I'm gonna tell you a little story. Most of it's an honest reckoning of what happened. Some of it might be a wee bit exaggerated. I'll leave it up to you to discern.
The year was 1978, and my Gramma Nenore and Pop-Pop
wanted to take our family on a magical adventure. So Nenore and Pop-Pop, Mom and Dad, my brother Thor (yes, that's his real name!) and I packed up and winged our way to Ireland.
Now this was a big trip for small-town Iowa kids and we were quite excited. Thor packed his best plaid pants and wide ties. Mom made matching outfits for herself, me and my baby doll. Mom and I also got matching hairdos, because nothing says international travelers like a 1970's white girl 'fro!
Our mission in the Old Country was two-fold. Learn more about our heritage and research our ancestors. We crisscrossed the country, exploring castles, kissing the Blarney Stone, getting caught in Gypsy caravans**, and traipsing through graveyards.
It was in one such graveyard, where the nettles grew high as your hip, that we encountered a chest tomb. It was tall and covered in vines, but held the promise of a story. No one was tall enough to read what it said, so they gingerly lifted me atop the tomb and passed me some paper and a pencil. I was just a bit freaked to be sitting, cross-legged, on dead people. But I dutifully read out the inscription and made a rubbing.
As I worked, the skies started breaking loose and rain drops as large as my hand began falling from the heavens. Everyone ran, like church mice, back to the car. Everyone but me. I was stranded on the tomb. It was, quite simply, one of the most terrifying moments of my young life -- the thought of being swallowed up by rain and nettles and decaying tombs and dead people.
Now, three decades later, I love graveyards. I love walking slowly through them, reading the inscriptions, imagining the stories, absorbing the history. And I love torturing my children by bringing them with me. I hope they'll do the same with their kids.
I leave you with two Irish gifts tonight:
The recipe for the Leek Potato Soup we made for dinner and this...
"May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you
In the palm of his hand."
** These gypsies are actually called Irish Travellers. There's a fascinating conversation about the word Gypsy on My American Melting Pot.
Photo Credit: graveyard