Seven more sleeps till Santa Clause for all children good and bold. But my mind turns toward Ruth Stoker, will her true story ever unfold?
Think back to December 1923, what was it like for a girl of fourteen? All those miles away in Connemara, first term learning the life of a high society.
Was there a wonderful atmosphere in the Castle, was it decorated there too? Did a giant Christmas tree reach up to the atrium, baubles and candles glinting through?
Were your holiday plans simple? To get home to your own bed. Looking forward to time with your sisters and parents, time for oogling Clearys window instead? How happy I imagine your mother, anticipating her baby girl home at last. Putting aside society etiquette and hugging you fast. Your father might be busy with his Surgery but no doubt he could fit in time for play ? He might let you use with his Champion tennis racket, perhaps a family lunch at the club house a plan for one of the days?
How would your house greet you, Number 23 Westland Row? Would the lamp lights dance and flicker, beams of yellow all a glow? Did you imagine a healthy wreath of green and red, hanging on your front door. The Georgian hallway full of festive cheer, with holly and ivy garlands sweeping the stairway to the floor. Prisms of light dancing through the leaded glass on the landing, where faires hide with glee. Had your parents placed any Christmas presents underneath the candle laden tree?
But you would never see that Christmas, nor sleep in your own bed once more. Never see Jesus placed in the manger of Saint Andrews or hear their Christmas Day choir soar.
I see you instead the week before Christmas, sick in your bed at Kylemore. Feeling miserable, weak and afraid, eyes nervoulsy darting toward the door.
At first, put down to a chest infection and the end of a long school term. The tolls of learning Latin and Music, and elite school rules that were firm. When the infection took hold and got more serious, and scarlet droplets dotted your chin, were travel plans home delayed and the local doctor called in? They then treated you for pneumonia but sure how could the ignorant have known ? It was not only your life that was threatened, but the Community as a whole.
When did they finally move you, were you isolated, placed in an old Castle room? Were the rest of the students sent home with an excuse of Christmas holidays and prayers from Rome.
Was it the 17th when you became too weak, as the fever set in? Did the scarlet droplets turn to blobs of betrayal, as your lungs quickly deteriorated from within? Modern medicine had yet to be discovered, and superstition and taboo your fate. Was there a secret hush throughout the Abbey corridors? It is Galloping Consumption – Alas! too late.
Who bravily cared and wiped your brow , cleaned the blood from your blue lips? Did your parents make it in time to your bedside, say their goodbyes, take your dying kiss?
I know not what hour you slipped from this world. By the 18th you were gone. To be buried in the nun’s cemetery, did the nun’s gather in prayer and sing some song? Did you pass from this world to the next or decide to stay a while? As they lowered you down into the clay, scattering lime as was the style.
Who visited your grave to mourn you, who tendered the mound as it slowly sank? Who placed the hand carved headstone, who do we have to thank?
I see you Ruth Stoker of 23 Westland Row, though I never knew you at all. I can only imagine our friendship, as an original K-Girl. Do you turn to face us in Connemara where your spirit resides? Do you turn to face the sunset beyond Diamond Hill or the Kylemore Lake sunrise?
Here is to you Ruth Stoker and all the K-Girl’s besides. Those, who the week before Christmas have left us, and those over the months and the years of tides . How many smiles turned to sorrow? Hearts broken across the miles?
Lay you all not forgotten,
Lay you loved all the while.
Remembering all K-Girls today
and forevermore besides.