Maisie and her mother Jeanie sat nervously at the kitchen table. Thomas, Maisie’s father and husband to his long-suffering wife Jean was late home from his Friday market. Both knew what this meant. Red-eyed the younger children had all been sent to bed top to toe in the back room despite the eldest boy Declan’s protest and all of their cries.
Eight o’clock came and went, Maisie picked up the shovel and scuttle and skipped out the door. She turned left along the ash and cinder path around the side of the cottage to the woodshed. She would need to pick up some more slabs of peat turf for the fire. They were getting low, she realised, and she would have to remind her mother when she got back indoors.
As she was picking up the turfs she heard the wooden garden gate squeal then close with a loud bang. It must be her father. Clasping the scuttle to her breast she ran back to greet him. She stopped, he was standing with one hand resting on the low wall staring up at the darkening night sky. “Dad, dad, “ cried Maisie and rushed to hug him but he brushed her away and stumbled his way to the front door muttering words that she couldn’t understand.
Tears came into her eyes as she realised that her father was empty-handed. It looked as though he had brought nothing back from the market. She waited outside undecided as to whether to enter. She imagined that her mother would soon be getting him ready for bed.
Plucking up courage she walked in. Jean turned around and then back to her husband who was leaning against the large china sink and in icy tones hissed, “ and I suppose you haven’t got the ribbons you promised for our little lassies birthday tomorrow?” The look on her father’s face said it all as both Maisie and her father found tears forming in their eyes despite her efforts to hide them. She turned and ran into the small back room ignoring her father’s pleas for her to wait a minute. Her anger remained with her as she fell asleep.
The next morning Maisie awoke, she had slept the whole night in her clothes. Realising the time and that she would be late for school she grabbed a piece of bread and with a cheerful, “Bye Ma,” scooted out of the door not waiting for any reply or any best wishes for her big day.
In fact she felt quite light-headed, the sun was shining and everything would be new and an adventure. There was no use worrying about her beloved father but she knew her anger would pass by the evening. Once again he would scoop up his little girl in his arms and both laughing loudly, he would whirl her around till they both felt giddy.
She followed the path down to the woods for the walk to school was only about half an hour if she went through the trees rather than the cart track that led between Mr. Thomas’ fields. Then she saw it. All her prayers seemed to have been answered. A tree was leaning across her path. It’s branches festooned with thousands of gaily coloured streamers, torn cloth pieces, ribbons and flowers. She realised it was a wishing tree. And it knew that this was what she was wishing for as she selected the finest ribbon she could reach for her hair.