I was born and raised in New York and have lived as an adult my whole life in California. My mother is from a little town in Ireland called Killenaule and did not move to this country until she was 22 years old. She currently resides in New York. All of her family lives in Ireland. Her parents are now deceased, but she has three brothers and a sister and cousins all over that beautiful land. I also have many cousins in Ireland as do my two children, so we try to take a trip there every few years.
If one is lucky to fly Aer Lingus to Ireland, you are amazed at how friendly the stewards and stewardesses are. At first I thought they must have ulterior motives, but I soon came to realize their attitudes were genuine. When we landed in Ireland, the people behind the counters actually smiled at us and asked to help instead of grunting commands or ignoring us. We were picked up by our relatives and driven off an hour or so to a small town called Killenaule. The scenery on the way was amazing. Quaint little homes, many with thatched roofs with smoke blowing out the chimneys. Jack Russels running wild everywhere. And stranger after stranger waved to as us we drove by. And the green fields!. There were acres and acres as far as the eye could see with cows everywhere. Yes, cows! Just like in the movies. Once we had to stop our car to allow the cows to cross from one field to another. I guess they get bored in the same field all day.
We arrived at our house (actually my grandparents’ house) who as I mentioned early had passed away. The house was very small, but very quaint and clean. There didn’t seem to be much heat to offset the dampness, but we figured we just weren’t used to Irish weather. No wonder everyone was wearing woolen sweaters. The house was considered very modern. It had four bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and a television that got 2 stations, both sports stations. Our back yard was called a haggard, a bit of cement and a clothesline (no clothes washer in sight) and behind this more acres of those beautiful green fields and wonderful cows and a handful of goats!
We spent two weeks having a blast! Whenever I could not find my kids who were 14 and 16 at the time, I knew they were up in one of the pubs in the town drinking with some of their cousins. There was no such thing as checking IDs. As long as you had a hand and could lift a glass, you were good to go. Going to pubs is the social life in Ireland. We spent many a night in pubs listening to music or singing and one of my daughters even unknowingly danced on stage with a group of professional dancers. She brought the place down! Out of all the time we spent in Ireland, I only met one person who wasn’t friendly. She was a bartender named Lucy. I asked her if she had a glass of merlot. She looked at me in a scary way. So I asked for champagne. Again that same look. So I asked if she had a blood mary to which she replied I was a bloody pain in the ass.
We ate in a town called Cashel where some of our relatives lives. We actually ate in the underground part of a castle. It was eerie but unique. My uncle said it has been used years prior as a torture chamber, but to this day I’m not sure whether he was kidding. We visited relatives on farms and were in muck up to our knees, but the goats gathered around us and made us feel welcome. Everywhere we went, people said “top of the morning” to us. Every day people in our town just stopped by and sat down to have a cup of tea and shoot the balarney. And boy did they shoot it.
One of the most curious sites we saw were tinkers. You might equate them to bums or homeless people. But they lived as families in horse drawn carts and sold wares they had made out of junk. Most of them didn’t have teeth. There were always a lot of Jack Russels running around that cart. Amazing sight!
Irish people are definitely the most friendly and gracious people I have every met. And one important lesson we learned was what to do in order not to have a hang over the next morning!