Friday, September 21, 2007
Ireland 2007 - Day 6 - Blarney and Killarney
The history of the Blarney stone is a long, confusing, probably mythical tale that I will not detail here. In short, Irish kings used it as a coronation seat. Then, it was hidden from those wishing to steal it by being built into the battlements of an obscure castle in rural Ireland. THEN, when it was found, drunk men would sneak up into the castle at night to see if they could pee on it. In a stroke of genius, someone thought it would be a good idea convince the general public that it's good luck to press their lips to this ancient sedimentary lump. AND, they convinced so many people of this preposterous postulation that they manage, now, to sell tickets to anyone willing to lay on a plastic mat and hang upside down and backwards over a 100 foot drop to press their lips to a stone that had been sat on, fought for, and peed on. Today was the second time I’ve kissed it.
I don’t think that castle was ready for the McGranaghans. The stone is kept at the very top of the tower and the line of people waiting to kiss the stone actually went out the front door. While we were waiting first to climb up and then to climb down, we found all kinds of things to occupy ourselves…as we do. We started with a simple game of “I Spy.”
Laura: Hey sister, I spy something grey and made of stone.
Mary: Is it, the castle?
Laura: You got it! Your turn.
Mary: Hmm…I spy something that is 82 years old.
Laura: Is it Grandpa?
Mary: You win! This game is boring. Let me climb up on top of that old fireplace, stand in the window and pretend to be a gargoyle.
My cousin Jay has been a gymnast all his life and he found some fun things to crawl on and in.
Later, the cousins all found a cave under the castle and we all held hands and went back as far as we could, using a small flashlight we borrowed from my Aunt Mary.
Mary and Sarah weren’t done causing trouble yet. On the way out, they decided to jump barefoot into a stream nearby that people throw coins into as they make wishes. Mary found coins from all over the world….and kept them. I told her she was stealing other people’s wishes. She said she was getting an ice cream cone with the Euro she found.
We spent rest of the day driving to Killarney where we met for dinner, did some shopping and said goodbye to Bridgette, Dawn and Rita as they continued up to Shannon to catch their plane. The rest of us found some rooms at the Quality Inn here in town. We really lucked out and got four HUGE suites for a really nice price.
The younger cousins all got a suite together and after settling in, claiming beds and buying some alcohol, we heard a knock at the door. Grandpa Bob had some whiskey in his hand wondering where the party was going to be tonight. We had a great time drinking and listening to Grandpa tell stories about how he met our Grandma Bonnie. My Aunt Chrissy got some of it on tape. He told us about how they met in typing class and when he first saw her he thought to himself “Now who is this! She’s cute, I haven’t seen her around here before.” So he waited outside afterwards standing by his car, waiting for Bonnie to leave the building. He offered her a ride home and she said yes. After they got in his car, he realized he was out of gas and out of money. They got about three blocks away when the pulled into a gas station and Bonnie only had 14 cents with her, so that’s how much gas they got. He took her home and asked her to go out with him that evening. He picked her up two hours later and he kissed her as soon as he had her alone. I’d heard the story before, but it just seems so far away and romantic. That’s probably the way Grandpa feels when he tells it, I guess.
He also told some stories that I thought I knew, but it turns out I didn’t really have all of the details straight. He talked about Grandma and her family life before he met her. About her mother and how they fought. About how he left to go to New York for a while and when he came back Grandma had given birth to and given away a baby she’d named Darleen…who turned out to be my Aunt Chrissy, now reunited with the family, sitting on the couch across from me. And he talked about Bonnie’s alcoholism, her smoking and how she quit both, in one day.
Over the course of the evening, I’d become a little overwhelmed. It was at one point, as he was talking about sharing that much life with another person, describing the ups and downs of it all, with a few more downs than ups… he looked at me directly, squeezed my shoulder and said, “You’ll do it too. You’ll go through things that will be that hard and things that will be that good. And that’s life. You can’t avoid it.”
Grandpa was center stage tonight and the stories were about to get even more interesting when the rest of the family walked in. Suddenly the spell was broken and new conversations started as people asked where everyone had been and what the plans were for later in the evening. I was sad that Grandpa's stories stopped so abruptly, but I was also really tired and ready for bed.
My Aunt Shirley had some friends in town and the plan was to go hear their son play in a band at a pub in town. I was a little tired and so were Mary, Sarah and Hannah, so we stayed in and played cards. Apparently, the band was a blast and Grandpa did what he calls his “Sissy boy rat dance” which was caught on film. I’ll see if I can get it up on this site.