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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices and The Teen Scene is Named 2024 Non-Profit of the Year by the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices / The Teen Scene named 2024 Non-Profit of the Year by North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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Contrary Mary

Mary Murphy, my grandmother, was a study in contrasts. She escaped the economic devastation of the Glasgow shipyard closure that forced my welder grandfather to seek a new life in America. Braving the sea journey in steerage to Ellis Island, Mary was accompanied only by her two small children. Arriving, she soon felt the wrath of the Great Depression, so frugality became an innate skill. Yet, she gladly gifted my family with its first color television later in life.

My grandmother was a strong supporter of bettering oneself. Financially unable to attend school beyond the sixth grade, she repeatedly advised, “Work hard in school. They can never take your education away.” To broaden our cultural experiences, she would take my brother and me to the NYC Museum of Natural History. She also paid for accordion lessons for my sister and me.

Things she could never have afforded as a coal miner’s child. Calling to me, “Wee one, help me get that bowl off the top shelf.” Regardless that I towered over her by at least six inches, to her, I would always be ‘wee’ no matter my size. Despite living in America for 43 years, she had such a heavy Glaswegian accent, my friends would ask, “What language is she speaking?” I’d reply with a shrug, “English.”

My grandmother often criticized me for never being home. I was a busy teenager heavily involved with the Church’s youth theater group. Yet when she was together with her sisters, she would brag about how popular I was, involved with parish activities. Something significant to this devout Catholic.

My grandmother was my strongest supporter and my harshest critic. Her words have often seen me through the tough times in my life. When disheartened by slights from others, she would promise, “You are just as good as anyone else, and a damn sight better than most.” Such support gave me the confidence to believe in myself, to achieve things I never thought possible. Yet, when I became too full of myself, she also gave a lesson in humility, reminding me, “You’re not the only pebble on the beach, dearie.” Thank you, Mary Murphy. I love you and miss you even after all these years.

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