Thursday, March 23, 2023

A Cup of Irish Tea with Mary Jo

March is time for Irish families & stories. I have Irish ancestors on both sides of my family but mainly from my maternal grandmother, Helen F. Coyle Gardner. Her parents were born in Ireland. Here is her mother, who I never met.

My Great Grandmother

1867 Ireland – 1927 Bronx, NY
Daughter of Daniel & Brigid (English) Mullane
Married 1895 NY City to Michael Coyle
Mother of seven children

I’'d like to have a cup of tea with Mary Jo. She died just three months before my mother was born. Over time I have uncovered many facts about her life. I know she was born in Ireland and came here to New York in 1885. I know when she was married and the names & birthdays of her seven children. But I’d like to know more than mere facts.

I would cover my table with my Irish linen tablecloth and set it with the delicate china plates and tea cups. I'd brew some Irish tea; I'd lean in and look into her eyes and ask her what it was like to pack her trunk and say good-bye to her brothers, sisters and her parents when she left Ireland. Was she excited about the adventure or was she desperate to find a job opportunity? Did it cross her mind that she would not return to that beautiful green country for many years? 

I’d pour us another cup of tea and I’d ask her about meeting Michael Coyle. Her youngest daughter told me that Mary Jo & Michael were living in the same boarding house and they met on a staircase where it was love at first sight. What was the courtship like? What was it like to get married in New York with her family far across the ocean?

I’d ask her what it was like to be the mother of seven children in New York City in the early 1900s. Her mother was across the ocean. She could not even pick up a phone and call her mother to ask how to handle potty training or how to get her children to sleep through the night. Who did she turn to when she had questions about childbirth and child rearing? Her cousin, who had from Ireland with her had no children. What was motherhood like at that time? What were her fears for her children and her joys? I’m sure it was both different and the same as my days of child rearing. I’d like to hear about the times Mary Jo thought were most precious. What was my grandmother, her oldest child, like as a child, a teenager and as a young woman?

I would like Mary Jo to learn more about her life between the facts and I’d like to tell her about my life. I am now older than she ever became. I can tell her how joyous it is to be a grandmother, something she never achieved. It would be nice to sit and sip tea and share some Irish brown bread and talk about life. 

I have written a book about my mother's family, 
including Coyle, Brady, Mullane & many more. 

Contact me [] to purchase a copy of this 344 page book.

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