I was relieved when the party in Ballyedmond drew to a close, that meeting my Irish relatives was neither traumatic nor depressing. In fact, it was quite the opposite! We had a perfect evening full of great food, stories, laughter, and teasing (read about our welcome party and my family’s attempt to throw a party in Ireland here.)
The next day as my mother, sister, and I rehashed the details of the party, I felt some of the old apprehension creep back. Certainly, we had a fabulous time, but did the Irish side of the family share our enthusiasm? They seemed amenable to a party later in the week, but maybe it had nothing to do with us, after all, who doesn’t like a party? My mother was the real hit with the relatives, she and Jimmy exchanged friendly banter all night long, but even she questioned whether the relatives enjoyed themselves as much as we did. We decided not to dwell on it, and figured the next time we would see the relatives would be at our party later in the week.
If we annoyed them or were impositions, then the McCormacks were gluttons for punishment. On Sunday, my dad and aunt attended cousin Jenny’s camogie match, and we met for dinner later that evening at an Italian restaurant in Urlingford. Helen brought us two cell phones to use during our stay, since she knew we had trouble getting service with ours. We joked that she wanted to keep tabs on us. Helen chuckled and said that she surely did; she wanted to make sure she had warning before we showed up on her doorstep in the morning expecting breakfast!
The next afternoon we received a call on one of our new cell phones from Jimmy inviting us down to their local pub, Touhy’s in Rathdowney, that night. Touhy’s is fantastic – a tiny place filled with dusty Western American paraphernalia (cowboys, Indians, etc.) When the musician invited others to come up and give a song, our cousin Ellen’s husband Nicky sang a couple of tunes, wowing everyone at the pub.
My dad spent quite a bit of time at the farm with Jimmy that week. Allegedly, he helped Jimmy move cattle, but we all knew that Helen did most of that! He helped dig potatoes in the garden, and picked carrots for our party on Friday.
Friday was a busy day. Paddy and Maura McCormack (Paddy and my grandfather were first cousins) had us to their home for tea and we had to stop at the grocery store for last-minute party shopping. We were running short on time, we needed to get back to our house and get cooking – Helen was doubting the roast would be done in time. Read about our stab at entertaining in Ireland here.
Saturday we were set to leave for a week in County Cork, but Jimmy had one last thing for us. It was a gorgeous late September day in Ballyedmond, and the gardens looked beautiful (Helen made sure we knew it was all for our benefit!)
The plan was for the Irish sisters (Jenny and Sarah) and the American sisters (me and Regan) to plant a tree in their garden. Jimmy chose a California Redwood, we each took a turn at placing a shovel full of dirt by the tree, and the ceremony was complete. Such a neat idea and perfectly executed!
That wasn’t the last we saw of the McCormacks. They joined us for a night in Youghal, County Cork and we drove up to Lismore, County Waterford the next day. When they left us, and we left Ireland a couple of days later, we were very blue. I had anticipated feeling depressed upon meeting my Irish relatives, not leaving them. It was definitely bittersweet.
Can you see why I think the folks at the Week of Welcomes could benefit from a few pointers from Jimmy and Helen?
Next time I will share another experience from this visit to Ireland, when we venture to the Gaeltacht of Connemara…