KISS ME, I'M IRISH
17 March 2005
Every time I see a sign that says "Kiss Me, I'm Irish," I think of my brother-in-law's former roommate, a black man, who wore a button with that on it every St. Patrick's Day.
On St. Patrick's Day, everybody is Irish. A certain percentage of us are able to really say that we are Irish. Got all those celtic genes from both sides of the family. The Irish ones from my father, the Scottish ones from my mother.
Add to that 8 years in a grammar school named for St. Brigid, an important person in Irish history who was either the founder of the Christian church in Ireland (as taught by the Catholic church) or the druid Goddess of Fire (as claimed by modern day druids).
Anyway you look at it, my Irish roots are not to be denied.
Besides, I love Bailey's and come from a long line of alcoholics,--so I must be Irish.
For a couple of years on St. Patrick's Day, I ran the story of our first trip to Ireland, in 1989, with all the kids, staying in a cottage on the west side, visiting Walt's family farm and meeting Cousin Ned (who has since died).
Walt and I have been to Ireland a couple of times by ourselves, and Ireland has come to us several times as well, in the person of Cousin Nora (twice) and her daughter's family (twice). Paul and Audra also stayed with Nora for a day or two when they went to Ireland for their honeymoon.
While I never dreamed we'd get to Ireland once, much less several times, we loved it so much when we were there, visiting Nora, that we decided to go back a couple of years later. On our first trip, we'd just met her and spent a day with her; on our second trip, we actually used her home as a base of operations while we went traveling around the countryside.
We returned in 1994, again dividing our time between England and Ireland. This time we flew into Dublin, rather than taking the ferry across. We stayed with Cousin Nora for about a week, and had the chance to do more investigating of Dublin itself.
We visited ChristChurch this time around--huge gothic building that stands in the center of Dublin. It was a great surprise to me to discover that Nora had never been inside it because it's a Protestant church. But then, now that I think about it, Grace Cathedral is the huge Episcopal cathedral in the middle of San Francisco and I've never been inside it either.
The best part of this trip was getting to know the family a bit better--especially her oldest daughter Siobhan and her family. Siobhan and I kept up a correspondence for many years following that visit and she and her husband have been here twice, as has Nora.
In the evening, we'd always come back to Nora's little home and sit with her, drinking a glass of her favorite--Paddy's Irish Whiskey.
(It was on this trip that we were introduced to a music video of a brief number which had just been performed at the European Music Festival and which had taken Ireland by storm. It was being sold as a fund-raiser for Rwanda relief. We liked it so much we bought tapes for everyone back home. Nobody had ever heard of it before and couldn't understand why we were so excited. The number was called "Riverdance.")
At the end of the trip, we had what Walt still describes as his favorite experience in Ireland--we went to the horse races at the Leopardstown race course in Dublin. Nora's cousin owned a horse and so we spent the afternoon sitting there, watching the guys at the "tote boards," placing a few bets, and just blending with the locals.
Nora came to the States a couple of years later and I had such a good time being her tour guide. The one thing she wanted to try was pumpkin pie, which we never did get around to making for her. I promised her that next time I came to Ireland, I would bake her a pumpkin pie.
We went back to Dublin in 1996, again staying with Nora. This time we did more touring on our own, taking a week to drive down the east side of the country, stopping at scenic spots, visiting the Waterford crystal factory (which was actually one of my favorite things--a fascinating tour!), and driving the scenic Ring of Kerry, which we managed to hit on the first clear day they'd had in a month. The views were spectacular.
Our last major scenic spot was the "Rock of Cashel," which I'd heard about for a long time, and didn't realize was a castle dating from the 5th century A.D. (I guess I thought it was a "rock"!)
And yes, I did make Nora a pumpkin pie. I made it while she was out of the house and since I couldn't find anything that looked anything like a rolling pin, I rolled the dough out with a bottle of Paddy's!
We've talked about going back to Ireland again. Walt actually did go in 2003. That was the year I went to Australia and he went to England and Ireland.
I love how comfortable I feel in Ireland. I could never live there (I once thought I could). It's too 1950s Catholic which is what feels familiar. But I like knowing where to find Bewley's and how to get from Sandyford to Dublin on the DART, where to find the Internet cafe, and that the building behind the high walls is the mental institution where Nora's parents met and married (they worked there).
I'm sure we will return to Ireland again--it gets in your blood and calls you back. I always think about how much I love the country when St. Patrick's day rolls around. And I try to remember hearing my grandfather sing the old Irish songs, on the rare occasion when my grandmother would let him sing.
PHOTO OF THE DAY