Monday, September 17, 2007
Ireland 2007 - Day 4 - Crettyard
Last night Chrissy and Bridget and Rita almost got run over by a car (at least, that’s what I gather…I’m still not sure about the details of the story) but the guy in the car happened to own a bed and breakfast in Carlow that would accommodate all 19 of us. I don’t know how this kind of stuff happens to our family. The B&B is perfect for us with a little sitting room stocked with tea and biscuits and it was like a big slumber party with everyone in their pajamas getting ready for bed. I’m not sure if any of the neighbors got any sleep we were so loud.
I got dogpiled this morning by my aunts and some cousins. I had already gotten out of bed and was in the bathroom when I heard them coming up the stairs and enter the room.
“She’s already awake….”
“Laura! We were going to jump on you!”
So I ran back and jumped under the covers, pretended to snore and when they all jumped on the bed I flailed around saying “Oh! Shock and surprise! What a rude way to be greeted in the morning!”
My Grandma Bonnie died almost four years ago never having made it to Ireland. Today, a special little ceremony had to take place in order to rectify that. Someone in the family had cut off some of Bonnie’s hair before (or after, I’m not entirely sure) she died, and kept it. So we brought this hair to bury in a graveyard where some of her ancestors (the Currans) are buried. In exchange, we’re going to take some of Irish dirt back to Omaha to spread on her grave. It was important to some of her children that this exchange happened so that part of their mother would always be here in Ireland, and part of Ireland would always be with her.
Pause. You have the option to read the footnote on the sentimental nature of McGranaghans at the end of this post if you care to. If you don’t, nothing is lost. I really wrote it for myself as I was working out in my head the emotions I was seeing my family go through on this trip. On second thought…just skip over it. It’s not very well written anyway.
We knew that the Currans were from a small town called Crettyard, but that was it. We didn’t know of any cemeteries to search in or where to start looking at church records, so we did the only thing we could: we hit the pavement.
The search was long and tedious, and included the following:
1 Funeral in the rain
6 Gravediggers questioned
1 stone wall breached
1 gnarly tree climbed by my sister
1 phonebook consulted
3 strangers in a car pulled over
4 front doors knocked on
2 confused neighbors in their pajamas
1 children’s party inflatable bouncy room avoided
2 Curran relatives found (one alive and one not)
1 lock of hair buried
1 handful of Irish dirt gathered
We moved on to Killarney Castle this afternoon. The tour was short and the guide was impatient with questions and he made bad jokes in a Puerto Rican/Irish accent. Near the end of the tour, he made a big deal about this chair that Pope John Paul II had supposedly sat in. As the group filtered out the door, Grandpa Bob sat in it quickly and Cousin Andy took a picture. I’ll try to get a copy of it J
Oh, also: Grandpa made some friends at dinner. He started flirting with this girl about my age and ended up sitting at a table with her and about six of her friends. By the end of dinner he had the whole table roaring with laughter and as we left, they told him he was a legend. We left to the sounds of young Irish voices chanting “Legend! Legend! Legend!”
Tonight: to Kinsale, a harbor town in Cork.
Footnote: Sentimentality is genetic. I have strong doses of it from both my mom and my dad’s families. Part of my mom’s sentimentality expresses itself in the form of bestowing special meaning on objects. Old letters, clothes you wore as a child, hand towels from your great grandmother. The people we love touch and use these things and somehow their love is transferred onto the object for us to keep and remember. Mom’s is a complicated form of nostalgia.
McGranaghans have a very special brand of sentiment that I have never understood completely, and maybe I never will.
Maybe it’s like this: the first night we were in Ireland, in Durty Nelly’s pub when my Grandpa Bob recited the poem for us. The poem was short and simply written. I’ve never heard it before and I don’t know who wrote it, but it details a conversation between a father and son. The son asks the father why he left his home in Ireland so many years ago, and the father describes a brutal scene about how the English landlords and agents forced him from his home and burned it down before his eyes.
It surprised me to see my father’s father wipe tears from his eyes as he used someone else’s words to draw a picture of a sight he never saw. I am no less than five, possibly six generations removed from the reasons that caused my family to leave Ireland and move to America. But I think it is partly because of those events that there is something fierce and fiercely loyal that runs through our family; something that comes from a generational remembrance that something as beautiful as this place was taken from us…and we will eventually lose even each other. While we can, we love, irritate, joke with, drink with and fight for the people we love. That is the only way I can explain what it means to be a McGranaghan/Curran and, in turn what it means to be loved by us.