Legend has it that swallows were a sailor’s land omen, or at least that’s how my grandmother’s story went. I would ask my grandmother, ‘Tell me how you and pawpaw met again,’ and she would tuck me in and sit in the rocker beside my bed. ‘Swallows let sailors know if they are close to land. They are the messages they look for when they need to find land or carry messages of hope.’
She continued, ‘I was just a young girl when I became interested in the boats that came in from the sea bringing foods, goods, father, and husbands. I would help my dad unload the fish and my mom set up at the market. My father had hired a young boy that he found orphaned on the streets. My dad would invite him to stay with us sometimes but he would barely speak a word. He would quietly eat dinner, get cleaned up, and sleep in the stables. Even when he did that he was out there tending to the horses. I always thought it was to show gratitude.
The more he spent time with our family the more he would open up. I learned that he couldn’t read or write and I was now the proud teacher to my only student. In return, he taught me folklore of the sea. I was fascinated by mermaids, sirens, large man-eating sharks and the effects of the moon. He taught me about the constellations and I taught him, French. A bond and loved formed between us. I loved that man so much then and more now. As the years passed your grandpa saved enough for his own fishing boat. He asked my father for my hand in marriage. Your great-grandfather agreed on the condition that he provides a house and a lifestyle better than he could give his only daughter.
Because of this, your grandfather was rarely home. He was always fishing and saving his money. I would receive love letters mailed from different ports from around the world. Until one month they just stopped. July, August, and September passed without a word. I would sit at the docks in the mornings watching the swallows in the distance praying for one of them to carry on their wings a wish of hope that my love would soon return. It was now November and we were sitting down for a meal when there was a faint tapping at the door. There your grandfather was, on one knee. He asked me to marry him but without a ring. Instead in the golden box was a key embossed with swallows.
I gasped, said yes and embraced him before my dad could react. My father invited him in for dinner like when he was a little boy. I sat a place next to my plate and sat down next to my future husband. ‘Son, where have you been? You stopped all communication with my daughter. Why should I believe you won’t abandon her again after you’re married?’ My fiance looked down at his plate and said, ‘Sir, I was out fishing. I have seen beautiful mornings and starry nights. I earned enough money to purchase the mansion on the hill. I also purchased four other charter boats so I can stay home with your daughter more and earn a living off my newly built company.’
‘The reason why it took so long for me to get home is that I got lost.’ My father rolled his eyes but the young man continued, ‘I have never seen such giant waves or heard roaring winds. I got turned around several times and almost capsized twice. I held tight and the crew doubted every decision I made but obeyed. I was even doubting myself trying to make it home. The next morning’s sunrise was like looking at angels. I realized I was lost and had no idea where we were. Then a lone swallow landed on the rail and hopped from side to side and take off. As if the bird was trying to tell me something. I know they don’t fly far from land and headed in the direction of the swallow. I planned on sending word to your daughter but seen it was our home port. I purchased the house, set up credit so she can purchase whatever she likes for the home, and purchased foods and goods. So with your permission and with the help of your wife, can I marry your daughter and help us plan a wedding fit for a princess?’
Speechless my mother gripped my sleeve and looked towards my father with hope in her eyes. He grinned, ‘Martin, you may marry my daughter. Let’s eat and see the fine life you will give my baby bird.’ My grandmother finished the story with a mist in her eye and a smile on her face, ‘And that’s how you were given the name Terney, my sea swallow. Sleep well baby bird.’
Ok, writing love stories isn’t my forte so this gives me a starting point to build from. But Discover’s Daily Prompt gave me a push. I happen to have two swallows tattooed on my shoulder. I also learned from a little research before naming characters is that Martin is a bank swallow and Tern (the granddaughter’s name is Terney) is a sea swallow.