By Holly Jensen
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Mary quietly lifted her heart's cry to the Father, saying, “Lord, we need ya now. All Ireland needs ya now.”
She’d hardly finished when she found herself no longer sitting outside. She was in a room, but it wasn’t like any room she’d ever seen. It was about the size of her cabin’s main living space. It had such strange furnishings. One piece of furniture, what, Mary couldn’t begin to guess, was making a number of odd noises. A girl sat facing it, though she was now turning toward Mary.
“Hello,” she said, “I’m Elizabeth Cregan. I am one of your distant descendants.”
“It’s the hunger. There’s no explainin' it otherwise.”
“It’s not the hunger,” Elizabeth responded, “You’re really here.”
Mary pinched herself. Yes, she felt it. The room was still there, the noises were still coming from the thing in the corner.
“Am I in the county Down?" Mary asked, afraid of the answer.
“No, you’re in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the United States."
“Faith!” was all Mary could manage.
“I don’t know how to explain it to you, but I brought you here so I could help.”
Impossible, this was all impossible! But Mary’s family certainly needed help. Should she trust this girl? Since this wasn’t a dream, she didn’t have much of a choice, did she? How would she get home if she didn’t?
“What help were ya thinking on givin'?" she asked.
“I want to help you and your family get through the famine. I want to help all of Hilltown get through.”
Was God answering her prayer? Were they going to make out alright after all?
I’ll give you some potatoes and send you back. But there are some conditions we must discuss first.”
Ah yes, conditions. She should have known. There were always conditions.
“Let’s hear them,” she said.
“Well, I don't have enough potatoes for all of Ireland. And if the government gets wind of this, there’s no telling what will happen.”
“So it’s secrecy you’re wantin'?”
“Yes. And I can only give you enough for your community to survive. I can’t give you enough for you to eat well. I’d like to save everyone in Ireland, but I just can’t.”
Mary thought long and hard. The conditions didn’t sound too difficult to meet. Still, things were often harder to manage than they seemed. Elizabeth certainly seemed sincere. The whole thing was so unbelievable. Yet here she was. Something told her this was all real. Somehow, Mary knew that this was the answer to her prayers and to the heart-cries of all Hilltown.
“I’ll do it,” she said.
Elizabeth rose to her feet, saying she’d return shortly. She came back carrying two large sacks of potatoes.
“Distribute them carefully. In a few days I’ll bring you back here to get more. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to meet you, Grandma Mary.”
With that, Elizabeth turned to face the queer thing in the corner; and Mary found herself on her doorstep once again.
Now all she had to do was deliver the potatoes. She’d have to do it at night. It was the only way to maintain secrecy. With God’s help, she’d be able to give a little food to all the folk in Hilltown. Faith, and this all seemed like a dream.
That night, Mary shouldered the two sacks. After setting aside her family’s share, she walked stealthily from house to house, leaving a few potatoes on each doorstep. She prayed that none of them would be eaten by hungry animals before the families found them. ‘Twas a good thing she’d waited till near dawn. Three days later, Elizabeth Cregan set her time machine to work again. Typing in Mary’s name, the year, and place, she brought Mary back to her room in the basement of the family mansion. The potatoes were ready for the folk of Hilltown.
An article written on the potato famine that struck Ireland in the 1840s reads: “Strangely, the community of Hilltown in Ireland’s County Down survived the famine with almost no casualties.”
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