My late father was born in 1930 and raised on a sheep farm in rural Sligo County, Ireland. My grandfather and his brother owned and operated a small
cobblery that made heavy boots. When WWI rolled around, for reasons that have never been made clear to me, they were in a position to make boots –
tens of thousands of pairs by all accounts, for the British Army. After the war, they turned their windfall into the purchase of the several hundred
acres (it’s not contiguous – the main house and farm are less than a hundred acres) in north Sligo County that the family owns to this day. My
dad always joked about how all the other kids thought they were rich because they had new shoes; but the fact was, the only birthday and Christmas
presents my dad and 10 aunts and uncles ever got was – Drum Roll Please! – shoes.
After a stint in the RAF, dad and three of his brothers immigrated to the US, met my mom (hopefully that was just dad on that one), and proceeded to
build a very successful career and life.
I came along in 1964, and one of the earliest recollections of my childhood is my first trip to Ireland when I was 4. To say the least, going from
Palm Springs, California – all I’d ever known, to deepest darkest Ireland, was a little frightening, to be honest.
The trips became a yearly staple of my summer vacations, and I grew to love the place, and the farm, and the air, and my cousins who had infinite
sympathy, but no idea, why my mother dressed me in carefully coordinated outfits and made me wear shoes that had no place on a sheep farm in Sligo
I’m getting to the point…
I remember well the trip over in my 9th year, because I had a broken arm in a cast up to my shoulder blade. My dad, in his infinite wisdom, had given
me a shiny new Honda 70 motorbike for my 9th birthday a few months before. My mother was furious. Turns out she was right, hehehehe…
That summer mom and dad decided to spend a couple weeks on the continent, but I wanted to stay with my cousins. That was probably the most, um,
illuminating(?) two weeks of my life.
It was then that one night my aunt pulled me off the dinner table, dragged me into a dark hall, and proceeded to tell me in hushed tones that the
family had been “blessed” because my great-grandfather had protected “the fairies” from (ahem) a banshee. I #e you not. It got weirder from
He killed the goddamn banshee.
They have its bones…
And they are hidden somewhere on the farm.
Now, I’m a 9 y/o kid with a broken arm (in two places), a DESTROYED Honda 70 (my first love), parents who were hundreds of miles away, and an
obviously drunken aunt telling me our ancestor killed a monster. I’m not sure -- and I probably have a few years left to fully realize the dream --
but I think that’s the closest I’ve ever come to sh*t*ng myself.
I didn’t sleep that night, and it got worse from there: these folks truly believe in “little people” and “magic” and God-knows-what else
(ghosts, demons, leprechauns, etc.).
I love my Irish family with all my heart, and no one loves back like an Irish family. But I’m glad I was born an American and an unrepentant
edit on 5-11-2013 by SBMcG because: Skipped word...