From the story, The New World
Iris always traveled with a small arsenal of books. Kristen always with an heirloom rosary.
On their third morning at the other side of the world, Iris was still fully beneath her blanket, comfortably absorbed in the Florida of David Baldacci’s The Forgotten.
On the other side of the wall, Kristen was sitting on the edge of her bed, still in her gray, flannel pajamas, her arms folded on her lap, saying her prayers. She was using the varnished, cherry-wood nightstand as a makeshift alter, upon which she’d lit two cup-sized candles and arranged, between them, small, brass-framed photographs of her husband and three sons.
She visualized her prayers spiraling out toward God in the way that a nautilus shell unfolds from within. She would always start with herself and pray that her creator would help her engage the world with an open heart and open mind, even in the face of her anxieties. And from there she would build outward, to pray for her husband, each of her sons, her daughter-in-law, her mother, her father’s memory, her sister. And then she would pray for Limerick, and Ireland, and for the goodness of the people of the world. Five years ago, on Earth Day, she’d added the planet itself, which she referred to as “your creation,” and which she prayed that God would protect “from our carelessness, our greed, and our corruptibility.”
At 8:20 a.m. she said “amen,” and extinguished the candles. As the vanilla smoke circled up from the wicks, she pulled her knees to her chest in meditation. In some ways, the purpose of the trip to America was to register and manifest a belief that there was life after motherhood. And, yet, she still felt guilty about the cost, especially now that all of Ireland had fallen on such hard times economically, and two of her sons were struggling to find work.
Before long, Iris thumped twice on the wall, which was a signal between the old friends that it was time to begin greeting the day.
“Oh my God,” Iris said, when the two met at the top of the stairs. “Can you believe they’re about to have dinner in Limerick?”
“Well, let’s hope so,” Kristen replied with a smile.
“We’re going to the Davenport Hotel for breakfast,” Iris than announced, as she stretched her arms above her head and yawned. “And don’t worry, it’s on me.”