In 1979 I was 23 years old. That was the year I went with my Mom on a trip to Ireland. Here's that story.
It was the end of Summer, and my Mom, Tom Kelly, and I were enjoying a barbecue in Mom's back yard. It had been a beautiful day, and as the sun began to set, Mom started telling us a story. She spoke of her own mother who had come to the US from Ireland earlier in the century. I believe it was in the 1915ish years.
Every day grandma would cry over missing her homeland. She had accepted her new home (she met my grandpa on the boat on the way over), but couldn't avoid the call of the Emerald Isle to return, if only for a visit. Next thing I know my Mom starts to cry, telling us she had made a promise to her mother that she didn't keep. She promised her that she would take grandma back for a visit. Said she was just about my age when she made the promise, and then she met my dad, got married, had 4 children, and failed to come through. Grandma died when I was about 7 or so.
At this point the 3 of us were teary as I tried to console her. I told her I was sure her mother understood, but Mom felt bad about it none the less. At that point Tom (who was very close to my Mom) came up with the idea that maybe I could take Mom to visit Ireland myself! Summer was all but over, and my job working in a disco with Tom was virtually done, so why not? When I committed to going Mom's tears stopped flowing, and she became very excited. We'd fly to London, visiting with my brother Terry for a few days before heading over to Ireland. What a great idea!
We left Southampton (NY) a few weeks later, flying over to England. Terry was living in a communal setting at the time, and was able to hook us up with comfortable if not classic accommodations. We tripped around London for a few days (I believe we saw A Chorus Line on stage in the West End), and had a wonderful time hanging out with Terry and his friends. After that we flew to Shannon Airport outside of Dublin, rented a car, and began our trek to Aughnacliffe (pronounced Au-cnah-cliff) in the county Longford.
Driving was nuts with Mom! She was constantly worried that we were going to crash, driving on the left and all. And every time we'd get out of the car to eat or pee, etc. she'd walk back with the notion that she'd get in on the passenger side, which was in fact, the driver's side. Though the scenery was beautiful along the way, I was overjoyed when we reached our final destination. Now I could relax without someone screaming in my ears.
We stayed at my cousin Shawn's house, where Mom's second cousin Bridget lived. Shawn ran the meat market, so every day we'd have the freshest delicious meats that his wife Margo cooked to perfection. It was a very tiny town. There was a Catholic church, a small grocer, a pub, the meat market, and very little else. It was kind of like going back in time to the 1800's. Mom loved it! She'd spend the days chatting with Bridget (around the same age) about relatives and various things her mom had talked about to her. We took a ride to the house my grandmother was born in almost 100 years earlier. That was a bit strange.
My mother's first cousin lived there. When we went inside it was pitch black, and I remember a black cat curled up in front of an old stone fireplace, with a fire going. My aunt was far from being a jolly Irish woman. In fact she made me feel like we were inconveniencing her with our presence. Bridget had told us she might not be the friendliest person, and she was right! I took some pictures inside and out, and we got out of there pretty quickly. I felt like we'd been in a witch's house.
Anyway, we went to a dance where I figured out there's very little difference between American Country Music, and Popular Irish Music. Church was especially fun. Long and drawn out services that lasted for what seemed like forever, followed by (seriously!) a race to the pub up the street. While the women were at home fixing an early Sunday dinner after 1 pint, the men were all slamming several pints of Guiness at the pub!
As our trip slowly came to an end, I began to feel a lot of sadness about my aging mother, and all she'd been through in her life. I did manage to find some solace in knowing I'd done something for my mother that she was unable to do for her own. When I dropped her off at the airport (I stayed behind and went back to London for a year) we thanked each other profusely. She for having a wish fulfilled for her and her mother, and me for having such a great Mom of my own.