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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ireland Day 3: The Long Road Home

There comes a point in your life when you find that special place. That place where you belong. It could be a place in your mind, with a person, a physical place... A place that feels more like home than your own. Foreign, yet you belong there.
About 5 years ago, I made friends with the person who shares the same feelings I have on this place. It is just as much hers as it is mine. A piece of our hearts is there still in love with each brightly colored building, every glistening pint, every smile that walks through the door or the ones that greet you when you walk in, and every nick in the old cherry bar counter.....My friend, Wendy and I discovered a place that to us, we had been before. In the beginning of our friendship, Ireland was a conversation piece...a place we'd like to go, a part of our heritage. It was a place I had been cheated out of reach some 11 years before. I was scheduled to go with our high school band and drill team, but some "embezzling" on behalf of a band director squashed my excitement with one resounding stomp. Poof. It was gone, that is until I met my friend and we planned a trip to Ireland in Sept/Oct of 2004. We arrived without a plan. Just a place to stay and a car was all that had a confirmation. That's the way we wanted to explore. Where the wind blows, we'd go.
We landed in Shannon at about 8:30 in the morning. There were 4 of us friends. We acclimated ourselves, found some coffee, picked up the Renault Scenic rental car and entered the first roundabout....on the other side of the road....with the driver on the passenger side of the car...and the stick shift on the left. Wow, this was already an adventure and we hadn't left the airport yet. We were headed to the coast to a town called Spanish Point. There we booked a self-catering cottage on the beach for a ridiculously cheap price, $200 EU for the week. Awesome. We arrived at our little seaside retreat and wondered around checking things out.
We planned to make breakfast in the kitchen every morning so we needed to find a grocery store. The owners guided us to the next town north, Miltown Malbay. There on Main Street we would find a grocery. So the three girls left and our one male friend stayed back at the cottage. We found our little grocery on a packed Main Street dotted with brightly colored signs and store fronts. Inside we asked where we could find a place to get calling cards or a chip for our cell phones. The electronics store was closed, but was run by the same family owning a pub down the street. Go and see the Dad and he can tell you what to do. We timidly walked in the front door and every head turned toward us as we entered the vestibule. There were only a few people, but the one man behind the counter greeted us with an incredible smile and twinkle about him. I knew right away that I had found my place. Over our 11 days, we made friends with locals and the family running the pub. We met family members and grandchildren. Our last night, many of the locals we had met popped in and wished us well on our journey home. I never thought I could be so sentimental about this little town, but the way we were treated, welcomed, and included, left an indelible mark on us and on Wendy and I, in particular. I never left that place and was longing to return for almost 4 years, although there were a few failed attempts at the trip. Join us on our nostalgic journey home, won't you?
Yes that would be us squealing once we see it. (Also, the Saw Doctors song, "Always Be Your Friend playing in the background was not planned, but a perfect soundtrack, nevertheless).

We were so nervous walking in after all this time. Sure, we'd kept in touch with cards every holiday and phone calls every once and awhile. We called before the trip and booked a room at their BnB above the pub. We chatted for awhile, but called, sadly, the day the ex-president passed away. It wasn't a happy day for Miltown to lose one of their own "sons".
So many things were running through our minds. How would it be? Would they they really remember us as we have them? Would it be just as it was inside the pub almost 4 years ago? Selfishly, I had my heart set on walking right back into my 2004 vacation. Surely, there would be change. Life can't complete the cycle without change. Why are we so nervous that this whole trip could go bust in a matter of seconds?
The very same smile that greeted us in 2004 has not changed in the least. This is the same man who greeted us openly over our 11 day trip and joked we were his "American daughters". He still jokes we're his American daughters. He always say it with this smile and twinkle that is just so lovable.
Wendy bartending in 2004 after the second day in townPeadar and I in 2004. How happy am I?
We met his lovely wife that day too and have pictures with her also.

Our last day in town, 2004
Nope. Nothing changed here either. :-)
When we asked Cathal if he remembered us as we remember him, he simply replied, "When ye make an impression, you're never forgotten." Thank you. Truer words have never been spoken. They remembered just about every last detail.

My friend, Gerry, a local we met in 2004, and I


"Same 'ol stories, same 'ol town...(saw doctors "same 'ol town")

Us in 2004. Gosh my pictures were dark then. I suppose I've discovered the flash since.

You can't put a price tag on happy.

2008. A couple years older and wiser, but no less sentimental.

I hope you all find your place. I found mine.



At 9:20 PM, Blogger The Kelly Green Rogue said...

it looks lovely!

At 6:52 AM, Blogger Bea said...

Thats a a beautiful tribute.


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