The young man at the garage in Cork ambled over to our car. His thinly veiled annoyance made it clear he saw us as an interruption in his day. I put on my best smile and said, “I’ve had a blowout and need to get a tire repaired.” He looked surprised and said, “You’re American!” I nodded, hoping that was a good thing. “Where from in America?” he asked. “Texas,” I replied and watched him light up like a Christmas tree. “I watch Dallas on TV! How grand it must be to live there! Tell me, does everyone ride horses?” “No” I laughed. Undaunted, he continued, “But everyone wears boots and hats, don't they? I shook my head and watched as his smile begin to fade. He ventured hopefully, “Do people really carry guns?”
By now he was looking crestfallen and I decided stretching the truth was the kindest option. Besides, I still wanted my tire fixed. My mother and I hadn’t been in Ireland long and I’d not quite got the hang of driving on the opposite side of the car on the opposite side of the road while shifting gears with the opposite hand. I’d had a close encounter with an Irish curb our first day out. I stretched my Texas drawl to the max and said, “Actually quite a few people ride horses there and although not everyone wears western clothes, a lot of people do and you see boots everywhere you turn. As for guns? Shoot! There’s more pistol-packing there than probably anyplace else in the country.” His smile returned and he said, “I knew it! What a grand place!” then he trotted off happily to repair our tire.
It was 1979 and the TV series, Dallas, was riding high in the ratings charts. I was still in the travel business and had some free tickets to use so I invited my parents to go with me to Ireland. I’d always wanted to see it. My dad, perpetually busy, couldn’t get away but I persuaded my mother to go without him. It was her first trip without my dad and although she was excited, she was also a little apprehensive. She and I flew into Dublin, rented a car and set out to explore the Emerald Isle.
We immediately discovered the challenges of driving but after that initial incident I got the hang of things. The next challenge was reading a map that looked like a maze of squiggles. Mother tried her best—and she was usually a good navigator—but it proved too much. We resorted to just asking the locals for directions which usually resulted in something like this: “Oh yes. Just go a wee bit down the lane to the petrol station and turn right. Then a jaunt farther past the foot path and you’ll see a white gate with a wee red mailbox. . .”
It didn’t matter as we had no agenda other than being in Shannon for our return flight in a week. We wandered wherever the mood—and the directions we got—took us. We visited the Waterford factory and watched the glass blowers make beautiful crystal. We had long lunches and indulged shamefully in rich Irish cream and dairy products. We visited castles, quaint villages and pubs where I introduced Mother to Irish Whiskey. We spent our nights in Bed and Breakfasts enjoying chatting with the locals.
Click on the green arrow to hear the audio
Kissing the Blarney Stone
On our last night in Ireland, we attended a “medieval” dinner at a castle, the only touristy event of our week. Dinner was served at long tables—one of those “no silverware” affairs-- by people wearing traditional costumes. An American man seated nearby was having a conversation with his companions and we heard him say, “Have you ever seen anything like the roads in this country? Man, you’d have to have nerves of steel to try to drive here!” My normally genteel, reserved mother couldn’t help herself. “We did it,” she piped up. “My daughter and I drove all the way here from Dublin.” The other people at the table looked at her with newfound respect and she couldn't hide her smile as they began to pepper her with questions.
I think that evening was one of the highlights of her trip. Watching her flushed with pride about something she never thought she could do was certainly the highlight of mine.
I would expect nothing less from a Southern woman....steel magnolias don't let a little bit of difficulty stop them from getting where they want to be!!
Janet what a wonderful memorable vacation with your Mother. This was such an inspiration to get going and do something with the ones you love before it is too late. I love the way you inserted the audio with your photo within the story. Excellent!!!!!
Janet you take the coolest trips. I can only imagine what a Medieval dinner was like in Ireland with all its castles and bridges. So cool!