Sleepily, I sat myself on an international flight from Prague to Dublin after having spent a week with my parents in a one-room hotel suite. I mean, need I say more? Luckily, Mom had booked a cottage for six in Ireland for the following week. For six you wonder? Why yes, three lovely family members would be joining us for a week of pastoral sights, drunken songs, and soda bread.
Our massive SUV was not only right-side dominated, but also manual. I had to sit in the trunk, because the five other people took up all the adult space. I was car-sick within minutes. Strangely, it took us until the day before our last to realize that, in fact, there were highways. Until then, we drove only on bumpy, circuitous, over-forested back roads.
It took us roughly two hours to get to and find the quaint American cottage. Once we hit Nenagh, all the small town stereotypes came to mind: one pharmacy, round-abouts, lack of traffic lights, lush greenery, and one small post office. We took a left on to a tree lined two -lane roadway that would lead us into GarryKennedy. A distant view of a gargantuan lake at the end of this two-mile roadway started to make us all very antsy to get out of the car and run amok like children. The town was much less than even a square mile. It consisted of roughly six cottages (ours included), two pubs (one famous: Larkins), a big parking lot for the pub action, and an immense lake (Lough Derg). The ratio of two pubs to our one cottage begged the notion that this vacation was about to get real intimate.
The cottage was and remains, an absolute fairy tale. Full kitchen, living room, TV room, four bedrooms, several full bathrooms, two fireplaces, a garden in the back, parking in the front, and even a once a week maid service to “fluff up.” We made lunch for our outings to places like Bunratty Castle, the Cliffs of Moher, Rock of Cashel, Kilkenny Castle, and County Galway.
We took day trips, enjoyed each others’ company, but we were most excited about ending the day in a cozy, home rather than a congested hotel with screaming runts. The cottage
was so unassumingly large that each person was able to be somewhere in it, forgotten about, and thus surprise the others when they left a room that no one knew was even occupied.
Nothing was better than one particular night, after having a few too many pints of Jamesons at Larkins, a knock came at our American Cottage door and all types of shenanigans were let loose.
“You’re the Americans right?” asked a low-lidded, heavily clothed British Blonde.
“Absolutely,” I shouted a little drunkenly into her face, forgetting that there was not only blaring American Motown hits coming from behind me; yet five other drizzy Americans, some dancing on the table and some prancing around the kitchen with soda bread, “come inside.”
I quickly assessed the situation; it was beyond my immediate control. Someone was sprawled out on the floor right as I turned around lightly singing along to Franki Valli, two others were scream singing in the kitchen throwing the bread overhead at each other, and the last two pretended to be on stage singing into faux microphones. Being the youngest, and semi-soberest in this milieu, I just gave this girl a nod and severe eyebrow raise, showing that everything would be just fine.
“I love this music,” she announced to no one in particular in her now overt accent, “you guys were playing Cranium? Oh my god, let’s do this!” Everyone stopped moving. What a great plan! Beer, projectile bread, and Cranium!
A man sauntered in about ten minutes after Paula, “Hey, I’m Stan. I’m with Paula. I heard there’s Cranium?” Paula barely let him finish before she pummeled his short frame to the ground with hugs and kisses. I was thinking, this is so cool…what’s even happening? This would never happen at home.
“I’m a Brit and he’s Irish,” Paula began after we all tried our best to settle into the game, “I just spent the last year with a travelling band in Thailand.” I was awestruck; I was really sitting next to the type of traveler I wished I could be, without the societal pressure to graduate and get that American dream…via working until I’m dead.
We finished the game prematurely due to alcohol induced ADD. We migrated into the living room, lit the fireplace, and so seamlessly that I almost missed it, Paula pulled out her guitar and said, “Want to hear this song I just wrote?”
We loved her.
Paula looked out the window and rolled a perfect little cigarette with EZ Widers, tobacco, and saliva.
“What’s that,” I asked nervously, assuming it was weed and then immediately thinking about how much trouble I would now be in for letting her in the cottage.
“Just a cigarette. I know what I’m ingesting this way, rather than buying the regulars,” she softly explained, transfixed at watching the boats hit each other on the low currents of Lough Derg.
Naturally, I thought.