We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to tell you that today, January 6, is Alynn's birthday. Since she was born in 950, she'd be 1,070 years old today. If we say she was born the year I created her, which was 2014, she would be six. But since good books are immortal, along with the characters that make them, we'll just imagine her at whatever age strikes our fancy. And I, of course, will be telling the story that Rowan told her every year--the story of the day she was born.
Alynn was born in Limerick, Ireland. Her father Rowan, at that point, was a fisherman, and so they lived in a small house near the River Shannon, where Rowan set out six days a week to ply his nets. But on the first Saturday after New Year--Epiphany Eve--a frightful snowstorm set in. Rowan put up no argument when his fishing partner and next door neighbor, a cantankerous older man by the name of Seamus, decided to head home.
And it was a good thing Rowan did head home. The storm got worse and worse, and by the time he was safely inside his own four walls, the wind was screaming like a banshee and the snowflakes were so thick that he couldn't see more than three feet in front of him.
Rowan noticed two things right away. The first was that everything in the house was spotlessly clean. The second was that his wife, Caitriona, was still cleaning.
"Caitriona, for God's sake, will you sit down and rest a bit?" he said, shivering as he took off his boots. His feet would be cold, he knew, but he'd rather be cold than see Caitriona dry away every footprint he left on the dirt floor. She seemed unwilling to welcome her first child into a home that had a single speck of dust in it.
The moment he'd finished doffing his boots, Caitriona was in his arms. "How long do you think the storm will last?" she asked.
"Can't say, as of yet. Why? What's wrong?" Rowan, like any decent father-to-be, had a healthy sense of panic.
"Nothing--we've hours yet until anything happens, but I'm just frightened--I hoped my mum could be here--Rowan, don't you dare--"
Rowan opened the door, but Caitriona grabbed his arm and pulled him back inside. "If you're going to fetch the midwife in this weather, Rowan, you'd best put your boots back on first. And make some sort of mess for me to clean up. I need to keep my mind off things."
"Shouldn't you be resting?"
And with that, Rowan put some wood on the fire, making sure to toss soot and sawdust everywhere, and left to fetch help.
The storm, somehow, had gotten even worse. Rowan ran face-first into Seamus's hut before he saw it, and he realized what he was doing. In this weather, it would take him forever to find help, and forever to get home--if he got home at all! So, against what he would have normally called his Better Judgement, he went into Seamus's house and stood shivering for a moment, too cold to speak.
Seamus must have recognized the look on Rowan's face, because his usually stony face softened a bit. "Bad weather for the stork to fly in," he said. "Go back home. I'll fetch help for you."
"You're certain?" Rowan asked, shivering.
"I was in yer boots once, laddie. Go on."
And so Rowan went home, where the soot and sawdust was already cleaned up. He finally got Caitriona to sit down, and together, they waited.
The storm kept raging. Caitriona squeezed his hand until his fingers curled inward from lack of blood, and still, no Seamus. Her water broke, and still, no Seamus. Time ticked on until Rowan was sure it was midnight, and still, no Seamus.
Finally, heart hammering and mouth as dry as an overcooked chicken, Rowan caught the baby. He had just enough time to announce "Cait, it's hideous" and hand the thing to its mother before passing out cold on the floor.
It was half an hour before Caitriona noticed. As far as she was concerned, her new baby girl was the most beautiful thing in the world.
By the time Rowan woke up, it was seven o'clock on Epiphany morning. The storm had stopped, Seamus was there, the midwife was there, and Caitriona was half-asleep. The baby was wrapped in blankets and pillowcases and held tight against her mother's chest to keep her warm.
Of course, when Rowan told the story to Alynn and all the siblings that followed her, he claimed the first words he'd said upon seeing his daughter were, "Cait, she's beautiful." Caitriona would smile and shake her head every time she heard the story, but she'd never correct it. Rowan's version suited her well enough.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.