Chapter 1: Baby, It's Cold Outside
Poplar, March 1962
Delia had tossed and turned ever since she got into bed around two o’clock in the morning. She had suffered a grueling shift on the maternity ward , not leaving the operating theatre until after six o’clock in the evening due to an emergency cesarean section that began a few hours earlier. Her feet and legs were aching when the surgery was over, but she went on to work her shift at St. John’s Ambulance service anyway. Helping to lift the obese comatose woman on to the stretcher and then into the ambulance strained her back muscles and the pain had not subsided, even after two double strength aspirin.
Finally she was able to go home to Nonnatus House where she dragged herself up the stairs,brushed her teeth, changed into her pajamas and fell into bed, but she could not sleep. Patsy was leaving for Hong Kong in two weeks, the reality of which created two fold anxiety in her; the first being the uncertainty of how they would be able to nurture their relationship with so much distance between them; and the second being the concern as to how Patsy would cope without Delia’s emotional support. Between her body aches and her anxiety about their future, sleep was late to come, but just as she was beginning to doze off around four o’clock, she heard a commotion downstairs. At first she thought the tree branches were brushing against the side of the convent, but as the racket continued, she knew something was amiss downstairs, so dragged herself out of bed and went to find the source of the noise.
Sister Monica Joan was scurrying around the hallway with a look of terror in her eyes.
‘Sister, whatever is the matter? Why are you so upset? Why are you even awake at this hour?, exclaimed Delia.
‘The angel of death is at the door, he’s come for me’, she cried. ‘He’s been uttering his cry for me. There he goes again? Did you hear it, nurse?’
‘I don’t hear anything, Sister. Why don’t you let me help you to…..’, but before she could finish her sentence, she heard a weak sound, more like a mournful cry, coming from the other side of the door. Delia reached for the door handle, but Sister Monica Joan grabbed her arm and cried, ‘I implore you not to open that door; I’m not as yet ready to meet the grim reaper, my earthly duties are not as yet completed.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous sister, something is in danger; it’s freezing out there, and the angel of death will surely claim it if we don’t intervene’, said a determined Delia as she flung open the door. She grabbed the cardbox sitting on the doorstep and brought it inside. When she opened it, she quickly read a poorly hand written note lying top of a heap of bath towels, and all she could exclaim was, ‘oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.’
Her emergency training kicked in and she immediately-instinctively-knew she had to provide warmth to the creatures that were in the box, so she threw off her pajama top, bent down and lifted a tiny bluish creature from the towel it was wrapped in and pulled it’s blue body against her breast, then she directed Sister Monica Joan to pick up the second bluish creature and place it’s body in her other arm, which she pulled to her other breast. She next directed the Sister to go heat a pan of water so they could fill hot water bottles.
‘Oh, I’m not allowed to touch the stove, nurse,’ Sister Monica Joan said with a feigned pathetic tone in her voice.
Delia, franic and operating on pure adrenaline, barked ‘Then come here, Sister, and hug against me gently to see if we can keep them alive.’ Sister Monica Joan, with a very confused look in her eye just stared at Delia. ‘Please Sister, come help me, let’s be the angels of life.’ With that, sister Monica Joan moved delicately against Delia’s chest and put her feeble arms around her shoulders while staring disorientedly into space.
Delia looked over her shoulder and loudly called for Patsy and Trixie to come help, their room being at the top of the stairs.
Pasy was in a deep sleep, having conducted a long and difficult delivery earlier in the evening. She had gotten to bed about midnight, and immediately fallen asleep, so when she heard her name being called in the distance, she thought she was dreaming. ‘Leave me alone, whoever you are, go away’, she mumbled as she buried her face in the pillow, but then she heard Trixie’s voice from the other bed, ‘I’m hearing it too, Patsy, you’re not dreaming’.
Patsy sat up in bed, and the panicked voice became very clear, ‘Patsy, Trixie, please come here, I need your help, please hurry.’
‘Oh, god, that’s Delia,’ Patsy exclaimed as she jumped out of bed and ran toward the door, not stopping to put on her dressing gown or slippers. She came to a dead stop when she reached the top landing, her mouth fell open, and her eyes grew as big as saucers. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing; she must be in the middle of a nightmare from which she could not wake.
‘Patsy, come here,’ pleaded Delia, but Patsy was frozen by what she was seeing - Delia, naked from the waist up and being hugged by the elderly nun. This can’t be happening; it must be a joke. ‘Delia, if this is your idea of a joke, I’m not laughing.’
‘Patsy, for god’s sake, come here and throw a blanket over my shoulders, then prepare two hot water bottles, please, hurry.’
Trixie came behind Patsy and forced her to move, both clumsily stumbling down the stairs. Patsy, still dazed, went toward the lounge to grab the blanket off the couch. ‘Delia, in god’s name what are you doing? Please tell me you aren’t holding flea ridden animals against your bare chest.’
‘I’m trying to save your babies from freezing to death, that’s what I’m doing, Patsy,’ Delia snapped.
‘You have gone mad, Delia, you’ve lost your mind. What do you mean, my babies, for god’s sake?’ Implored an indignant and disbelieving Patsy.
‘I’m afraid she’s correct, Patsy’, said Trixie who was holding the ragged piece of paper in her hands.
‘What do you mean’, cried Patsy? ‘The world has gone mad’, she exclaimed. ‘Is this some joke that everyone is in on but me?’
‘Patsy, please bring two hot water bottles, now!’, exclaimed Delia, becoming more franic by the minute.
As Patsy began to fill the bottles, Trixie read the note from the box out loud:
“I want that red headed nurse mount to have them babies, the one that brought them into this world and kept them alive when they couldn’t get to hospital. I heard talk that they was going to be sent somewheres they might end up being child slaves, or worse. I can’t let that happen. Please take them and give them a good life; keep them together, they ain’t known no other way, please raise them together. I got no money or family to help me. It’s not their fault they don’t have no daddy to care for them, and it’s not their fault they ain’t white. Please give them a proper life, nurse mount. I won’t bother you ever again. I know a convent is supposed to take them in and keep them safe and help them get a good home. God bless, Maureen.’
Patsy’s mouth fell open as she realized what, who, Delia was holding. ‘Are those the O'Shannassy twins? Oh dear god; they were so frail. Delia, are they all right?’
‘Please bring me those water bottles, Patsy, or they may not be okay; they’re very cold. Please check to see if you can find a pulse.’
Patsy hurriedly completed filling the bottles, wrapped them in the towels from the box, and took them to Delia where she carefully laid them against each baby’s back. She thanked Sister Monica Joan for her life saving actions, and told her she would take over. She took a tiny foot in her hand and gently felt for a pulse, first one baby then the other. ‘I am getting a faint pulse from each of them. The warmth from the hot water bottles should stimulate blood flow and help their heart beat become stronger,’ said Patsy, now in full nurse Mount persona, as she began gently rubbing their legs trying to keep their circulation going.
‘Thanks, Pats. Could you pull an arm chair next to the stove so I can sit down, my arms are getting weak and I’m freezing with these blocks of ice on my chest. Turn on the oven too,’ asked a desperate Delia.
‘Of course’, said a still dazed Patsy as she moved Sister Julienne’s chair next to the stove. ‘Mrs. B will have our heads when she sees we have been wasting fuel.’
‘I am not concerned about what Mrs. B thinks at the moment,’ said an exhausted Delia. ‘Keeping these babies alive is all I am concerned about! We’ve kept them from the jaws of death once before, and we’re not losing them now,’ stated a determined Delia.
Barbara, who was now in the kitchen and confused by the unfolding drama, helped Delia to the chair and insured she was seated and the bundles balanced in her arms before releasing her hold. She pulled back the towel just enough to see a shock of black hair sticking up. ‘Oh my, that's not a puppy; it’s, it’s a baby’, exclaimed Barbara in total surprise.
Patsy, overcome with emotion that was about to manifest itself in inappropriate hysterics, looked at Delia and thought that with her disheveled appearance, and a baby on each breast she looked like something out of a Dickens’ novel. She stifled her urge to laugh hysterically when she saw the desperation on Delia’s face.
Delia looked at Patsy with a desperate, pleading expression and said, ‘Patsy, Maureen is right, that’s what happens to babies like these; they’re either sent to an orphanage, or somewhere where they are mistreated and abused. We can’t let that happen; you have to adopt these twins; you can’t let them go to an institution where they will never be held, or where they will lie in their own body waste for hours. You can't let them be shipped to some country where they will become child laborers or worse. Please, Patsy, they’re meant to be yours; you brought them into this world…’
‘Delia, that's what I do; I deliver babies, for god’s sake, I didn’t give birth to them.’
‘You breathed life into them, Pats,’ cried Delia.
‘That’s what we all do, Delia; it’s routine, midwives do that all the time; we expand their little lungs to help them breathe, it’s routine.’’
‘You made yourself, and me, into human incubators when the flying squad couldn’t get to the mother’s home because of the blizzard. You said when the flying squad finally got there that you felt as though part of you was being taken away, or have you conveniently forgotten?’, Delia cried.
‘Delia, I told you at the time that I couldn’t abide losing another baby; I did what I had to do to kept them alive. It’s true, I felt attached to the little ones, especially the little fellow, we were very close for quite awhile’, Patsy said as a wistful expression crossed her face, ‘but so much has happened since we returned to Nonnatus, and have you forgotten that I’m leaving for Hong Kong to care for my dying father? I simply cannot take on child rearing; I’m sorry, Delia, it’s out of the question.’ Patsy winced as she recognized the look on Delia’s face; she had seen it numerous times when she handed a newborn to its mother; Delia was bonding with these babies.
Tears streamed down Delia’s face, and she cried, ‘Patsy, you promised; you said we would find a way to have children. We stood right there in that chapel,’ Delia said while motioning toward the chapel with her head, ‘when we said our vows, you promised….’
‘Delia, I know what I said, now please, you’ve said enough, please…’, snapped Patsy, but as she stood there totally exposed to her colleagues, her mind replayed their conversation from that night five months ago in vivid detail, word for word:
They were lying on Delia’s bed cuddling in the afterglow of their vows when Patsy said, ‘Delia, I fear that over time I won’t be enough for you; I know how badly you want children, and it breaks my heart that I can’t give them to you. Maybe we can find a man acceptable to both of…….’.
Delia put her fingers to Patsy’s lips to shush her, ‘Patsy, I knew from the moment we met that you were what, who, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I reconciled myself to the fact we would never have our own children, and I am fine with that as long as I have you.
‘Patsy, I don’t want a stranger’s baby; I don’t want to lie with a man just to steal his seeds. Any child from such a liaison would not be yours. Pats, I want your seeds so badly, I want to give you our babies, I want them to be part of you. God, Pats, I would give you ten babies if I could, but we both know it’s not possible, so that’s that,’ Delia whispered as her eyes welled up with tears.
‘Sweetheart, we will find a way to have our children, I don’t as yet know how or when, but I know we will have a family someday. I promise you that; I do love you so much, Delia.’
Patsy was snapped back to the present by the entrance of Phyllis into the kitchen, and where she found herself metaphorically standing naked before her colleagues; Delia had ripped off her facade, exposed her secret, stripped her of all of her carefully orchestrated pretense and charade, and left them shredded in a pile around her feet; she stood naked without defence waiting for her colleagues to ignite the heap.
The silence was deafening; time stood still; colleagues were in suspended animation; ‘Oh Deels, what have you done,’ Patsy cried softly, ‘what have you done.’
This chapter begins with Patsy frozen in fear due to Delia's intemperate outburst that exposed their closely guarded secret. Delia is persistent and Patsy resists until the penny drops and they reach a decision, and also leaves no doubt in anyone's mind as to their relationship.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
After a very pregnant and uncomfortable pause, Trixie quipped, ‘wouldn’t you know only Patsy Mount could have twins without losing her hourglass figure. You’re disgusting Patsy.’ Nervous laughter erupted, easing the tension in the kitchen, but Delia, undeterred, continued her justification for Patsy adopting the orphans, ‘Patsy, we can raise them together; lots of single women raise children. Look at Nurse Crane, her mother raised her under horrible circumstances, her being an unwed mother, but look how Phyllis turned out.’
‘That’s true, I am a bastard,’ declared Nurse Crane, ‘but my mother loved me and sacrificed everything to give me a good home and education.’
Delia continued with her argument, ‘Fred, even bumbling Fred, raised his daughters by himself after his wife was killed in the blitz, and Dr. Turner raised Timothy by himself until he married Shelagh. Reggie’s mother was a widow and raised him by herself. We can do it Patsy, you’ll have plenty of money to provide security and protection, and they’ll have both of us to love and nurture them.’
‘Delia, assuming any court in the land will let two single women adopt these orphans, how are you going to care for them by yourself when I leave for Hong Kong? They are too young to travel, I can’t possibly take two infants with me even if their ages weren’t an issue; remember I’ll be caring for my dying father, and you can’t do it by yourself. They’re not dolls, Delia; you just can’t put them on a shelf when you tire of them!’
‘I know that Patsy, and please don’t condescend to me!! I’ll call my parents; I know they’ll come help until the twins are old enough to fly and we can join you in Hong Kong. Mum and Ta continue to ask me when they’re going to have grandchildren.’
‘I’m sure your mother will be overwhelmed with joy when she learns that I am party to this adoption, and that her grandchildren from her unmarried daughter are of mixed race,’ Patsy snarled, exaggerating ‘unmarried and mixed race.’
‘Mum will come around after she gets over the initial shock of me being a mother. They’re so beautiful she won’t be able to resist them.’
‘What about your father, Delia.’ how do you think this will affect his business?’
‘My Tad is used to defending me and my life choices to the local busy bodies, so he is well prepared for any controversy I might stir up.’
‘Where will you live, Delia? You, your parents and two infants can’t possibly stay here in the convent, and you know how long it took us to find a suitable flat for the two of us. The logistics alone render this idea even more preposterous.’
‘You have other options Patsy; you have a home in Chelsea, complete with a domestic staff, where you could temporarily put us up until they’re old enough to travel.’
‘Delia, you know how much I detest the idea that I’m just another rich kid living on the fortunes of my father and grandfather. I’ve always made it a point of pride to support myself on my wages. I simply refuse to accept anything I have not earned myself, and I certainly can’t afford that house in Chelsea on my wages. It’s out of the question.’
‘For god’s sake, Patsy, you live in a convent, you share a room with another person, you ride a bicycle through the slums of the east end at all hours of the day and night to deliver babies for the poorest of the poor. You count your pennies just like the rest of us. You've more than proven your worth to society; you have nothing else to prove, now is the time to put your other resources to work. We would stay only until they are old enough to fly, then I can burn it to the ground when we leave if that would make you happy.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, Delia. Then I would be stuck raising them on my own since you would be in jail,’ Patsy said as a slight smile crossed her lips. ‘I’ve just never accepted the fact that I will inherit such circumstances; I’m uncomfortable even discussing money, but I can see your point, it would be a temporary solution, even if your family comes to help. That is, if I were to adopt them, which I am not going to do. But, for argument’s sake, it is already set up for father’s use so we wouldn't have to start from scratch, and since time is of the essence, I will concede your point, but we will not reside there once we return from Hong Kong, assuming I would do something so impetuous as adopting twins, which I’m not going to do, so the argument is moot.’
‘Patsy, I am getting whiplash. Every sentence coming out of your mouth is a contradiction of the previous one. Do you have any idea how tiring it is to always do the thinking for both of us? Sometimes, Patsy, your head is as thick as a turnip, and I am so tired of shouldering the load for both of us.’
‘Delia, I resent being compared to a root vegetable; I have not been able to think clearly; there is just so much pulling me in opposite directions right now that it makes it very difficult to think rationally. And, I had no idea you were shouldering the load for both of us; as I remember, I carried a pretty heavy burden while you were in Pembrokeshire, but of course you don’t remember, you couldn’t remember anything!’
‘I’m sorry, Pats, that was unfair of me. I should be easing your load, not piling more on you, but this is a situation that won't come our way again, and we cannot let it pass. And, oh yes, it was just wonderful having my life erased.’
‘Delia, it is out of the question, we, I, just can’t cope with another disappointment right now. If the courts said no, I couldn’t handle it. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you, you know I didn’t mean it, please forgive me.’
‘Of course, I can understand why you would choose to live in a boarding house environment instead of the plushness that a home in Chelsea would offer. Sharing a room with me is much more desirable than having domestic staff to provide for your every need, do peel me a grape, Maggie,’ Trixie piped in, again breaking the tension that was growing thick.
‘Oh Trixie, I do love sharing a room with you, and I do love living in a communal environment, but ………’
‘What is the twins’ story, Patsy’, Barbara interrupted, her eyes darting between Delia and Patsy, shocked by the candor she was witnessing from her normally circumspect friends.
Patsy took a deep breath before starting the story, ‘Their birth mother is a fifteen year old Irish girl, the daughter of Mrs. O'Shanassy who works in the drygoods stall at the market. Her father is a merchant marine who has been out to sea for months, and who would have disowned his daughter, and done no telling what to the twins, if he had known she was pregnant and by whom.
‘ The twins’ father is a fifteen year old boy, the son of one of the Indian engineers who was here working on the design of the council housing. His parents became suspicious that there might be an issue between the two teenagers, so they packed up the family and left the area without notice one night.
‘Mrs. O’Shanassy sent her daughter to the unwed mothers’ home to give birth and get rid of the evidence, so to speak. Fortunately, she had brought Maureen to the antenatal clinic so we knew she was carrying twins and could plan for their delivery, unlike the Bissette twins. We just weren’t prepared for Mother Nature’s wrath.’
‘Sister Julienne sent me to help at the home because their regular midwife was out on extended medical leave. She sent Delia with me as part of her midwifery training. The night Maureen O’Shanassy went into labor was the night of the blizzard. She was so young and not completely developed, and her labor was torture for her. The baby girl was born first and really tore Maureen badly, but baby was fairly strong even though small and underweight. Delia assisted with her delivery and then cared for the baby and Maureen while I dealt with the next baby; he was transverse so I had to turn him so he could be born properly. The mother was in tremendous pain and discomfort, and my efforts only added to her agony, but I had to turn him so that he could come out without injury.’
‘The two of you really performed herculean tasks that night, ‘ Barbara exclaimed in awe.
‘In retrospect, we kind of did. We were short on gas, and Maureen’s pain was unbearable, but I finally got him in position and delivered him. He was even smaller than his sister and very weak. I did have to expand his little lungs and help him breath for a bit.
‘We called for the flying squad but they couldn’t come because of the deep snow and gale force winds. I had no choice except to turn us into human incubators. Delia carried the girl tied to her chest while I tied the boy to mine. I had to sew up the mother and tend to her pain with a baby snug against my chest. Fortunately long arms came with my height. It was such a traumatic experience for the mother that she didn’t want to see or hold her babies. Delia and I became surrogate mothers, we even called them our own rhesus monkeys,’ Patsy gave her trademark crooked smile as she recalled their moniker for the twins.
‘We incubated them for almost a week before the flying squad could get there. Thankfully none of the other women went into labor during that period of time. Delia is correct, I was quite attached to my little monkey by the time we sent them to hospital. But, it is out of the question for me, for us, to adopt them, even if the court would allow it. I just don’t have time or the emotional energy to undertake such an endeavor.’
Sister Julienne appeared from the shadows, no telling how long she had been there or how much she had heard. ‘Goodness, there is certainly a lot of commotion in here for this time of morning.’
‘Young nurse Busby and I were angels of life’, sang an elated Sister Monica Joan. ‘The angel of death came for me, but I was far too busy preserving life to give him the time of day, so we shooed him away with his tail between his legs.’
‘It seems to me that you were certainly doing the Lord’s work this morning, Sister,’ said Sister Julienne as she smiled compassionately toward the elderly nun.
‘That cardboard box on the floor over there’, said Trixie, ‘was on the front stoop and contained the two infants that Delia is holding. The note inside, apparently from the mother, said she wanted Patsy to raise the babies together rather than let them go somewhere where their lives would be horrible. She has no means to take care of them, but doesn’t want them abused either. I suspect her mother is also involved, probably the chief instigator, but that was not indicated in the note. From what Patsy says, the birth mother wanted nothing to do with the twins after they were born. We can go to the market to see if Mrs. O’Shanassy is still there, although it probably doesn’t matter one whit.’
‘Sister Julienne, please grant them sanctuary until Patsy can make arrangements to adopt them. We’ll, I’ll, find a way to care for them after she leaves for Hong Kong’, said a tearful Delia. ‘Please don’t send them back to that unwed mothers’ home. The matron is wicked to the girls and their babies. She reduces their food, and waters down the babies’ formula, and she drinks on duty every night. There is talk that she skims money off the top of each adoption too. She really should be investigated.’
‘Delia, how do you know this? I never heard any of that.’
‘Patsy, the girls talked to me; they were too much in awe of you to gossip with you. Don’t get me wrong, they really respected and trusted you, but they thought you were so much above them socially that they were intimidated, but I was more on their level, so they talked to me.’
‘Delia, we are on the same level, please don’t demean yourself.’
‘You know what I mean, Patsy; you with your cut glass accent and me with my Welsh lilt; they felt more comfortable with me is all I’m saying.’
‘Children should be raised by a father and mother’, said a harsh judgmental voice as Sister Winifred stepped into the room wearing a look of displeasure on her face. ‘They would be better to go to the orphanage until a proper couple can adopt them.’
A collective gasp filled the room as Delia in total disbelief said, ‘I beg to differ, Sister. You would have them lie in their own body waste for hours until some stranger has the time to clean them? They wouldn’t have human touch and nurturing like they need to grow and develop. They might be separated because no one wants twins; so what happens to the one not adopted? You would have it flounder for months, years? We’ve already had this conversation while you were in morning prayer, and we identified plenty of people we know who have raised children by themselves. These babies will have two mothers to raise them and the security of money and status to protect them,’ Delia pronounced defiantly.
Barbara stepped forward and nervously said, ‘I, I, was raised by a single parent after my mother died, and I turned out just fine. So that’s another one to add to the list of successful single parents.’ Barbara appeared very surprised by her statement, but also very proud that she contributed to the justification of Delia’s plan.
A deep voice bellowed from the hallway as its owner stomped into the kitchen rattling the dishes in the cabinet and commanding everyone’s attention. ‘I've been in two world wars and I can tell you plenty of single women, and single men, raised orphaned kids. Most times the people raising them weren’t even related to the them, but it didn’t matter so long as they loved those kids, and those kids knew they were loved. Children need love and security, and having a mother and father won’t guarantee that. Sister Winifred, your piety is hollow; I suggest you go to your room and study what our Lord says about love!’ And, having shaken the rafters, Sister Evangelina stormed from the room.
‘I know what it's like to be handed off to an institution; my father abdicated his duties after we were repatriated by the Japanese. Rather than raise me himself, he sent me to Catholic boarding schools. My material needs were taken care of, but I was emotionally starved, no nun ever held and comforted me or told me I was loved. Fortunately, I had had plenty of love and nurturing during my formative years before we were captured, so my emotional and intellectual development were not stunted. And…..., Sister Winifred, that is why these children will NOT be placed in an orphanage….., because a proper couple is going to adopt them.’ Patsy stood stunned by what she had just heard herself say; she had no idea where it came from or that she was going to say it, it just bubbled forth from deep within her, but it was the truth and she knew what she had to do.
‘Patsy, your passage to Hong Kong by ship will take almost a month, but you could fly and be there in 24 hours. You can delay your departure by at least two weeks and still get to Hong Kong at the same time you would get there by ship. You told me your father has bought several cargo planes that fly between England and Hong Kong, so you could go on one of them and save your time and money. Please Patsy, please call your solicitor,’ pleaded a very tired Delia.
Patsy appeared to be in a trance, unable to move, or speak after her unanticipated outburst. She was also stunned by the reality that her colleagues were engaging in justifying her and Delia adopting these orphans; no one was addressing the oddity or the ‘unnaturalness’ of their relationship, well maybe one was. With this realization, Patsy felt her heart begin to slow its rapid beat and return from her throat to its correct anatomical position.
The twins were starting to squirm and whimper, and Delia’s fatigue was apparent. ‘Nurse Gilbert, Sister Winifred, please take the twins to the treatment room, change their nappies and prepare sugar water for them; I’m sure they are dehydrated’, said Sister Julienne in her soft but commanding voice.
‘Yes Sister,’ they said in unison.
Barbara stooped to pick up baby girl, cuddled her with minimum objection, and moved toward the treatment room. Sister Winifred bent to take baby boy from Delia’s other arm, but when she interrupted the contact with Delia’s chest, he protested violently, flailing his arms and legs and wailing at the top of his lungs, so much so that Sister Winifred had difficulty holding him. As she moved past a still stupefied Patsy, his protest became even more pronounced to the point that it jarred Patsy from her trance, and she reached out to take him from the nun, ‘here, let me have him, Sister,’ Patsy said, still somewhat dazed.
Once Patsy had a sturdy grip on baby boy, she cuddled him to her chest and his wailing changed to big crying gulps; as she spoke softly to him, his gulps turned into whimpers, and he grabbed her pajama collar with his tiny hand and snuggled as close as he could into her chest. As Patsy gently rocked him side to side while tenderly patting him on the back, the tears flowed down her cheeks and dripped onto his blanket.
‘I believe he remembers you, Nurse Mount,’ Sister Julienne said as she gave that all knowing, wise smile.
‘I believe he does, Sister,’ Patsy responded in her choked, tearful voice.
Delia rose from her chair, put on her pajama top, and walked to Patsy’s side where she surreptitiously pressed her knee into Patsy’s; Patsy pressed back, communicating more than spoken words could do. Their silent acknowledgment of their decision was interrupted when Patsy’s smile suddenly turned into a frown as she exclaimed, ‘Little man, you most certainly need a fresh nappy.’ Patsy turned to Delia and softly said, ‘as soon as I change him, I’ll call father’s London solicitor.
‘By the way, Nurse Mount, Nurse Busby, I am granting them sanctuary until this situation is settled,’ they heard sister Julienne declare as she glided from the room. ‘Oh, Nurse Mount, please use the phone in my office to call your solicitor, and by the way, I think it is a good idea to ask Dr. Turner to come and examine the twins, just as a precaution,’ Sister Julienne said before she disappeared through the doorway.
Harlow's attachment theory using rhesus monkeys is referred to several times in this chapter. Delia and Patsy would have been exposed to the theory either in nurse's training or during their midwifery training. Google it for more info if interested.
Patsy begins the process of fulfilling her promise to Delia, and in the process finds she has more than one ally.
‘Hello, who is calling at this early hour,’ growled a man on the other end of the phone line, obviously unhappy at having his morning routine disturbed.
‘Gilbert, this is Patience Mount. I do apologize for calling so early, but I have a situation of utmost importance and I wanted to catch you before you left for your office.’
‘Dear me, Miss Mount, I hope you are not in some kind of trouble requiring a barrister to free you’, exclaimed Gilbert.
‘No, nothing of the sort, but of critical importance nevertheless. As you may know, I am leaving shortly for Hong Kong to attend to Father, and I find myself confronted with circumstances that just recently interjected themselves into my life, but which must be resolved before I leave England.’
Patsy then started rambling, her disjointed statements barely making sense to herself, finally getting to the point that she and her ‘best friend’ wanted to adopt abandoned twins left at the convent, and that they wanted to be listed as co-parents on adoption papers. She then went to great lengths to make this request sound innocuous as possible by nonchalantly remarking that with her absence from England, Miss Busby would need the authority to make decisions regarding the twins’ health and welfare that simply could not wait for approval from Hong Kong.’
‘Miss Mount, Patience, this is highly unusual. Have you spoken to your father about this?’
‘No, Gilbert, and I would prefer he not be concerned with this. He has given you considerable authority and latitude to act on his behalf, and it is my desire that you do so in this instance, if at all possible. My father is quite ill, and he doesn’t need to deal with anything that can detract from his rest. Besides, I will soon take the mantle of responsibility for the Mount Enterprises, so there is no need to trouble him at this time.’
‘That may not be possible, but I will do what I can,’ said Gilbert with a hint of exasperation in his voice. ‘Please understand I may need to involve your father if I hit an insurmountable obstacle. He is a very well connected man with considerable influence throughout the government. One thing in your favor, Patience, is the fact that these children have been abandoned, and that they are of mixed race. The fact that you are willing to give them a home speaks well of you and Miss Busby. It may be that you have to adopt them individually rather than together, meaning you would be the parent of one and Miss Busy the other, or perhaps, you adopt both of them, and award Miss Busby legal guardianship over them in your absence, incapacitation, or death; I’ll have to find the legal syntax necessary to get this through this appropriate agencies.’
‘Gilbert, neither of those options is preferable, but I, we, are willing to take whatever legal arrangement you can get through the courts so long as both of us have parental authority over both children, and of course, the courts are amenable to this.’
‘Before we hang up Miss Mount, I’ll need to know their birth names, and the names you wish to give them if different, as well as their date of birth.’
Patsy uttered an audible gasp, stunned and embarrassed that they had not thought about names for the twins. Fearing the solicitor would think she was another vacuous trust fund baby rushing into something without thinking beyond the immediate urge, regarding the twins as just another bright shiny object that had momentarily caught her attention, she profusely apologized. ‘Oh dear, forgive me Gilbert, please don’t think me an empty headed twit, but I don’t believe the mother ever named them, they’re just the O’Shanassy twins. We, I, haven’t had time to consider naming them, this has unfolded so quickly. They were born the day the blizzard hit in January, so their birthdate is January 22nd, which makes them six weeks old. May I call your office today as soon as we have decided their names?’
Laughing, Gilbert said, ‘Yes, and please don’t worry about this oversight; it’s totally understandable considering the urgency with which you have acted, and it will actually make the process much smoother since we won’t have to unname them before we can rename them; it will further prove to the court that they truly were unwanted and abandoned. But, please name them quickly so that I may file whatever briefs necessary. And Patience, I may need to involve Charles; I shall look forward to your call.’
‘Gilbert,’ Patsy said with great trepidation in her voice, ‘what if Father disapproves of this? What if he sabotages my efforts? I don’t think I could abide the disappointment.’
‘Patience, I have worked for your father for many, many years, and he and I have had many candid talks, especially after several glasses of scotch. I know how ashamed and remorseful your father is about what happened to his family, and the void that has developed between you two. He feels he failed his family by not evacuating you before the invasion. He has been in continual torment over the decision to send you to boarding school because of what it did to you and how you interpreted his intent. It is my belief that your father would do anything to earn your forgiveness, and your love, before he dies. So, my position is that he will support you totally; I know he has great sorrow about leaving you an orphan; your happiness would permit his tortured soul to find some peace knowing you have a family to love you. Have faith, Patience; your father is a good man. Good day, Miss Mount.’
‘I hope you are right, Gilbert. Goodbye.’
‘My, my, what has that Mount child done, dear? Arrested for soliciting? She is such a pretty thing.’
‘Oh no, dear, Patience is nothing like that, quite the opposite; as a matter of fact, she and her ‘very special friend’ are trying to adopt twins who were abandoned at the convent this morning. Pray tell me, in god’s name how I am going to get this through any court in England.’
‘Why sweetheart, you'll find out which judge is beholding to Charles, or who needs to be beholding to him, and get the case on his docket. Goodness knows, you definitely know where all the bodies are buried, in a manner of speaking. Here’s your tea with extra sugar, sounds as though you’ll need it today.’
‘Thank you, Robert. What ever would I do without you?’
‘Delia, we must talk,’ Patsy said as she rushed to Delia’s side by the stove.
‘I take it your conversation with the solicitor was productive,’ Delia, in full mummie mode, said as she tested the temperature of the formula on her wrist, her Welsh lilt more pronounced than usual. ‘We have two very hungry babies to feed so we’ll have to talk and feed them at the same time. Grab a bottle and a baby and let’s go to the lounge as everyone has gone to work so we will have privacy. Sister Julienne called The London and got me excused until we can make arrangements for their care, and she approved me suspending my midwifery training for the time being.’
Once comfortably seated in the lounge, Delia with baby girl and Patsy with baby boy, Patsy blurted out, ‘Delia I did put forth my best argument to have us listed as co-parents on any adoption papers, but Gilbert thinks that is too far a stretch to get through a court, so it may have to be that I adopt both of them and then give you full legal guardianship in my absence, incapacitation, or death.’
‘Patsy, please don’t talk like that, the thought of either of those circumstances is more than I can bear right now.’
Patsy placed her hand gently on Delia’s knee before softly saying as she looked into very tired blue eyes, ‘I know, sweetheart, but if something should happen to me as the legal parent, it is absolutely imperative that you have the legal standing to keep them; god knows what could happen otherwise. He did suggest that we could each adopt one twin, but then they would have different last names so that was not to my liking, and besides they need to know that they belong to both of us equally. Gilbert will do his best, but may have to involve my father to wield his considerable clout.’
‘Patsy, we’re at the mercy of society and the courts; I will be happy with whatever legal arrangement he can get through the system so long as we get to keep them and they know we are their mothers, it doesn’t matter what words are used to make it so.’
‘Delia,’ Patsy said as a slight pinkish hue crawled up her neck to her cheeks, ‘I was so embarrassed when Gilbert asked me for their names; everything happened so fast that I never realized they didn’t have names. We have to rectify the situation. He needs them in order to proceed with the court petition. Have you given any thought to what you think they should be named?’
Smiling at Patsy’s uncharacteristic embarrassment, Delia stared pensively at baby girl for several moments before finally speaking, ‘Pats, when we were student nurses and realized we were in love, I used to fantasize about our baby and what she would look like and what we would name her. Back then, in my idealism, I thought we would do some combination of our names, ‘Deliance’ or ‘Patlia’, but as I have gotten older, I don’t want to pin a cutesy name on them that they will have to explain for their entire lives; my older self now thinks we should stay with traditional English and Welsh names, and pay homage to our parents by naming our children after them; how do you like ‘Catherine Anwen Mount? Anwen is Mum’s middle name, I just can’t name a child Enid because it sounds so old fashioned, and Catherine is so classic it never goes out of style.’
‘I prefer Catherine Anwen Busby Mount.’ ‘How do you like ‘Charles Rhys Busby Mount?’ I think it is important that they know they belong to both of us.’
‘Patsy, don’t you think the courts may find it peculiar that my surname is included? How will you explain that? We must be cautious with our actions so that we don’t sabotage the adoption. I would be more comfortable omitting my surname until such time as I can legally change my name to ‘Mount’, that is, when you make a honest woman of me,’ Delia said with a wink. ‘Are we in agreement with the names, minus ‘Busby’ from each? What happens next?’
‘Delia, regardless of what we have to do to become legal parents, please know that I will fulfill the promise I made to give us a family, and however the court papers read, these babies will have two mothers. As far as what happens next, I suspect Gill will call in some favors from judges who owe my father a favor, or want to owe him one. Gill has always been a genius at finding creative legal solutions that worked well in Father’s favor.’
‘Are you saying the Mount Enterprise has bought off our government officials, Miss Mount?’, Delia said feigning shock as she placed a nappy over her shoulder to burp baby Anwen.
‘Let’s just say my father knows how to influence the system to get what he wants and Gill is his point man. Let us pray that he comes through this time. Deels, I don’t know what I would do if the court says we can’t have these babies,’ Patsy exclaimed as she followed Delia’s suit and placed a nappy over her shoulder so she could burp baby Charles. ‘ We would have to abduct them and leave our homeland for the Australian outback or the American wild west, somewhere we will not be known. We would board that cargo plane in the middle of the night with babies in tow, and sneak off somewhere, maybe even stay in Hong Kong, although the idea is abhorrent to me, but I will do whatever necessary to have our family,’ said a determined Patsy.
‘Patsy, this will work out; have faith, sweetheart. You’ve always said we’ll find a way, and I believe if it is meant to be and we are to have a family, it is now, and this is the way. Do you think it is all coincidence that we were sent to the mothers’ home, that these twins were born during the worst blizzard England has seen in decades; that we had to become incubators to save them; there must be a deeper reason why we were in that place at that time. It really is beyond me to understand why things happen as they do, but I do believe sometimes things happen for a reason, sometimes they can be explained, although sometimes they can’t. I really feel like this is meant to be. And…...that was meant to be too,’ Delia cheekly said in response to Anwen’s burp.
I’m going to wait to call my parents until this is official and recorded in the court, and they are legally ours.’
‘While you were talking to the solicitor, the girls went through the charity box and found some warm clothes for our babies. Sister Evangelina somehow found a pram big enough for both of them, at least for now, and Fred donated a large wooden box big enough for them both to sleep in. We’ve found extra pillows and blankets to put in the box to make it nice and comfy for them to sleep. We will still need to go shopping for nappies, formula, and baby clothes, but at least they are set for the time. Fred even located a camp bed and put it in my room along with the bed box so all of us can sleep in there. It’s only temporary until the court acts on our petition and we came take them from the confines of the convent.’
Patsy, sounding and feeling like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders, moaned, ‘ Deels, I can’t believe it’s only eight o’clock in the morning, it seems like we have been up for days, I’m completely spent. Let’s have some tea and toast while the twins finish their bottles.’
Dr. Turner stopped by to examine the twins just as they were finishing their bottles, so Patsy and Delia took them to the treatment room where he did their examinations.
Patrick carefully examined each twin, listening to its heart and lungs for any sign of malformation. He then examined their skeletal structures, their mental alertness and reflexes, and pronounced that they appeared to be in remarkably good health, despite being a bit underweight. Dr. Turner noted that they came from good, sturdy Irish stock, although he couldn’t speak for their other half.
From the shadows of the treatment room, Sister Winifred emerged wearing a concerned and troubled expression on her face. ‘Forgive my forwardness, Dr. Turner, but I am troubled by what is about to happen to these children where these two well meaning, but selfish nurses, are about to deny a proper couple the right to be parents. I just can’t reconcile their actions with the teachings of the church.’ Sister Winifred cut her eyes toward Patsy and Delia as she finish her diatribe.
Delia tensed and started to lunge at the nun, but Patsy grabbed her arm simultaneously as Dr. Turner raised his hand and motioned her to hold her tongue. ‘Sister Winifred, I’ll be frank with you; having just become an adoptive parent, I can tell you with one hundred percent assurance that these twins are unadoptable to the majority of ‘proper couples’ seeking a baby. We, and yes, I include myself in that, want babies that look like us, blond blue eyed cherubs, not brown skinned, black haired infants, regardless of how adorable they may appear. We want babies to blend in with the extended family. I’m afraid that these twins would remain in an orphanage until they were old enough to be transferred to another country. And, I can guarantee that there would be no ‘proper couple’ waiting to adopt them.’
Patrick held up his hand as he said, ‘be quiet, all of you….I’m not finished. My religious upbringing tells me it is wrong and against the teachings of our Lord to deny a loving home to these children. Nurse Mount and Nurse Busby are our colleagues, we have worked shoulder to shoulder with them under some of the most trying circumstances; they are our sisters in service to our countrymen, we know them, and their goodness; we know the love they will bestow on these children; we can’t say that about an ‘unknown proper couple’ just because they can ante up the money to buy a baby. For all we may know, such ‘a proper couple’ may have nefarious intentions that they hide behind a pleasant facade; we’ve all heard horror stories coming out of Australia and other countries where we dispose of our unwanted population. I, and my entire family, wholeheartedly support this adoption without reservation.’
Sister Winifred, stunned by the tongue lashing she had just received from Dr, Turner, turned and walked out of the room in silence.
‘Shelagh and I wish you and the twins the very best, ladies, and if I may be of assistance with the adoption process, please ask’ , Dr. Turner said as he bowed his head and left the room behind a vanished and vanquished Sister Winifred.
‘Their eyes are blue’, said a defiant Delia through pursed lips.
They had just put the twins down in the box bed for their lunchtime nap and started downstairs to join the others for lunch when they became aware of another commotion in the downstairs hallway. Listening at the top landing, they heard Sergeant Noakes telling Sister Julienne that a set of twins was missing from the mothers’ home along with the birth mother, and the matron was frantic to know what and when they went missing.
‘It is afternoon and I find it odd that you are just now looking for these twins, Sergeant.’
‘Sister, I was just notified about half an hour ago that they were missing; I stopped by the fire house on my way here to see if they had been left there. In all due respect, Sister, I acted on this the moment I was notified.’
‘Sergeant Noakes, the twins were found on the steps of Nonnatus House about four o’clock this morning. They are safe and in our care, and I have guaranteed them sanctuary per the written request of the birth mother. I find it odd that you were only notified less than an hour ago. Perhaps you should devote your attention to finding out why two babies and a resident can disappear from that home in the early morning hours, and not be reported to authorities for eight hours or more. I have heard from very reliable sources that there is considerable negligence and possible malfeasance going on there.’
‘I’m just doing my job, sister. I'm relieved to know the twins are safe. Do you have any idea where the birth mother is? I’ll be taking the twins back to the mothers’ home, if you don’t mind, Sister.’
In her very calm, modulated voice, Sr. Julienne said, ‘Perhaps I was unclear, Sergeant Noakes, I have granted sanctuary to the twins per the written request of the birth mother; they are going nowhere. They are well cared for here, and will remain here until pending legal arrangements coming to fruition. You do know, Sergeant, that I, as head of Nonnatus House, have the legal authority to grant sanctuary to anyone requesting it, and that is what I have done.’
‘I see, sister,’ said a chastened sergeant Noakes. ‘Do you have any idea where the birth mother is?’
‘No, I do not, but where ever she is, I pray she is safe. One can cover considerable distance in eight hours, Sergeant Noakes. Have you visited her mother at the market.’
‘I am going there next. Thank you, sister.’
‘Please give my greetings to Chummy and little Freddy,’
The nurses and nuns sat in stunned silence as Sister Julienne glided into the dining room. ‘ I am absolutely famished,’ she proclaimed as she went to the head of the table.
‘Let us give thanks for the sustenance we are about to receive,’ Patsy and Delia heard her say as they entered the dining room.
I ignored this story as long as I could until the voices in my head wouldn't be quiet. I have taken much liberty with the adoption laws and progressive attitudes of the Nonnatuns in 1962 England as our girls become trail blazers in the motherhood arena.
After lunch, exhaustion overcame Delia and she went to her room to check on the twins and lie down for a rest. Patsy called Gilbert’s office to give the names they had chosen for the twins, and to ask him about flying to Hong Kong on one of the Mount cargo planes instead of going by ship. Gilbert advised her that he thought a plane would be leaving London in less than a month and he would insure it was outfitted with a comfortable passenger compartment for her. Patsy, having bought an extra three weeks of invaluable time, uttered an audible sigh of relief.
He also told her he had been able to get the adoption request on the docket of a judge who knew Charles very well, and he did not anticipate any problem with this aspect of the process, but adoptions take the screening and approval of an adoption service before the judge can proceed. He was going to have to involve Charles as he had been very generous to the Diocese since her Catholic boarding school days, and Charles would have to call in some favors. The mothers’ home belonged to the Diocese and one of its adoption agencies screened prospective parents, so there didn’t seem to be a way around this obstacle.
As Gilbert spoke, Patsy recalled that the Nonnatuns’ Mother House also operated an orphanage in Chichester. Now that the twins were in the protective care of Nonnatus, she pondered if she could get the screening done through the Mother House with Sr. Julienne’s assistance; there was already talk that she would be the next Mother Superior once Mother Jesu Emmanuel stepped down. She discussed this with Gilbert who reluctantly agreed to give Patsy twenty four hours to see if her plan would work before he contacted Charles Mount.
Gilbert informed Patsy that she would be listed as the adoptive parent with Miss Busby being granted full guardianship as they had previously discussed, but that is was simply not possible for them to be listed as co-parents. Perhaps one day she and her ‘special friend’ would be able to adopt together, but in 1962 England, that was an unrealistic hope.
Patsy hung up the phone and went in search of Sr. Julienne.
She caught Sr. Julienne just as she was leaving for clinic, apologized profusely for the unplanned interruption, but asked for a moment of her time to discuss a matter of utmost importance. Sister Julienne, with that ominicient look in her eyes, invited Patsy to her office, and over a cup of tea, listened intently to Patsy’s request.
‘Nurse Mount, your request is very unusual, but I can see where it could be justified. As I have granted sanctuary to the twins, they are technically the responsibility of Nonnatus House, and by extension, also the Mother House. I can certainly attest to your and Nurse Busby’s character and suitability to become adoptive parents. To my knowledge, there is no Church edict that defines ‘proper’ adoptive parents, no doubt an omission that can be a very useful loophole. We both know what the fate of these infants would be if they were to return to the mothers’ home, and I don’t think Mother Jesu Emmanuel would knowingly ever let a child in our care be sent to another country; she never has since that atrocity became public. Let me speak with her, and I do understand that time is of the essence, so I will make haste.’ Sister Julienne stood and walked Patsy to the door. As she was about to open the door, Sr. Julienne placed her hand on Patsy’s arms, and softly said,’Nurse Mount, I will do all I can to assist you and Nurse Busby with this adoption because I know those precious infants will be in a loving home, not farmed out as beasts of burden.’
Patsy fought back tears and barely uttered, ‘thank you, Sister,’ as she departed she added an afterthought, ‘money is of no concern, whatever is needed to defray costs.’
Sister Julienne gave a slight tilt to her head in acknowledgment as she left for the clinic.
Patsy had been taken off the rota due to her imminent departure for Hong Kong, but she volunteered to staff the phones and do other tasks to lighten the workload of her colleagues while also keeping her mind busy and easing her anxiety in the process. She could not fathom that she was actually adopting twins, notwithstanding the fact that she was leaving for an extended period of time to care for her terminally ill father. She surely had taken leave of her senses, but this may the only opportunity to honor her promise to Delia to give her, them, a family. They would find a way to make it work. Delia would bring the twins to Hong Kong as soon as they had all of their vaccinations and passports and were able to fly, and they would remain with her until the end. Her anxiety riddled mind no longer thought about what impact this decision would have on Charles Mount.
She took a break from the phones to go upstairs to check on her family before she started running the autoclave. She found Delia in the middle of her bed with a baby tucked under each arm, all flat on their backs and all sound asleep. Tears of joy ran uncontrollably down her cheeks as she placed a tender kiss on each forehead. This adoption had to become a reality.
Patsy, Dr. Turner, and Sr. Julienne were packed into Dr. Turner’s green sedan and making haste to arrive at the Motherhouse in time for the eleven o’clock meeting with Mother Jesu Emmanuel, Gilbert, and Mother Superior Mary Thomas, to discuss the transfer of the twins’ adoption process to Nonnatus’ Motherhouse. After hearing of their story from Sr. Julienne, Mother Jesu Emmanuel was adamant that the Nonnatuns would assume guardianship of the twins and that their adoption agency would conduct the required screening.
Patsy was physically and emotionally exhausted, having spent a torturous night flailing about in her sleep beset with nightmares from which she could not completely wake regardless of Delia’s attempts to rouse her back to the present. As the sound of the engine droned on, her mind began replaying the nightmare in vivid detail. Her nightmare this time did not involve the internment camps; rather she was back at boarding school and fighting an unusually hostile Sister over one of her socks that the nun refused to give back to Patsy even though she begged her to return it, ‘they go together, Sister, they’re meant to be together, they've never been separated. They match. They were made to be together. What am I supposed to do?’
‘You have other socks that don’t match, pair it up with one of those. I know someone who is a suitable recipient for this one,’ the Sister said as she marched out of the room with the sock in hand.
‘No, don’t separate them,’ moaned Patsy aloud as she flailed her arms about, trying to grab the sock from the nun.
‘Patsy, Patsy, wake up, you’re dreaming,’ Delia whispered as she gently shook Patsy trying to rouse her from her nightmare. ‘Come on, Cariad, keep your eyes open now; it’s almost time to feed the twins, so stay with me, please; let’s carefully and quietly take them down to the parlor and give them a bottle. Are you awake enough to understand what I’m saying, Patsy? Can I trust you to carry one of them downstairs?’
‘Yes, I’m awake, darling. It was just so real, and I was so hopeless to do anything,’ whined Patsy.
‘Patsy, your socks are still paired up, and the twins are here safely tucked in their bed in Nonnatus house; your imagination is running away from your sanity tonight. It’s going to be alright, sweetheart.’
‘Let me go to the bathroom, and then we can take them downstairs,' Patsy mumbled as she staggered toward the door.
The sound of the tires turning onto gravel jarred Patsy from the rerun of the nightmare, but she felt her stomach start to churn the closer they got to the Mother House. Please, dear God, let this adoption please you, Patsy silently prayed. The irony of her praying caused her to smirk. She mused the believers were correct that there were no atheist in the foxhole, and today, Patsy was certainly in the foxhole fighting for everything that gave meaning to her life: Delia, beloved Delia; their enduring relationship despite all odds, and now, the twins, their family, their meant-to-be family. She would bargain with God all day, promise anything to make this adoption a reality; she would even sell her soul to the Devil, willing to spend eternity in the fires of hell if it would bring this adoption to fruition. She would bargain with whichever had the most sway with the Mother Superior just as long as she and Delia could adopt the twins. She winced at the thought of her being willing to bargain with the Devil, and hoped that Sister Julienne’s psychic powers weren’t working today.
Delia had insisted that she dress conservatively for this meeting, no exposed collar bones, minimal makeup, one swipe with the mascara wand, no eyeshadow, and very light panstick. Delia thought she should wear her hair in a simple twist like she wore most days with her uniform. So, taking Delia’s advice, she twisted up her hair, and selected a dark, forest green sleeveless dress complemented by a gray wool blazer, one inch black heels, and nondescript necklace and broach. She looked more like a librarian than the fashion maven she was, but Delia was pleased with the look, feverently hoping it would give her sweetheart an air of seriousness and maturity that would be pleasing to Mother Jesu Emanuel and Mother Mary Thomas.
Gilbert, puffing on his pipe as they approached, was standing outside the entrance to the building where the fate of the twins would be decided. After introductions, he told Patsy he was confident that the transfer of guardianship from the unwed mothers’ home to the Nonnatus’ Orphanage would happen, causing Patsy to breathe a sigh of hope. Sr. Julienne quietly took Patsy’s hand and gave it a comforting squeeze. That kind gesture sent shame rushing through Patsy, she realized she didn’t literally mean that that she would bargain with the Devil, she was just so intense in her feelings that she resorted to hyperbole; Sr. Julienne’s mere presence was enough to defeat the vilest thoughts in her.
They entered the sparsely furnished room, absent of any decor other than a cross and a picture of Jesus surrounded by little children, and took their seats at the long wooden table on which had been placed a water pitcher and glasses. They rose in unison as Mother Jesu Emmanuel and Mother Mary Thomas entered the room. Mother Jesu Emmanuel greeted the group with a warm smile and held hands with each one of the contingent as they introduced themselves. Her dancing, but compassionate eyes and jovial smile set Patsy’s emotions at ease.
Mother Mary Thomas, on the other hand, was a severe looking woman with tightly pursed lips and squinted eyes that darted about in distrust as though she was expecting a villian to jump out from the shadows at any moment. Patsy felt the hairs on her arms stand up like they did when she pulled off a wool jumper in the middle of winter. Any hope she had for a favorable outcome dissipated when she saw Mother Mary Thomas.
‘Mother Jesu Emmanuel and I have been in conversation for over an hour, and have reached a complete impasse,’ snapped Mother Mary Thomas. ‘I absolutely refuse to turn over ownership of the O'Shannassy twins to the Nonnatuns; the mother elected to come to our facility to give birth knowing that we would find a suitable disposition for her offspring. We cannot overrule the desires of the birth mother.’ Mother Mary Thomas paused, as much for dramatic effect as to catch her breath, before continuing. ‘I simply do not believe it is appropriate for an unmarried woman to take possession of these infants; we are accustomed to dealing with unmarried mothers who want to get rid of their illegitimate spawn. What you are asking is, at best unnatural, flies in the face of convention, and goes against the tenets of the Church, my Church anyway,’ she said while casting a disapproving eye toward Mother Jesu Emmanuel and Sr. Julienne. I expect, demand, that those infants be returned to the mothers’ house immediately so that I can find a suitable disposition for them.’
Mother Jesu Emmanuel brought her hands together as though she were about to pray, touched them to her lips, closed her eyes, and held silence for several moments before speaking in a very soft, modulated voice, ‘Mother Mary Thomas, I believe the birth mother’s actions of removing the infants from your care and bringing them to Nonnatus House speaks to her desire to have them under our care; her handwritten note says as much, and she selected Nurse Mount to be the adoptive parent. She no doubt found the conditions at the mothers’ home to be unsatisfactory, in particular the knowledge that her mixed race twins would likely be sent to another country, which has been, and still is to my knowledge, the practice of your Church. Mother Superior, this is the obscenity to which you allude, to dispose of our unwanted population in such an evil manner is an abomination against the God we worship. We have given those twins sanctuary as requested by the birth mother, and will not release them back to you under any circumstances.’
‘I will not hear of it; I shall have the local constabulary take them by force if I have to’, shouted Mother Mary Thomas as she slammed her hand into the table top with such force that the water glasses clinked against one another. ‘I can assure you the Church has deep pockets and can withstand any legal challenge your denomination can muster,’ derision dripping from her lips.
Gilbert surreptitiously looked at his wristwatch, and only a slight twitch of his mustache gave away his uneasiness as to the direction this meeting was taking. Just as he was about to stand to excuse himself to make a phone call, the tension was interrupted by a Novice entering the room to inform Mother Mary Thomas that Cardinal O’Brien was on the phone and wanted to immediately speak with her.
A shocked Mother Superior said, ‘the Cardinal wants to speak with me? Well, I can’t come to the phone right now; ask him if I may return his call.’
The very timid Novice said in a trembling voice, ‘Mother Mary Thomas, he said it is imperative he speak with you, and you are to take his call immediately.’
‘Hurumph, I can’t imagine what is so critical that it can’t wait until this meeting is over.’
‘I don’t know, Mother, but he demanded you come to the phone,’ said the tearful Novice.
‘Well, then, Mother Jesu Emmanuel, ladies and gentlemen, please excuse me while I take the Cardinal’s call,’ she said as she strode toward the door with fists clenched.
Had Patsy been fully engaged in the present, she might have noticed the slight smile that showed itself under Gilbert’s mustache, but she was consumed in her own fantasy, rescuing the twins from their assumed fate. She would go to her father’s house in Chelsea, take one of the cars, which she was entitled to do, unlock his gun cabinet and take his hunting rifle and pistol, pick up Delia and the twins from a prearranged hiding place, drive to the airport, commandeer the Mount cargo plane, and force the pilot at gunpoint to fly them somewhere where they could live as a family. They would go to New York City, or perhaps Philadelphia where she would seek out the Quakers. They had a history of granting sanctuary to other oppressed peoples, surely they would do no less for them.
Patsy was shaken back to reality by the commotion created by Gilbert and Patrick as they took advantage of Mother Superior’s absence to sneak a smoke break. Patsy heard Patrick asking her if she wanted to join them for a cigarette.
‘I’m really trying to quit, but at the moment, I would like nothing better than a cigarette.’
‘Under the circumstances, I think you can justify one cigarette,’ Patrick said.
‘I believe I’ll also join you,’ they heard Sr. Julienne say.
‘Oh, dear me,’ gasped Mother Jesu Emmanuel, ‘I’ll just have a glass of water.’
Patsy was midway through her second cigarette when they heard Mother Mary Thomas entering the room. The smoking contingent quickly extinguished their tobacco, and took their seats. A noticeably subdued Mother Mary Thomas approached the table. She looked smaller, older; the fire was gone from her eyes, but most significantly, she looked like a woman defeated. ‘I’ve had time to reconsider my stance on the twins. I think it is in their best interest to transfer ownership to Nonnatus House. I understand there is some paperwork one of you has that I may need to sign,’ she uttered while looking down at the table.
‘Yes, yes there is Mother,’ said Gilbert as he stood to open his attache case. ‘This is an official document legally transferring the guardianship of the O’Shannassy twins from the unwed mothers’ home to the Nonnatus Mother House in Chichester. Once signed and witnessed, I will have it recorded in the proper courts of jurisdiction. Please review the document before signing; I will be glad to clarify any points of confusion.’
Mother Jesu Emmanuel and Sr. Julienne read the document word for word, rereading several of the more arcane clauses to insure they were clear on the legal implications before affixing their signatures to the document. By contrast, Mother Mary Thomas signed without attempting to read the document, then stood up abruptly, and without eye contact, bade farewell to the assembled group and left the room.
Patsy was in a trance, unsure that what she was hearing was real. Did Mother Mary Thomas actually concede to transfer the twins to Nonnatus? She felt someone touching her hand, ‘Patsy, the twins are now legally under the control of Nonnatus House. We can proceed with the adoption hearing. Nurse Crane, Nurse Franklin, Nurse Gilbert, Dr. and Mrs. Turner and I have all made written declarations to Mother Jesu Emmanuel attesting to your suitability to become the adoptive parent. We have noted your experience as a senior midwife and trusted colleague, your emotional stability and endurance, as well as your ability to plan for any future occurrences by designating Nurse Busby as the twins’ legal guardian in your absence. She is in her office as we speak reviewing our recommendations, and will issue her decision before we leave today. Why don’t we have a cup of tea while she deliberates?’
In a voice so soft it was barely audible, Patsy said, ‘I would like that very much, Sister.’
Patsy bounded up the steps to Nonnatus House, and quickly looked for Delia in the lounge and kitchen, not finding her in either room, she quickly ran up the stairs to their room to break the news to her.
‘Delia, Delia’, Patsy shouted as she bolted through the door to their room startling Delia, who was holding Anwen and softly singing to her. ‘Gosh Pats, you scared me half to death. You’re smiling; dare I assume you have some good news?’
‘Oh, yes, yes, Delia, they’re almost ours,’ Patsy exclaimed as she waived a sheaf of papers in the air. ‘These are the screening papers recommending adoption, signed by Mother Jesu Emmanuel. Gilbert is taking them to the judge now, and it should be official by the end of the day. He’ll bring by the papers once the judge signs them.’ Patsy was ecstatic, but the stress and worry of the last few days was apparent in her face that was devoid of color; bags and dark circles under her eyes emphasized the torment she had suffered. Delia rose from the chair to place Anwen in the bedbox where Charles was soundly sleeping, then threw her arms around Patsy and held her tightly, ‘Oh my precious sweetheart, you found a way, you did it. God, how I love you; we have a family, Pats, we’re mothers.’ Then she kissed her deeply before throwing her on the bed and bestowing kisses all over her face and neck.
‘Cariad, you need a good meal and a sound night’s sleep more than you need my amorous intents tonight. Shall I go get us a shepherd’s pie?’
‘That would be lovely, darling. I’ll stay with the twins’, Patsy uttered through a very tired smile.
Delia breaks the news of the twins to her parents. Being American, I'm unaccustomed to using 'Ta' and 'Tad' for a father and 'mum' and 'mam' for a mother, so hopefully someone can enlighten me on when the terms are used and the distinctions.
As soon as they had finished the shepherd’s pie, Delia sent Patsy to the bath and then to bed where she held her until she fell asleep and slept soundly for the next twelve hours. She slept so deeply that she was unaware Delia had gotten up twice to change and feed the twins right in the room. Rather than take them downstairs to feed them, she brought the warned bottles to them in the room, thinking it would cause less disturbance than trying to take them downstairs one at a time. Delia was happy that Patsy’s sleep seemed contented and restful; she herself had slept on the camp bed so that her cariad could stretch out in the single bed unencumbered by another adult body taking up half the space.
As dawn was just beginning to come through the window, Patsy began to stir, and suddenly sat up in bed with a start. ‘What time is it? Delia, are you in here?’
Delia, awakened from her sleep by Patsy’s voice, mumbled, ‘it’s near seven o’clock, sweetheart, you’ve been asleep for about twelve hours.’
‘Seven morning or evening; I can’t tell which?’
‘Morning. Did you sleep well? You were certainly blowing pigs to market most of the night’, Delia quipped as she swung her legs out of the camp bed, the cold floor causing her to emit a slight yelp as her bare feet touched down, `it didn't appear that you had any visitors during the night.’
‘No, no I didn’t; they stayed in the underworld last night. I do hope I didn’t keep you awake with all my pig blowing, Deels.’
‘Of course not, sweetheart. It was good to hear you getting a sound night’s sleep for a change. I got up twice to change and feed the twins during the night, but you were able to sleep through it; they were very considerate of you, well Anwen was, but Charles was starting to fuss, so I draped your brassiere around my shoulders to try and quiet him. It did seem to work as once he nestled against your bra, he quieted down and took his bottle.’
‘What are you going to do after I leave for Hong Kong, Deels? I simply can’t take him with me at this time because he is so susceptible to catching any disease that is in the air, and he won’t have his last round of vaccinations for another two weeks.’
‘I suppose you’ll have to add nappies and flannels to your fashion ensemble, sweetheat. You can stuff your brassiere with flannels during the day, there’s more than enough room,’ Delia laughingly said, while ducking for Patsy’s anticipated smack. ‘I’m sorry, Pats, but I just couldn’t resist.’
‘I thought you found my breasts to be perfectly sized for your entertainment,’ said an indignant redhead. ‘What else have you lied about, Miss Busby?’
‘Delia swallowed hard and replied, ‘nothing at all, dear, nothing at all. I suppose you can also drape some nappies around your neck when you go to bed, and perhaps cover your pillow with a blanket at night.’
‘Are you sure you don’t want me to wear a nappy at night, Delia? I’m sure it would fit.’
‘You have a lovely derriere, Pats, and I think draping them around your neck and shoulder will transfer the essence he is used to. I’ll store they away and judiciously use them until we can come to Hong Kong.’
‘You do seem to have an answer for everything, Deels, and are a magician at getting yourself extracted from difficult situations,’ Patsy quipped with squinted eyes. ‘You should have awakened me to help you take them downstairs; it’s too dangerous for you to carry both at the same time, even though I know you have muscles of steel.’
‘Yes dear, while I can leap tall obstacles in a single bound, I only took Chales with me while I prepared the bottles so as not to interrupt your sleep.’
With that, Patsy leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, ‘I love you, Delia Busby, woman of steel.’
‘Let’s get them cleaned up, have breakfast, and then pack up our belongings so that we can take them to Father’s house today. You know, Deels, it’s funny how suddenly being a parent so totally changes your perspective and priorities. Temporarily housing you and the twins there makes so much sense to me now; my life isn’t just about me now that I have a family; I have to do what is best for you and them, and put my selfish stance aside,’ Patsy opined while nodding her head toward the still sleeping twins. ‘I’ll call over there this morning to arrange for the car to pick us up around three o’clock. We can take the pram and bed box with us until we can go shopping for babybeds. I believe you have a phone call to make today too,’ grinned Patsy as she watched Delia grimace at the thought of breaking the news to her parents, in particular, the formidable Enid Busby.
‘Who on earth is calling at this time of day,’ grumbled Enid Busby as she wiped her hands on her apron on her way to answer the wall phone in the kitchen.
‘Probably one of your friends with a bit of gossip that can’t wait any longer,’ replied Reyes as he looked up from his newspaper he was reading while finishing his breakfast.
‘Humph, I never listen to gossip,’ Enid snapped.
‘ That’s because you’re too busy passing it on to hear anyone else’s,’ Reyes replied under his breath as she picked up the receiver.
‘Hello. Busby residence, may I help you?’
‘Delia, Delia are you alright? What is the matter? You’re not having your spells again are you, cariad?’
‘No mum, nothing like that, I couldn’t be better.’
‘Then why are you calling so early? Shouldn’t you be at work?’
‘Oh, mum, I’m, I’m, I’m a…….mum,’ Delia blurted out before she could stop herself. She had planned to tell her mother gently, building a long winding narrative so that she would lead Enid to the conclusion that adopting the twins was the only logical solution to their dilemma, but she lost her train of thought when she heard her mother’s domineering voice on the other end of the phone, and just blurted out the first words that crossed her mind. She heard a loud thud on the other end of the line which she recognized immediately; she knew that sound intimately, having gotten several spankings for jumping on the chair so hard it banged against the wall.
‘Mum, mum, are you there? Are you alright? Mum, answer me, please.’
‘My god, Delia. How were you able to hide this from us? We saw you a couple of months ago, and, and there was no, uh, no indication of, of…..that. When did you get married? Who’s the father? Why didn’t you tell us before now?’
‘No mum, I’m not married and I don’t know who the father is, some Indian fellow, I only saw him once at the market,’ Delia replied, knowing she sounded like the twelve year old Delia caught doing something that displeased her Mother, and now unable to respond to her mother’s inquiry in an adult manner.
‘Oh Delia, how could you? After all I’ve done to give you a good moral upbringing, how could you be so careless? I took great pains to explain the facts of life to you, but here you are throwing it back in my face. Oh god, we’ll have to move; you’ve shamed us beyond repair, we’re ruined in this community, you’ve made us pariahs. How can we ever hold our heads up again? You are to never bring that bastard of yours home!’
‘Mum, if Ta’s still there, let me talk to him, please.’
Enid, held the phone out, ‘come talk to your daughter, it’s all your fault, you were much too lenient with her and now she has disgraced the family,’ Enid then placed her face in her hands and bawled as she paced the kitchen floor.
‘Sweetheart, what’s the matter that has your mum so upset,’ asked Reyes in a curious but very calm voice.
Hearing her father’s calmness, and loving him all the more for it, Delia told him the narrative she had intended to tell her mum before Enid’s abruptness had rattled her.
‘I see. Twins you say.’ With that, Delia heard the chair slam into the wall again as her mother’s loud wail drowned out her father’s words.
‘I’m sorry, Ta, I didn’t hear that last comment over mum’s banging the chair against the wall,......again.’
‘Six weeks old you say? Born during the blizzard. You and Patsy delivered them?’
‘Patsy! I knew that woman would have a hand in this. I knew the minute I met that red headed trollop that she would be the ruin of you!,’ Delia heard her mother bellow in the background.
‘Abandoned on the steps of the convent? The birth mother wanted you and Patsy to adopt them? I see.’
‘What are they mixed with besides Indian?’, Delia heard her mother shout.
‘Irish and Indian, you say?’
‘Irish! Oh my God, they’ll be in jail before they’re teenagers. We’ll have to hide the silver when they visit,’ Enid moaned in the background.
‘That means you’re going to let them visit, does it, Enid?’
‘Just.....just what color are they anyway,’ an hysterical Enid cried.
‘Ta, does she want to talk to me, or will you continue to relay information to her?’
‘Enid, come here and talk to our daughter.’
‘I can’t believe you would do this to us, Delia, how could…..’.
‘Mum, you know how Tad likes his coffee with cream, not too dark, not too light. sort of a creamy caramel? Well, they’re just slightly lighter than he likes his coffee. They have blue eyes, must be the Irish genes,’ Delia giggled. ‘They are so beautiful, mum. You’ll fall in love with them, I know you will. Let me talk to Tad again, please.’
‘Yes, I see. I heard her father was quite ill. Leaving for Hong Kong in three weeks? Going to fly, you say? Yes, yes, I think we can do that, sweetheart. I’ll await your call later this evening.’ Reyes hung up the phone and started toward the backdoor.
‘Where are you going? What have you and that daughter of yours agreed to now?’, asked a tearful Enid.
Reyes walked back to his wife, put his arms around her waist and calmly said, ‘I’m going to get film for my camera and make arrangements for Bessie to run the shop while you go and pack us a bag; we’re going to London to see our grandchildren, Enid.’
‘But what will we say to our friends? How will we explain that our unmarried daughter has half breed twins? No one will believe the true story; I’m not sure I believe it,’ cried Enid.
‘I will tell them to sod off, and then I will tell them that our wonderful, beautiful, and brilliant daughter had gifted us with the most precious children imaginable, that’s what I’ll tell them, Enid. Then I’ll tell them that she’s done better for herself than the whole lot of them put together. Now, go pack us about two weeks’ worth of clothing to take with us. I’ll be back in an hour, more or less.’