Back in Castlebar

I went to Ireland to visit the beautiful country where many of my mom’s family have their roots, and I also returned a family Bible, which had made its way from Ireland to Brooklyn, then Staten Island, and later to my aunt, Marian Carey Palazzo in Boonton, New Jersey in 1981. After her death, my daughter Jamie drove it from New Jersey to me in South Carolina.

Transporting it was no easy task. The Bible weighs 13 pounds, but as challenging as it was for us to bring it to Ireland, it was a piece of cake compared to what it must have been in 1862!

The Bible is approximately 170 years old, and is therefore quite worn. That was not surprising considering how many hands touched it and how many times it was moved over the years. The cover was literally falling off, so we secured it with self-adhesive bandages for its journey across the pond.

I knew getting through the security checkpoints at Charlotte airport would be challenging. We had to wait while they unwrapped the bandages and insisted on peeking through each page, looking for who knows what. I assured them that if there was anything of value hidden inside, I would have removed it long ago. Trust me. I looked many times for that certificate or photo or perhaps a touching letter. Luckily, the TSA agent recognized the age and let Dad help her open it, which is apparently rarely allowed.

Although I wanted to return it years ago, I wasn’t sure exactly how to do it without risking its loss or further damaging it. I refused to let it out of my sight. I scoured stores seeking a bag large enough to carry it, yet small enough to fit under my airline seat, and I finally located it at TJ Maxx.

After the trip across the Atlantic, it was placed in a taxi, then onto a train for a 2 ½ hour ride to Galway, passing by lush farmland brimming with sheep and cows grazing peacefully in the fields.  My precious cargo remained in the bag at our hotel, while we explored Kylemore Abbey, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Burren. I highly recommend all three.

              

Next, we loaded the Bible onto a bus for a short ride to Castlebar, where we were greeted by our friend, Brian Hoban, who carefully placed it into his car for the ride to the local tourist office, where we presented it to the town.

After we left, it was transferred to its new home at the county library—its final resting place.

I loved waking up each morning and looking at it siting safely away from the curious eyes of my two grandchildren, but it is back home and in a place where more people will see it.

But I will miss it.

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Lovely, Lovely Ireland

I recently went on a trip to Ireland, which is why I have been silent for the past few weeks. This vacation knocked another item off my bucket list, so I have a lot to say about my adventures to the Emerald Isle—more than can be said in just one post.

My first observation is that referring to Ireland as the “Emerald Isle” is truly apropos, because almost everywhere I went, with the exception of “The Burren” (more another time), the landscape was covered with lush green grass. I guess there is something to be said for rain, because my lawn here in South Carolina is an embarrassment compared to what I viewed there.

As I mentioned in a previous post (The Best Places to Pee), I am not a fan of American bathrooms, which are severely lacking in privacy, because people waiting for a stall can easily peak while you leak because our doors are just not tight enough. Observe a typical Irish stall:

I smiled while waiting for a stall to become available when I visited the famous Cliffs of Moher. It appeared to be a typical bathroom—lots of stalls and sinks—and a bit of waiting, but when the door opened up, out popped a man who headed to the sinks to wash his hands. It was a coed bathroom, and guess what, the sky did not fall and no one gave him a glance. I wondered how Vice President Pence and his wife, “Mother,” would react if confronted with a similar scenario.

Most of the toilets had two buttons to flush—regular and super charged. Sometimes you just don’t need the extra boost, so why waste water?

Moving on… I never saw so many sheep in my life. Cows came in a close second. The hills were alive with visions of mostly white sheep grazing peacefully in the fields and occasionally causing our tour bus to come to a halt while they crossed the street.

Irish kids really like blue hair, and they are into the puzzling-to-me-fashion of the ripped jeans look. I just don’t get it!

While all the restaurants were thankfully smoke-free, the same cannot be said for the streets. It appeared to me that there is just a lot more cigarette smoking going on in Ireland. That was disturbing and unpleasant.

Most of the people we met were extremely friendly and were particularly interested in expressing their distaste and puzzlement with our president. When we visited the town of Castlebar, they expressed hope that Joe Biden would become our next president, particularly because he had visited there in 2016 since he has roots in the area. It was personal for the townspeople. They even had a flower with his name.

On the return train from Belfast, two young women who were seated opposite us explained their shared shock with the rest of the world on hearing the election results. This led to an explanation of the disparity between the Electoral College results and the popular vote, which puzzled them even more. They just shook their heads in confused amazement.

During a cab ride in Dublin, when our driver learned we were from the South, he just assumed we were Trump supporters. When he learned otherwise, he asked us how the voters in the Bible Belt could support such an immoral, uncaring, heartless person. We agreed that we were perplexed as well.

A surprise to me was learning that some Irish people speak only Irish. I wrongly assumed everyone spoke English, and some spoke Irish as well. All the signs are in both English and Irish. It is an interesting language to hear and reminded us of the Hebrew language in which many sounds come from the throat, sounding to me like someone trying to clear their throats of phlegm.

And for those whose drink of choice is iced tea, I must say that while it was never a problem getting hot tea, I never saw what we in the south call unsweet or sweet tea. But Guinness is everywhere!

The Last One Bites the Dust

We recently celebrated the end of an era and now all our chldren are married. This time, we were smack dab in the middle of God’s country. (I even saw a sign proclaiming this.) As an aside, in researching this location, I learned that this was the area where the Seventies television show, The Waltons, was set. My Baby Boomer readers will understand when I say that this is a severely remote part of Virginia!

Nellysford, the town where all the festivities would be occurring, is so remote that tea bags were apparently unavailable for purchase. In order for our guests to have tea in addition to coffee at the reception, we had to buy them in South Carolina and deliver them to the reception. (I could never live where I could not get myself a box of Tetley tea!

But back to our celebration weekend. A lot happened before we walked Casey down the aisle, and I mentioned to more than one person that I felt as if I were in the sequel to the 1970 film, The Out of Towners. I called our film The Out of Towners: Mountain Edition.

Dad and I were on the road before 8:30. Kelly, Mark, and the kids were set to follow after school. That didn’t happen, because within minutes of their planned exodus from their home, Lily projectile-vomited all over herself and her daddy.  We all talked and agreed they should wait until the morning. Lily told anyone who was remotely interested about the details of vomiting on Daddy, complete with the specifics of the color and volume.

Our hotel was on the top of a mountain on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While I admit it was beautiful, it was also exhausting, and I did not enjoy hearing that Mark had purchased bear repellent in the event of an unfortunate meet-up with a wooly friend on his planned hike.

I quickly decided to abandon my physical therapy exercises after seeing that I would be replacing my leg lifts with never-ending stairclimbing—even when going to the bathroom. (14 steps up and 14 steps down.)

We unpacked our suitcases and stocked the kitchen with the snacks and drinks we brought in anticipation of entertaining some of our guests. With horror we discovered that the kitchen had a Keurig rather than a coffee pot. While we are regular Keurig users, which I love for their convenience but hate because of the negative environmental impact, we had only brought a can of coffee because “Kitchenette includes mini fridge, range top, coffeemaker, toaster,” according to the resort website. Left behind was probably 300 Keurig pods. We asked for a coffee pot and was literally brought the pot, but not the entire coffee maker.

Jamie and Geoff arrived close to midnight amidst so much fog that Geoff had to literally get out of the car to determine whether Jamie should turn left or right. It was quite the frightening end to an exhausting six-hour drive in the rain.

Kelly and Mark left before dawn the next morning, with the kids covered in protective sheets and with barf bags readily available for the next “episode.”

The wind on the mountain top was notable—so much so that it literally knocked Dad to the ground when he was leaving the car to check the address on one of the condos. While his jeans remained unscathed, both knees were scratched and bloody. He was limping the next day, and he worried about walking down the aisle looking like Walter Brennan. (Again, you need to be older to understand the reference.)

The big day was sunny and warm. Despite the lack of a DJ, which I wanted, and an abundance of hors d’oeuvres, which the bride and groom did not want, everything went well. The ceremony was beautiful, we had enough wine and beer, and as far as I know, no other vomiting events occurred until that night, when I joined the club five times.

Now I can add my new son-in-law to our family tree and relax until the next family wedding, which won’t occur until Dad and I are wobbly and wrinkly—when the grandchildren get married.

Congratulations Casey and Chris. It finally happened!