For those of you who are keeping track, this blog post marks a momentous milestone—it’s past week three. And I’m still blogging. Feel free to send your congratulatory notes across the ether.
I’m sitting in a hotel room in London having just enjoyed a dinner of hamburger and chips. Though the “American-ness” of said meal was lovely, it’s got nothing, I repeat nothing, on Rita’s cooking. Per my brother’s request I did get the ‘”recipe” for her delicious soups, though after watching her at work I doubt whatever I manage to put together will ever quite measure up.
Aside from cooking techniques, longings for coffee and biscuits, and reminiscence of excellent food (of which there was much) I leave Ireland with many great moments and memories.
So here are the things I’ve packed in the hypothetical “treasured moments” suitcase:
Wandering through the city, spending a mild Thursday afternoon on the streets, passing by the bars and hearing good ole’ Irish trad playing already at 3 o’clock. Meeting up with newfound friends John and Donny at Trinity and shooting the breeze or discussing the relevance of Thomism over tea. Wandering in and out of museums—the Turner exhibition, the National Library, Dublin Castle and Chester Beatty Library. Standing an arm’s (or nose) length away from the work of Durer, Goya, Caravaggio, Gentileschi, Courbet, and Rembrandt; scanning the shelves of Long Hall Library for Dante and Handel, touching the pages of a bible written centuries ago; gazing at the work of ancient Egyptians scribed on papyrus and the words “Woman, behold thy son” written in Greek in the second century. And then, seeing them all up close, realizing that whatever problems we humans have, we’ve made some pretty great stuff.
Taking all those “day-jaunts”—walking along the pier, hiking up at Howth and Rita and I making the descent to the Old Abbey while Aidan made the ascent to the car, touring Kilkenny with the best of tour guides, Paddy and Mary, Wicklow and Greystones, and watching the green green grass roll by. Meeting so many of my relations—Paddy and Mary, Josie, Tony and Mary, Dominic and Anna, and Evelyn.
Being “one of the cousins”—joining in on a Happy Birthday chorus for Crona with her kids, enjoying meals with Aidan and Rita’s children and grandchildren and being welcomed into their homes, deciding definitively that Irish television is way cooler than American (sorry not sorry), meeting Cian’s parrot (the one with the posh accent and the great dance moves), talking about Yeats and sailing and fish, swapping high school stories (“Do you really have cafeterias?”) with Aine’s girls, walking along behind the hearse in an Irish wake as it drove from Anne’s home to the church and listening to the beautiful “How Great Thou Art” reverberate throughout the wide space.
Arranmore. I’ll never forget that ferry ride and watching the mainland slip into the distance, and looking out the window at Finola’s for my first view of the island in the daylight. One day when I go back and climb down those steps again, I’ll surely remember my first descent with Aidan as my guide and Rita “praying” for us from the top.
I’ll miss waiting out the rainy days reading the newspaper or a good book from Rita’s collection, and listening to John Murray and good ole Joe Duffy on the radio. Laughing over the horrible Irish accents put on in the “Back to the Future” movie. Late night rugby and soccer matches (here’s to Ireland giving Scotland a spanking today), all with commentary provided by the best (that’s you Aidan Gallagher). Getting a downright music education (that’s a good thing) from Bette Midler to Pete Seeger and even some throwback Garth Brooks. Morning masses with Fr. Sam, afternoon walks (when the rain let up), grocery runs, and the inevitable and welcome chats that accompanied all those activities.
Ireland, you’ve been quite kind to me—far from home and yet I felt so close to it.
So this is goodbye…but just for a while.