Category: Oz Project


Part 4

Em made sure that she and Sinéad were seated far away from Conor because she didn’t want poor Sinéad to be tormented any further. The children had all occupied themselves with the usual songs and games for the short, uneventful ride. It took just over half an hour to reach Drombeg stone circle.

The bus parked in the car park and the children began filing out. Lily was standing outside the bus door with Mrs. McCarthy and directing the stream of human traffic toward the footpath that lead to the stones. High walls of fuchsia grew along either side of the path and their viney branches were already heavy with blossoms.

“Sinéad, look at this!” called Em.

“What is it?” Sinéad was still a few steps behind and dragging her feet. It seemed that Conor had put her in a less than enthusiastic mood and Em was determined to change that. Em remembered a trick her father had shown her once in their garden.

“Watch,” Em said as she reached up and pulled one of the fuchsia blooms from the plant. “Now, taste it,” she said, offering the flower to Sinéad.

“What?”

“Taste it.” Em held out the blossom more insistently this time, but Sinéad just shook her head.

“I am not tasting a plant,” Sinéad said, scrunching her nose at the very idea.

Lily and Mrs. McCarthy had caught up to them. “What’s going on, girls?” asked Mrs. McCarthy.

“Ah,” Lily said, “I think Em is trying to show Sinéad an old trick from our family.” Lily reached over and took the blossom from Em’s hand and then lifted it to her lips.

Sinéad decided that it must be safe if Mrs. McFadden would try it, so she plucked another flower and Em did as well. Both girls raised the blossoms to their lips and sipped them. The nectar tasted sweet and slightly herbaceous. Sinéad smiled.

“Plenty more to learn up ahead, girls,” urged Mrs. McCarthy, “Come along now.”

Part 3

After breakfast, Lily cleared the dishes from the table and walked them to the kitchen sink as Em followed. “Where’s lunch?” Em asked.

“There on the counter.”

“What is it?”

“Bacon and cheese sandwiches, apples, and bottled water.” Lily finished rinsing the dishes and put them into the dishwasher. “Ready to go?”

The pair walked out the front door and stopped just long enough to hug and kiss Fin.

“You be a good girl today, Emmy; mind your mam.” Fin picked her up in a giant bear hug. “You be a good girl too, Lily,” he said winking.

Em and Lily began walking along the narrow, winding road into town and Em was fluttery with anticipation. She would flit ahead of Lily and then lap back around behind her again as if she couldn’t keep a steady pace. All the energy of this big surprise had wound itself into a ball inside the small girl and she was merely attempting to unwind it.

In a short time they arrived at the school. Em’s classmates were all gathered outside in the schoolyard talking in small groups Mrs. McCarthy, a small, thin, but pleasant looking woman, was walking briskly toward one bunch of children.

“Conor! You stop that this instant!” Conor Flaherty had been held back twice and he was 11 years old and bigger than everyone else. He was holding fast to both of Sinéad Keogh’s braids and when he heard his teacher yelling, he just grinned. “You stop that now or I’ll send you home instead of letting you go on this outing!”

That seemed like a silly threat to Em. Everyone knew that Conor’s father ran the local sweet shop and almost everyone would much rather be there than at school anyway. Silly or not though, the threat worked and Conor dropped Sinéad’s braids. She ran like a mouse who had just escaped a cat and stopped only when she reached Em who put her arm around her friend. “Bully!” Em yelled to Conor.

“Em!” Lily scolded, but Mrs. McCarthy stopped her.

“Em’s right. The lad is a bully,” she said, smiling. “How do yo do, Mrs. McFadden?”

“Quite well thanks. And you?” Lily asked.

“Grand. Thanks.” She smoothed Sinéad’s hair down from its earlier attack and then smiled at Em. “Are you ready for the surprise?” Mrs. McCarthy turned back and addressed the cloud of children and the few parent chaperones, “Today, class, we will be going to see the Drombeg Stone Circle.”

Lily had been telling the absolute truth. Stones. Em felt disappointment unwind her ball of excitement and turn it to mush. Then she remembered that her father had told her that she would find the trip amusing and educational, so she tried to withhold judgment.

“Drombeg stone circle is known locally as the Druid’s altar,” continued Mrs. McCarthy.

Ok, that sounded fairly interesting.

“The site was discovered in 1957 and excavations over the next year revealed–well, I’ll tell you more once we arrive. To the bus now!” The teacher and chaperones began herding the children in the direction of the car park.

Em just sighed.

Part 2

When Em awoke the next morning she felt refreshed and much more hopeful than she had felt in a very long time.  She thought she had dreamed something, but it was lost somewhere in that fuzzy space just between asleep and awake.

It was nearly the last day of school and the weather was warm and the sun was actually shining which often felt like a miracle in a country with so much rain. Whenever the sun did manage to peek out for a bit between Summer showers, Granny McFadden would tell Em that Mother Nature was just boiling water for the next downpour. Silly stories aside, the sky was bright and blue and Em could hardly wait for the walk to school. They were having an outing that day and the teacher told them it was a surprise. Em had tried to weasel the details out of her father when he signed the permission slip, but he wouldn’t say anything helpful. He just told Em that she would find it “amusing and educational”. Lily was going with the class as a chaperone and she wouldn’t tell Em anything either.

Em leaped out of bed and began rifling through the wardrobe for something suitable to wear just as Lily stuck her head through the doorway, “You’re up! Good. I’ve got a lunch all packed for us and I laid out some clothes last night after you fell asleep. They’re over on the chair by the window.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

“No trouble at all, Dear One. There’s a hot breakfast waiting downstairs on the table and I told Mrs. McCarthy we’d be to school at the same time as everyone else so take your time eating.”

“You still won’t tell me where we’re going? Not even an itty-bitty, teeny-tiny hint?” Em was begging at this point. She was a very practical child and she didn’t like surprises.

“Alright. One hint: there are stones.” Lily smiled, knowing that this hint was no more information than Em had a moment earlier. Of course there were stones- it was Ireland!

Em was a very bright girl and wise to her mother’s evasion. “Ha ha, Mom, ” she said flatly. She hugged Lily around the waist and said, “I’m just glad you’re coming too–wherever it is.”

Em dressed quickly and headed down the stairs practically on Lily’s heels. She hurried to her chair at the table and plunked herself into the seat.

“Good morning, Emmy!” Fin’s deep voice made Em look up from her plate. “What’s for breakfast?”

“Fruit pancakes!” This was Em’s favorite breakfast. Lily would chop up dried fruit and almonds and mix them with the pancake batter then she’d cover the pancakes in melted butter and honey. Em liked hers without almonds and Lily always poured a special batch for Em first.

“Morning, grá mo chroí, ” Fin said as Lily carried a tray with coffee and tea in from the kitchen. Lily blushed the way she always did when Fin spoke Gaelic.

“Good morning.” She kissed his cheek as she walked past and placed the tray on the table.

“Big day today Emmy. Top secret field trip and all.” Fin said grinning.

Em wanted to race through breakfast and learn what the secret was. It took every ounce of self control she could muster just to slowly chew and swallow every delicious bite.

Part 1

Emerald Constance McFadden hated her name. She was only nine, but she had hated it as long as she could remember. She always insisted that people call her “Em”. Everyone would ask if that was short for Emily and Emerald would say, “My great grandma had an aunt named Emily, ” and the person would smile and assume that he or she had been correct. It wasn’t really a lie, but it wasn’t really the truth either.

Emerald lived in a tiny village in Ireland in a cottage that her Irish father, Finbar, had given to her American mother, Lily, in place of an engagement ring. Lily had fallen in love with the house on one of her many visits and Fin knew, then and there, they had to have it. The cottage was right in the center of the rolling, green countryside and Emerald could see the ruins of an old castle from her bedroom window.

As a country, Ireland itself was full of myth and magic and Em wanted no part of either. She didn’t want to be told bedtime stories and she didn’t want to hear about pooka, leprechauns or the Bean Sidhe. She overheard her parents discussing it that night.

“She’s nine! She should want to hear stories–she should even want to read the stories!” Lily sounded frustrated and worried all at once.

“She’s probably just heard too much of it already, ” argued Fin, “You didn’t grow up here; it’s not the same for you. My gran used to tell me so many stories that I thought I’d be sick if I heard another.”

“You really think she’s alright?” asked Lily, the worry winning out.

“I do.” Just as Fin made this declaration Em had poked her small head around the corner. “Emmy! Come here to me little one!” he happily shouted.  “Your mam seems to think that instead of calling ye Emerald, we should’ve named ye Jade.”

Lily had laughed and swatted Fin’s shoulder before she bent down and kissed them both.

Lily was the real magic in Em’s world. Lily loved the Irish rain and made the best of every gloomy day. She taught Em how to peel an apple so the skin stayed in a single, curly piece. Lily knew how to brew the perfect pot of tea that was always a certain shade of amber when it was poured into a cup. But, best of all, Lily always smelled like lilacs.

~~~~~~~~~

Em sat, cross-legged, on top of the quilt at the foot of her bed. Lily sat behind her and brushed Em’s hair. This was their evening bedtime ritual and had taken the place of storytelling. They would talk about the day or school or how the weather had been or what their plans for the weekend might be. Every once in awhile Em would even try to convince Lily that the cottage wasn’t too small for a puppy.

“You’re awfully quiet tonight, Dear One, ” Lily said as she placed the brush on the nightstand and folded back the covers.

Em crawled into bed and kicked her feet up into the air so the blankets tucked under them as she lowered them back down. She looked at her mother with the most serious expression a nine year old girl has and softly asked, “Mom, why do you have the name of one flower and smell like a different one?”.

Lily smiled a huge, warm smile. She wrapped her arms around the little girl in a big hug and whispered in her ear, “Because a name is what you are called, not who you are.”

Em giggled as she drifted off to sleep with the scent of lilacs on her pillow and her mothers words still tickling her ears.  Maybe there was hope yet!

The Oz Project

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Put your talent into your work, but your genius into your life”.

I don’t feel like I’m doing either.

I need to start something new; something bigger than a silly little blog that nobody reads.

I need to start the Oz Project.

I was obsessed with the OZ books as soon as I could read. The whole idea of a little girl being swept away by a storm to a land of far more interest than her home appealed to me. Just like Dorothy, I wanted to get away from the life that seemed so plain. I wanted to escape the evil adults trying to force the silly dreams out of my head. I wanted to find a place where magic didn’t just exist, it thrived.

In the first map of Oz that L. Frank Baum ever published, he included geography of Oz and the surrounding areas. All of those other places were eventually visited in subsequent Oz books–all except for one. One place with borders on Deadly Desert, the land of the Growleywogs, Boboland, and the Ripple Land was never visited; this place was called the Kingdom of Dreams.

Soon you will meet Emerald Constance McFadden and she will take you there.