Mary Kate’s Christmas© part 2
By: Wayne Engle
Mary Kate and Pat had a happy first few months together. Pat was a hod carrier for several South Boston bricklayers. Mary Kate stayed at home, the dutiful wife. Sometimes Pat could get some overtime work, and then the young couple would use the extra money to go out “for a pint,” as they say in Ireland. Pat thrived on life in the taverns, with the chat and the singing of Irish songs in his fine tenor voice, after a few drinks. Mary Kate loved listening to him, and was no slouch at conversation and music herself, either. A fairytale marriage seemed to beckon, for a fact.
Then Mary Kate was pregnant, and in due time the couple had a fine young son — Patrick Skeffington Jr. Mary Kate insisted that everyone call him Little Paddy.
He was the image of his “Da,” as they say in Ireland. But after his initial pride at being a father, Pat’s outlook began to take a sour turn. Work became more of a grim necessity with a child to feed. Trips to the taverns were less frequent; the overtime money had to go to necessities for the baby, and Mary Kate seemed centered on Little Paddy now — less and less the loving, fun-loving wife, more and more the doting mother. Pat began to feel like he was nothing but a pay envelope for wife and little son.
By and by, Pat was going to the taverns by himself, and taking the overtime money with him. Bitter arguments came calling; Mary Kate accused her husband of turning into a boozing no-good who cared nothing about his family. Pat reminded her that there were three people in the family, and that it seemed to him that the one who was paying the bills seemed to be getting little regard or attention from the one he had married.
So they struggled along for a full five years before, one day, while Mary Kate was gone cleaning houses to help bring in a little more money, Pat Skeffington just disappeared. She returned home that day to find him gone, along with his clothes and his few other personal possessions. He left no note, no hint of his destination. Mary Kate and Little Paddy, now 5 years old, had been abandoned.
Mary Kate still loved her husband, despite all their troubles. She searched high and low for him. Father O’Neill at St. Bridget’s helped her, writing and telephoning to other Irish priests around Massachusetts to see if they had any news of a young man from the Ould Sod who had left his family. Other friends she had made in South Boston helped look, too. Somebody, somewhere must know where this irresponsible runaway was, they said.
But your man Pat never turned up. Some people said he had gone to New York City and lost himself there among the thousands of its Irish-American community. Others claimed to have seen him sneaking aboard a ship bound back for Ireland. But these were all rumors. Pat Skeffington in the flesh never appeared. Mary Kate and Little Paddy were on their own — just herself and himself. Remember, this was 1925. There was no welfare or AFDC or other such programs to help a young mother and her son, abandoned to their fate.