Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Welcome Home


Alexander Burke was one of the first settlers in the Town of Camden Corners . He had come to New York City from Ireland as a young man only to find himself missing the green meadows of his home in County Donegal. He worked diligently at what ever job he could find ending up at a brewery near Five Points. There he met Duncan Mackenzie who had left his home in Glasgow two years before. The two young men hit it off immediately. They both had their memories of a quieter life in their native lands.
They were roommates in a brownstone operated by Mrs. Geraldine O'Sullivan who told them stories of growing up in the town of Greensboro. Her memories included going to a place called Camden Corners for summer holidays. Geraldine was the only girl in a family of six boys and had learned how to rough it long before it was proper for a young lady to do so. She talked about the hills and lakes and how beautiful it was to see the sun come up over the water. Alexander and Duncan listened to Mrs. O'Sullivan tell stories of all the animals and birds in the area and the trout that she and her brothers caught for supper. They decided they needed to explore Camden Corners and worked hard and saved their money until they had enough to purchase a horse and buggy. They packed their few belongings, hugged Mrs. O'Sullivan goodbye and started their trek to their new home. They would miss some of the hustle and bustle of New York and a few of the pretty girls they had met while there but the excitement of seeing another part of the country kept them going on the long trip to their new home.
They were surprised when they arrived in Camden Corners. It wasn't quite the wilderness area Mrs. O'Sullivan had described from her times there. It wasn't a big city but it did have a general store, a post office, church, some homes and even a library. As the boys drove into town they noticed a railroad station was being built. This was going to be a fine place to settle down. They were lucky to find work around town helping the construction crews.
The railroad itself was almost completed and would go through Camden Corners from New York City to St. Louis. Alexander and Duncan were grateful to Mrs. O'Sullivan, without her they would never have known this lovely little town existed.
For the next few years, the town grew, the boys were busy with their construction jobs and had learned a great deal about the building business. They knew it was time for them to start their own business and what better business than a pub.
Miss Isabelle Simon was the town's librarian. Even with her hair tied securely in a bun at the nape of her neck and her prim and proper attire, Miss Isabelle was a beauty. Alexander took a shine to her the first time he saw her. Alexander and Isabelle were married in the Hilltop Chapel with Flora Marshall and Duncan Mackenzie as their witnesses. Three months later Flora and Duncan were married in the same chapel.
Between the two couples, they had twelve children.
The years went by swiftly and the two chums continued running the very popular pub they named O'Sullivan's after their good friend Geraldine O'Sullivan. Their children all married and kept their fathers happy presenting them with grandchildren on a continuing basis. Alexander and Duncan had a hard time remembering which grandchildren belonged to them and which belonged to the other. Even the grandchildren were confused since the two families were happiest when they were all together.
Alexander and Isabelle's oldest son, Liam married Nadine West. Nadine loved making candy even when she was a young girl. It was only natural she would open a candy shop. Liam and Nadine's oldest child was a girl named Maddie.
Duncan's son, Gordon married Fiona Rourke who made the best Irish stew Alexander had ever tasted. Fiona was delighted when her specialty became a very popular choice on the O'Sullivan's menu. Gordon and Fiona's first child was a son they named Gordon, Jr. but he was always called Mack.
Mack and Maddie were the best of friends for many years. Mack comforted Maddie and her broken heart when she saw her heartthrob Tommy Jones holding hands with Melinda Sue Reynolds. Maddie cheered Mack up when he broke his arm and couldn't pitch for the big game in his senior year in high school.
They were the best of friends until the summer after graduation when everything changed. Maddie had inherited her mother's love of candy making. She read about a candy making class in the Greensboro Weekly News. It was the only one of it's kind in the United States. Maddie showed her parents the article. They knew it was an opportunity for their daughter to learn a skill beyond what her mother would ever be able to teach her. Maddie's Aunt Grace lived in New York City and as luck would have it, she was very close to the culinary school where the classes were held. It seemed like such a perfect plan. She was excited and couldn't wait to break the news to Mack.
Mack was working at the pub when Maddie came in to tell him of her plans. Instead of being happy and excited for Maddie, Mack blew his top.
How could she do this to him? How did she find out he was going to the same culinary school to become a chef? Was she doing this just to keep an eye on him? He was looking forward to being on his own and not having to answer to anyone and now Maddie, his constant shadow was going to be following him to New York City. He could see the hurt in her eyes as he ranted and raved but he couldn't seem to stop himself. He was the oldest of 8 children. His aunts and uncles and all of Maddie's family had been around constantly while he was growing up. Even his job at the pub didn't bring the solitude he craved. He was tired of family, tired of friends and especially tired of Maddie.
Maddie left the pub trying desperately to hold back her tears. She knew if she told her parents what Mack said it would hurt them and she didn't want to do that.
She didn't see Mack again after his blow up. He didn't stop by her house to say goodbye when he left on the train for New York.
Her classes started the following month. She knew there was a possibility she would run into him but she would try to avoid him if she could.
Maddie did well in her classes. She learned so much about candy making and couldn't wait to get back home to show off her new skills.
Aunt Grace loved showing her niece all the sights of New York City. They took in a couple of Broadway plays and stopped in at O'Reilly's Irish Pub and met the proprietor Mr. Sean O'Reilly and his lovely wife Maeve.
Maddie never did run into Mack. Her mother asked her about him in her letters but Maddie kept saying their schedules were full and they couldn't find the time to get together. Nadine guessed the children had a falling out and didn't pursue the matter any longer.
Maddie's time in New York came to an end. As exciting as New York City was, she was happy to be home in Camden Corners . She taught her mother all the tricks she had learned and Tempting Treats Candy Shop was even more popular than it had been before.
Mack was ashamed of himself for the way he had spoken to Maddie that day. He didn't know what had gotten into him. Maddie was the most honest person he had ever known. She didn't deserve what he had said to her. He'd had an argument with his father that evening. Gordon couldn't understand why a son of his would need to go to some dad gum school to learn how to throw a sandwich together.
Mack was determined to go and had saved his tip money all through high school. He paid for the train fare and tuition himself. Gordon couldn't stop him and after the shock wore off, he sent him off with his blessing. Gordon had to be honest with himself. He was afraid if his son spent any time in the big city he would never want to come back to Camden Corners .
Mack was enthralled with New York. He visited every museum he could find when he wasn't absorbed in his classes. He spent a bit of time in O'Reilly's and never tired of hearing Sean and Maeve O'Reilly tell the stories of growing up in Ireland. He got to know the whole O'Reilly clan and loved being with them. It reminded him of his family and his home in Camden Corners .
His studies took up some of his time but he found himself alone many nights in his room at the YMCA. He didn't even mind the noise on the streets that seemed to go on all night long. It was better than the deafening silence. He was missing his family and missing Maddie more than he thought possible. He knew she had been to O'Reilly's because he saw her through the window one evening. She was laughing and having a wonderful time singing Irish songs along with the patrons of the pub. Mack was embarrassed to see her and a little miffed that she was enjoying herself so much with all those other fellows. He walked back to his room and spent the evening alone.
It was a long hot summer in New York but by the first of September, Mack had graduated and was on the train heading home. The railroad station was overflowing with Mackenzies and Burkes. Mack looked through the crowd and was disappointed that Maddie wasn't among the welcomers. Everyone else looked wonderful to him and he knew from then on Camden Corners would always be his home.
Maddie was busy working in the the Candy Shop. She finally confided in her mother about the hurtful incident between Mack and her before he left for New York City.
Nadine and Fiona had suspected Mack and Maddie had feelings for each other and were both too stubborn to admit it. Fiona finally had a chance to talk with her son alone and encouraged him to pay a visit to Maddie.
Mack found himself strolling past the candy shop trying to catch a glimpse of Maddie. Maddie pretended she hadn't seen him the first five or six times he walked by.
“I must put an end to this.” Maddie said aloud, “I can't spend the next 40 years not looking up when he walks by. “
She went to the doorway waiting for him to walk by again and called out. “Welcome Home, Mack”.
Mack's face turned red as a beet. She looked wonderful to him. Was she always this pretty? He told her how sorry he was for the way he spoke to her months ago.
Maddie smiled and told him she knew he didn't mean it and what are friends for if you can't let off a little steam once in a while.
Mack gingerly walked towards her and gave her a hug. Did she always feel this good?
They talked about their experiences in New York and how foolish it was that they didn't get together the whole time they were there. They talked about O'Reilly's Pub and made plans to visit there again someday.
Maybe it was that day or maybe it happened years ago but Mack and Maddie finally realized they were no longer just friends.
They were married the following Sunday in the little Hilltop Chapel keeping up the tradition that their grandparents, the Burkes and the Mackenzies started many years ago.

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