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A toy truck, a stroller, 


and pub coasters


strung with dental floss…


     A few years ago, our second or third trip to Ireland, Kathy and I –romanticized by the classic Bing Crosby Christmas song, “Christmas In Kilarney”– spent Christmas (our first away from home) at Kilarney Country Club. 

     Up a rocky, grass-between-the-tires dirt road from downtown Kilarney, jockeying “the wrong side” car controls to bounce cheerfully along between the seemingly endless stone walls that separated cows from sheep, we drove under a brick archway and pulled into a historic-looking brick complex that seemed to sport about three dozen two-story townhouses. 

     There was one other car at the far end.  We parked, found a smiling, green-eyed, freckled face and bubbling thick Irish accent at the office counter.  We registered and unpacked.  We had a spacious two-bedroom upstairs arrangement with living room and kitchen downstairs.  Our windows overlooked the property’s main courtyard and pathway to the Country Club Pub. 

     It seems when I think back that after the first day of being rebuked by a rude non-English speaking tourist family of six that literally comandeered the odd 3ft-deep indoor pool, we were actually the only guests there for the rest of the (Christmas) week. 

     We made the trek into town everyday, a beautiful, historic, bustling hub filled with happy holiday shopping locals, who seemed to visit a shop or two, then stop in a pub, then visit a shop or two, then stop in a pub . . . you get the idea.  And we drove hundreds of miles of picturesque unspoiled (and unlittered) countryside during the week, meeting only pleasant, accommodating-to-a-fault natives all along the way. 

     Night driving seemed a bit perilous, so we opted for evening visits to the Country Club Pub (the alternative was staying in our unit with three tv stations, two of which were German!).  The only Christmas tree we could find ($45 American) made Charlie Brown’s look like Rockefeller Plaza.  I think it was about 30 inches tall and had about 16 (or maybe it was 14?) scrawny branches. 

     We had no ornaments, but confiscated a wide range of carboard pub coasters in our travels, and strung them up with pieces of dental floss, a homemade alluminum foil star on top.  We stuffed two “Season’s Greetings”-scrawled plastic shopping bags with small sofa pillows and hung them in our windows. 

     We grocery-shopped for the all-time elaborate brunch of Irish rasher (bacon), eggs, cheese, jam, butter, toast, fruit, crackers, cavier, coffee, tea, and a bottle of asti that (being entrenched deep in beer and ale country, cost 11 trillion dollars American) tasted a lot better than it was. 

     We exchanged gifts we bought walking down opposite sides of the downtown, waving in between shops, a book for me, a piece of Irish crystal and a little stuffed Irish Christmas Bear for her, plus some other goodies.  It was great! 

     Every minute there was great, even when 15 native Kilarney guys had us singing with them (at the Country Club Pub where they’d hiked to by flashlight from their nearby farms) until 3am which led us to the discovery that no one there had ever even heard of the Crosby song, “Christmas In Kilarney”!!! 

     With the rows of “y’got ta finish dem” topped-off pints of beer and ale lined up from one end of the bar to the other, planted there when 11:15pm closing time came, it ultimately mattered not that anyone heard of any song as long as you sang.  And sing we did!

     So much for that, but we had a wonderful experience there.  Just one thing was missing.  Family.  We spent half the afternoon trying to phone home, with circuit connections going from where we were on Ireland’s West Coast, to Northern Ireland, to Boston, to Florida, to New York, to the clan in New Jersey who sounded like they were in a tunnel. 

     It made us realize that all the happiness of the week there was momentarily lost to being lonesome for family.  We managed to bounce back after that when the resort manager and his wife (who we suspect might have been listening in to our phone connection efforts) invited us to their home to see the doll baby stroller Santa brought for their daughter.  (Last Christmas, Santa brought the doll!).  I think their son got a toy truck.  One single present each and those children were in heaven! 

     That certainly gave us cause for pause.  We in America are blessed with so much, and family is, well, what Christmas is all about now, isn’t it? 

     I truly hope for you that you enjoy what you have today, and not take any of it for granted. 

     Oh, one last thing: Please remember to God Bless Our Troops for their eternal vigilence that grants us the freedom we have to celebrate this joyous day and season!  Enjoy!

Peace be to you.           

The original of this Christmas story appeared on 12/25/08 on this blog site.

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