Another St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, with chill winter in the air, and hearty Irish fare cooking in the kitchen. A perfect day for that, though I wish our days would be ripening toward spring flowers instead of brewing up a big winter storm for tomorrow.
I’ve been looking at photo albums from April 0f 2006 when we first took our daughter to Ireland. She was four, and looked upon everything with the wide eyes and questions I associate with that year. We saw places that we’d loved and visited through her naive and tender gaze. And we loved them anew. She loved them along with us.
On this trip we returned to Roundstone, a small village on the western edge of Co. Galway, in a wild region called Connemara. In pockets of Connemara you can still hear the Irish language spoken, and there are roads that cross the bog where you won’t meet another car or person. Just sheep, sprayed with a color to mark their flock, and crows and the occasional seagull.
Back to Roundstone. I took R. there for our 5th anniversary (1995) and we stayed in a little B&B called St. Joseph’s on the main street. As we wandered from pub to pub that night we were followed by an elderly trio of two men and a woman. At the first pub they asked to join us at our table since there were no other vacant seats.
They mistook us for local kids, wondering if we were the children of anyone they knew. They were native to Roundstone, but had emigrated to England years before (as have so many from Ireland over the centuries). They’d returned for a wedding in the town. We all chatted amicably while sipping our pints, and since we had arrived first we also left before they did, wishing them a good night.
We moved on in the hopes of finding some live music. Further down the street we found some music in a smaller, more rustic pub. A few men were singing so we settled in to listen for a little. Who should walk through the door, but our three friends. They joined us again and we laughed at the coincidence.
Our last destination of the night was Ryan’s, on the harbor side of the street. Here two men were playing guitars and singing. Not the fiddle and accordion tunes I’d hoped to hear all night, but the quality was good, so we decided to stay. The place filled up and we barely found two spots at the bar. The crowd around us joined in on the singing and near eleven p.m. a rousing rendition of Danny Boy left us breathless as we raised our glasses and sang at the top of our lungs with the crowd. And who was beside us, but our three new friends. It was—we decided—a perfect travel moment.
Back at our B&B we settled in and were awakened an hour later by some noise in the downstairs hallway. “I’m sorry Christina,” we heard a man saying, and the soothing response of the innkeeper as she took in the newcomers and gave them a room.
Imagine our surprise at breakfast to see that the latecomers were our friends from our pub crawl! It was as natural as anything to sit and eat our generous fry up together.
This was the story we told our daughter L. as we walked the pier in Roundstone and pointed out Ryan’s Bar and our former window at St. Joseph’s B&B. Our daughter’s name is an Irish surname. We picked up some Roundstone brochures and discovered that Christina—whose name we’d mentioned in this story dozens of times over the years—has our daughter’s name as her surname. Really? Did we somehow intuit it when naming our child? Down the road in Clifden, we discovered a Bar, a woolen shop and a butcher with the same name on the main street. We had no recollection of this! Of course, our daughter settled in and felt right at home.