Ireland Trip: 2–Visit to Abbeyfield, part 2

We’d stepped off the DART at Killester station, on the way to Howth. I’d wanted to make this stop, more than any other. The station—almost exactly as I’d remembered it from around 40 years ago, only the electronic ticket booths to set it apart from the version in my mind.

I knew the way to the house by heart, even after all those years. Time had not dulled the memory of the many, many times my sister and I had accompanied Grannie Mac on Tuesdays or perhaps Mom or one of her friends as we’d make our way to and from the station, off to the city, or maybe to Howth. Perhaps even to Cork for a week.

The narrow streets through Killester seemed the same as they had 40 years ago.

The narrow streets through Killester seemed the same as they had 40 years ago.

And the place where the butcher shop used to be. The shop was gone now, but the building remained. Real corned beef, that’s what we’d get there. Not that silly “bully beef” stuff that you buy in a tin. No, real corned beef. Grannie Mac would select a piece and the butcher would cure it overnight. The next day we’d have that, along with cabbage from Grando’s garden. Each trip to Ireland, just before we’d make the flight back we’d drag the suitcases down to be weighed. Forty-four pounds each. No more. Sometimes that would be a struggle and things should have to stay behind.

The one on the left used to be a butcher shop. The one on the right, more of a general store. Mmmmm jelly babies. Not any more, though.

The one on the left used to be a butcher shop. The one on the right, more of a general store. Mmmmm jelly babies. Not any more, though.

The house was even closer to the station than I’d remembered. All of a sudden, there we were, right at the end of the street, then the front  gate and then, finally,, at the front door. I’d rang the doorbell, what seemed an eternity ago; time for almost four decades of thoughts to run through my mind but, in reality, one supposes, only a few scant seconds.

It had to be–I’d been holding my breath wondering what would happen next.

“Hello?” came a voice from just around the corner of the house. The voice carried a timbre of friendliness mixed with curiosity. A tall figure appeared and walked toward me, then  stopped around three metres away.

Was that a twinkle in his eyes? A hint of mischief perhaps?

Here goes…

“Hi there. I’m from Canada and this is my wife and daughter. Thirty-five years ago, this was my grandparent’s home.” There. Done.

I waited, all too aware of the fact that it was mostly unclear which of the three outcomes this greeting would lead to: welcome, disbelief or, perhaps, a visit from the Garda Síochána.

I got my answer. He laughed gently, looked at us and said, “Come in, would you like some tea?”

We went inside. We all sat down. We talked.

About Bertie, the very eccentric next door neighbour. Sometimes he’d only shave one side of his face. He’d loved the horses and always made sure they were groomed just right, even if it meant walking all the way to the stables for a 6 am start. . He’d died some years back.

About the Burtonshaws. The kids had moved away and Fred had died a while back but Peg was still doing well.

About his family. They’d raised three, who were now grown up.

About my family.

About the house. Clearly he’d made it a constant work in progress. The grounds were still so familiar—the walkway, front lawn and hedges, all the same, just a bit older; the hedges a bit taller. The house, though familiar, had clearly been cared for, kept up, expanded and improved.

He, too. was Maurice—the same Maurice Walsh that had bought the house thirty five years ago. It was so obvious that we had so very much in common. Continuity… Work: something you could love but still leave behind; Family and Friends: things you could love but never leave behind.

And what else could there possibly be after that?

Other than to hope that, maybe 25 years from now when I was about his age I, too, could look back on a life well spent as he so clearly could.

It was time. Josephine mimed, “come on, we dropped in unexpectedly and have stayed long enough. He was in the middle of something.” …a fact attested to by the tools I had seen out back by the door. The house was always, and would always, be a work in progress and who were we to stand in the way?

We got up to leave; a quick picture by the mantelpiece.

Me and Maurice, hanging out.

Me and Maurice, hanging out.

He accompanied us down to the Burtonshaws. Sadly, Peg was not here. “She must be away,” he said. Still, we took the time for another quick picture of the old Morris Minor parked by the door; just like the one Grando had owned 60 years prior. I wondered if it was hers.

An old Morris Minor parked just outside the Burtonshaw's. I wonder is it the one my Grando had in the 50's and early 60's. It looks the same...

An old Morris Minor parked just outside the Burtonshaw’s. I wonder is it the one my Grando had in the 50’s and early 60’s. It looks the same…

It would soon be time to move on…

…but I was not quite ready. A few more stops needed to be made.

My sister and i used to buy  Beano, Dandy and Jackie comics at the stores that used to be here.

My sister and I used to buy Beano, Dandy and Jackie comics at the stores that used to be here.

The Supermarket we used to go to with our Grannie. Quite different on the outside but still much the same inside. They still have Club biscuits and cheese & Onion chips.

The Supermarket we used to go to with our Grannie. Quite different on the outside but still much the same inside. They still have Club Biscuits, Curly Wurly Bars and Cheese & Onion Chips (crisps).

St. Brigid's church where Mom and Dad were married. It still looks much the same.

St. Brigid’s church where Mom and Dad were married. It still looks much the same.

Just as we boarded the train for Howth the rain, which had barely been holding off all day, began in earnest, a proxy for welcome tears of joy perhaps; ones that I was, for whatever reason, incapable of shedding myself. A fortunate coincidence.

Waiting for the train to Howth.  I can still hear "MAYY ZEEEE Have yez got all a yezzer kids?" spoken in my mothers over-the top comic form as she'd repeat what we'd heard one sunny day 40 years ago waiting on this then crowded platform waiting for another train to Howth.

Waiting for the train to Howth. I can still hear “MAYY ZEEEE Have yez got all a yezzer kids?” spoken in my mothers over-the-top comic form as she’d repeat what we’d heard one sunny day 40 years ago waiting on this then crowded platform waiting for another train to Howth. Forty years? It couldn’t be…could it?

A dreary day in Howth but my eyes could not see that. The sandy beach was secondary, as was the beauty of Howth head.

Who cares--Howth Head is still beautiful in the rain.

Who cares–Howth Head is still beautiful in the rain.

All the way back to Dublin I said not a word.

Connoley Station. We'll head for Talbot street and then maybe walk around O'Connel Street for a while.

Connoley Station. We’ll head for Talbot street and then maybe walk around O’Connel Street for a while.

We got off at Connoley station and started walking to O’Connel Street via Talbot. There was still lots of time left in the day and with all the rain, shopping was probably the best way to spend it. At one point Josephine and Lesley went into a ‘Lesley Store” (Lesley is my daughter) — you know girls’ clothes and such. I just stayed outside, under the umbrella, a little mesmerized, listening to the rhythm of the rain.

I looked about and realized I was exactly opposite Guineys and came to with a start. I was right at the epicenter of the event of that fateful time, one still etched in the memories of those who still live here. I continued to look around. The visible scars had healed; no visible marks, just a nicely decorated street filled pedestrians. Justice? Who’s to say? But I know what i saw: lots of people, their spirits not at all diminished by the rain, just out enjoying a somewhat damp but warm evening in mid summer, strolling along a beautiful, busy but still peaceful street.

It struck me then and there. Ireland had changed; Ireland had remained the same. Best of all, near as I could see, the parts I did not like had changed for the better and the parts I’d always treasured had persevered.

A circuit had just been closed; a quest had been completed. The old home had been in good hands and still was the same place of hope and love that it had always been.

A smile spread across my face. I closed the umbrella and went inside to see what Lesley and Josephine were doing. Time to move on.

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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23 Responses to Ireland Trip: 2–Visit to Abbeyfield, part 2

  1. elkement says:

    Sublime – you captured these moments perfectly! I’d subtitle this post with ‘What really matters in life…’

    You have a talent of getting an important message across … in passing … simply by telling a story…; and this works way better than any ‘op-ed’!

  2. Jack says:

    Loved the story and how you you wrote it. Sort of reminded me of the movie “Da” but without the disfunctional characters

  3. Mary says:

    Remember these spots so well. Summers spent in killester, Dublin, cork, crosshaven . brings it all back. Lovely to see Lesley walking the streets we walked as kids. Hope you were able to find some Beanos:)

    • Funny–though I looked, I could not find any in the news stands or stores. They’re still around, though. I guess I didn’t look hard enough.
      In truth, while walking along the streets of Killester (not downtown Dublin, mind you) it could have easily been 40 years ago…

  4. jennypellett says:

    What a wonderful trip you took us all down your own memory lane. It must have been heartwarming indeed to know that your old house is still in good hands. While buildings change and folks move on, the memories – old and new- will always endure.

  5. Never mind, I shed a few tears at your very touching story.

    Maurice looked to have made a nice job of the house, it looked good.

    The Morris Minor and the church were beautiful (as it was in the previous post), and I loved the picture of Howth Head in the rain – so atmospheric.

    Beautiful story Maurice. 🙂

  6. I wish this story would be Freshly Pressed. It’s so eloquent.

  7. Johnny says:

    Another epic journey of body and soul. Thanks for sharing the trip, for taking me along.

    • Johnny, it was my pleasure. That said, I continue to look forward to the day when you set up a word press blog. You have a lot to say that are of value and have always had an excellent flair with words…

  8. Tiny says:

    Lovely story telling Maurice! I was moved. I could relate to it as I’ve done similar trips to my grandma’s village in Finland. It’s great for you to realize that things have changed/stayed the same in the way you are okay with. I really, really liked this post 🙂

  9. Ahhh … worth waiting for. I will have to agree with Elke in that you’ve captured these moments well … both a literary and personal sense. Just enough tension, just the right emotions, both titrated with just the right amount of personal reflection and insight. An enjoyable read to be sure. Your journey reminds me of my own, taken two years ago, to revisit a summer-time home of my childhood. It’s nice to see that the dwellings of our early years have been well taken care of … isn’t it? Somehow this times are preserved in the wood and nails of these structures. I don’t know … perhaps as a testament to our having been there … lived, loved, and been loved. And, if these places were to be swept away … so too would the memories (to some degree) and our abilities to bring them to the fore. Anyway, I was very much looking forward to this post and was not disappointed. I do hope there is more? D

  10. tw says:

    When you tell us about your travels it’s as if we’re there with you, a rare and beautiful talent indeed and one that brought Ireland back to life for me after many years away.

  11. Martin says:

    Maurice, I was in tears reading this post. It hit so many nerve edges for me, for I feel similarly when returning to Wales. I appreciated your apprehension after ringing the doorbell, wondering if your welcome would be a good one. Why did I even think it could possibly be negative? My heart beat freely again as you spent you time with the owners. Beautiful. Thanks very much for sharing this.

  12. M. Hatzel says:

    I am like some of your other commenters, Maurice, after having read these two posts on the family home together (an advantage to being a dawdler). I am teary-eyed and struck with how your family has cultivated a strong sense of well-being and belonging for one another, even, as you stated, your mother’s adoption was never formal and this kept her from receiving a material inheritance. It was a strange twist of fate that happened, but because it did, it more powerfully shines a light on the true meaning of family and what we give to one another.

    • I think it’s the ongoing struggle that serves to create the cement. When things just proceed smoothly there’s no need to re-evaluate, stress and try something different. When, however, the “plan” gets disrupted then that brings the impetus for change. Whether it’s for the better or the worse is often for us to decide. Not always, but often.
      Thank you.

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