryin out, the matrons rushin about.

Til we were “purified” as the matrons called it, we wore rough cloth smocks. Course all ya owned been burnt – “Lousy. Filthy. Useless” No more collected box of feathers, stones, and other bright darlings I found in mud, and garbage. Even at my age, I missed it, I did. Squeezed back them tears like I all ways done.

Next torture was final “cleaning up.” Washed kerosene out, and even the rosewater ointment to keep the biters away don’t cover the smell. Makes me sick, sumtimes, that smell of sweet and oily.

A doctor-type from hospital looked us over with no modesty. Making scribbles bout us. Broken fingers on me right hand never set proper. Pusy-stuff. Bruises and cuts. I screamed and twisted when he wanted to look other places he had no right to. But matrons held me down. Nobody but me should look there til I gets married. Bad enough them Matrons seen when I come here.

I hears him say, “Typical. Hasn’t prostituted herself, at least. Though I detect she has a taste for alcohol already.” Right ya are, gent. Gets damn cold, cheaper than room or blanket.

After that, matrons went to work on us. Our hair was pulled back hard and done in two braids. A piece of cheap grosgrain ribbon tied the braids together at the end. Colours dependin on things I figure like age, and stuff ya can do. I got a white one. We wore grey smocks with with aprons, itchy stockings we learnt to make, and clunky shoes that never fit quite right.

Then the big ceremony. We lined up waitin for “the important personage who was the benefactor of the home.” He was to give us our new names. Names what to make us ponder our weaknesses or faults. Ya know – Modesty for the flash sort of girl; Charity for the greedy; Faith for unrepentants. We had to stand still, look down until he gave us the name, then we were to look up and smile a real nice polite thank-you like.

I peeked when La de dah came into the room. Tall, fancy like I never seen, I quick looked down agin. The Head Matron and doctor trailed behind, readin those scribbles about us. So, there were a Mercy; a Chastity; a Prudence, and then me – Temperance.

The slide show contains images of childhood poverty and orphanages. The song, Dickens’ Dublin (Lorena McKennitt) is the balancing of a child’s rendition of the Christmas narrative, and the musings of a street child.

Put together for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s Writing Prompt: June 19 2016: Tarot Card “Temperance”

[Joyful mystery, the birth of our Lord… This night our Lady and St. Joseph was going up to get registered and, um, they were going down the road and they met this man and he said, “Have you any room?” and he said, “No, but there’s an old stable over there that I owned, if yous want to go into it.” And they went over and the Lord came down from the heaven at twelve o’clock and loads of beautiful angels was with them, and when they were walkin’…]

I walk the streets of Dublin town
It’s eighteen forty-two
It’s snowing on this Christmas Eve
Think I’ll beg another bob or two
I’ll huddle in this doorway here
‘Til someone comes along
If the lamp lighter comes real soon
Maybe I’ll go home with him
Maybe I can find a place I can call my home
Maybe I can find a home I can call my own

[These three wise kings, um, they were all from different countries. And they always used to look up at the sky and they looked up this night and saw this beautiful star up in the sky. And when they were going they all meeted together and they had to pass King Herod’s, not that we much care for him. And they went in and he said, “Where ye goin’ with yer best stitches on ye?”]

The horses on the cobbled stones go by
Think I’ll get one, one fine day
And ride into the countryside
And very far away
But now as the daylight disappears
I best find a place to sleep
Think I’ll slip into the bell tower
In the church just down the street
Maybe I can find a place I can call my home
Maybe I can find a home I can call my own

[And they said, “Did you not hear the news?” and say he says, “What news?” He says, “This day the Savior is born.” And he says to them, “When you find him come back and tell me ’cause I want to go and adore him too.” And he was only coddin’ them. He wanted to kill him and when they were going, they stopped and they said, “Surely not this old stable that our King is born in. We were expecting a palace.”]

Maybe on the way I’ll find the dog
I saw the other night
And tuck him underneath my jacket
So we’ll stay warm through the night
And as we lie in the bell tower high
And dream of days to come
The bells o’er head will call the hours
The day we will find a home
Maybe I can find a place I can call my home
Maybe I can find a home I can call my own
Maybe I can find a place I can call my home
Maybe I can find a home I can call my own

[There was these shepherds and shepherds are fellas that mind the foals and cows and sheeps and little lambs and all and, um, they hears this beautiful music up in the sky and they were wondering what was so fun. An angel disappated them and he said, “I was wonderin’ what was so fun” and he said ye, and he said, “The savior is born. If yous want to go see him, follow that star up in the sky,” and it was a beautiful star.]


10 thoughts on “temperance

  1. wildchild47 June 22, 2016 / 12:46 pm

    This is a great combo piece Phylor! You’ve explored the tarot card so well – capturing and setting a scene, of great poverty, deprivation, as well as the choices, or lack there of, of so many children of that time. Your narrative voice suits it all perfectly, and of course you’ve gone beyond the exploration of just what it meant as a means “polite society” considered acceptable or reasonable to offer these children “better” lives. You’ve shared what could be such a personal sense of what it might have been like to actually be one of those children. Wonderfully well done:)

    Thanks for sharing your response to the prompt :)


    • taleweavering June 22, 2016 / 8:42 pm

      I can’t always control the historian me — she slips out with vignettes, multimedia presentations (wished for in the olden days of my teaching). These places were altruism mixed with definite ideas about the morals and chances for these girls. Some worked them to the bone, others tried to “save” them, such a complex and complicated time.
      Thank you for your thoughts — as always appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael June 20, 2016 / 3:12 am

    They must have been the most horrible of places and you have captured the horror so painfully clearly. Excellent piece of writing and the voice adds so much to the horror. One wonders what charges of childhood abuse would have come from these places.

    Liked by 1 person

    • taleweavering June 20, 2016 / 12:54 pm

      Seems like there never has been a time when children weren’t exploited.
      I had thought of making the “great benefactor” a more menacing character and his apparently benevolent actions not appear so.
      The awful thing was your choices — workhouse, almshouse, live on the street. The Victorian poor children are like the street kids we see today in 3rd world countries. Oops, the history teacher is climbing out again.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Suzanne June 20, 2016 / 12:36 am

    Gosh it must have been awful to go through experiences like that. Your ‘voice’ captures the tone of someone who would have to endure such tortures very well.

    Liked by 1 person

I love dialogue. Do you?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s