My buddy at the bank asked me the other day what I was doing on Saint Patrick's Day. Well, I don't drink nor do I like corned beef and cabbage (especially since I'm a vegetarian though I never liked it as a kid.) I do, however, love the music and literature from the Emerald Isle and I'll be partaking in a bit of sensory delight throughout the day.
In the summer of 1995, my family (my parents, sister and me) flew to Ireland to spend some time there. It was the first time that Erin and I left North America. What we experienced there stayed with us. Good people with a strong sense of community, heritage and love for their common man. People who didn't forget where they had come from. People who loved to talk and share stories. People genuinely interested in how their neighbors and even strangers were doing.
We stayed in B and B's (bed and breakfasts) all throughout our trip, making reservations in advance. Except for one night. We decided to get a little adventurous and head out without any planning. Well, little did we know that a HUGE festival was going on where we were heading and there weren't any rooms to be had for MILES and MILES (I'm not exaggerating.) Dad pulls the car into this very elegant looking place (keep in mind that we're a red and white checkered table cloth kind of family) and asks if there are rooms available. The whole time there are dogs barking and growling at us. Dad comes out with a shocked look on his face and says that he got us a room but that it was four times what we had been paying. Well, all of the Irish Women in the car (Mom, Erin and me) get pissy and protest. Dad gets annoyed and goes back in and cancels the reservation. We drive on. For four hours. We finally get to a B and B in the middle of nowhere and explain our situation to the woman who tells us, "I've just taken the mattress off of my own bed and given it to a stranger." She sees the look on our faces and says, "Let me ask my sister." She proceeds to YELL for her sister (who lives right next door.) Her sister comes out immediately and explains that she used to run a B and B but she hasn't done so in many years. She'd be delighted to have us stay with her. We're total strangers. She doesn't know us. We don't know her. Yet she opens her entire downstairs up for us to stay. In the morning she makes us a warm, hearty breakfast. My Dad tries to pay her and she won't accept it. She wishes us a good, safe journey and we are off on our way (knowing damn well that we have a reservation for that night.)
This is what Ireland is to me and what I carry with me every day.
“Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.”
― James Joyce