One night in the summer before my senior year of high school, I kicked off my bedcovers with a vengeance. I snatched my glasses from the nightstand and glared at the ticking clock.
1:00 a.m. and all was NOT well.
I’d fidgeted for almost two hours, and sleep remained a stranger. Rolling my eyes, I abandoned my bed, then slunk through the house and out the back door.
Humidity hugged my skin like a second aura. With a sigh, I pushed up the sleeves of my nightgown and scanned the backyard. Spanish moss dangled from the oak trees. Moonlight touched the pool. Frogs croaked their hardest, but the sharp drone of crickets stole the show.
“Why am I so restless?” I asked aloud. “How can you yearn for something you can’t even name?”
As though sharing a private joke, the stars above winked.
The night held no answers; the mosquitoes showed no mercy. So I stole back into the house to worship the miracle of air conditioning and find something to read.
In the living room, I searched the shelves until my gaze locked on a book I’d never seen: Ireland – A Picture Book to Remember Her By. I grabbed it and settled on the velvet couch.
From the moment I opened the book, I changed. Waves of emotion rushed over me: love, sorrow, and strangest of all, homesickness. Gratitude flooded my heart and mind, for this was what I’d sought. I turned each page with reverence, melding my being with the images thereon.
It was crazy. I was born and raised in blazingly hot, equatorial Florida, about as far from Ireland and its blissfully cool climate as you can get. Before that night, I’d never considered the Emerald Isle. Not once. Now my whole life seemed to have led me to the discovery that I was somehow linked to that distant land.
Desire and will swelled within me, and I squeezed the book to my chest. I knew what I must do.
I jumped up and raced to my sleeping parents’ bedroom. “Mom! Dad!”
My father grunted, but my mother bolted upright in bed. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I just wanted to tell you my decision. I’m going to Ireland.”
She squinted. “What, tonight?”
“No, but soon. I have to go.”
Dad rolled over. A rumble of complaint sounded, either from his throat or his stomach.
Mom glanced at the clock, then sank back onto her pillow. “Fine. But let’s talk about it in the morning, okay?”
When morning arrived, I did more than talk. Truth be told, I ate far too many donuts, but I must’ve burned off the calories during my impassioned plea. It was Ireland or bust! My unsuspecting parents didn’t know what to make of my new obsession, but Dad informed me my great-grandfather had emigrated from Ireland in 1914. How this fact escaped my notice for 17 years is beyond me, but now that I knew of my Irish heritage, I was unstoppable.
My grandfather had the address of our Irish cousins in County Kilkenny, and I obtained it faster than you can say Éirinn go Brách. Soon after, I became pen pals with one of the cousins, and we exchanged letters, photos, and even a phone call over the next 10 months.
My enthusiasm for Ireland was contagious, and by senior graduation, three round-trip plane tickets waited on my parents’ desk. The Three Musketeers—Mom, Dad, and I—were bound for Shannon Airport.
Excitement forbade sleep on the long flight over, so after we’d shuffled through customs, traded dollars for pounds, and procured our rental car, we drove straight to our bed-and-breakfast in the village of Bunratty and took a nap. When I awoke hours later, Mom informed me I’d spoken Irish in my sleep.
My instincts implored me to pay attention. From the moment I stepped foot on Irish soil, I felt I’d come home. This was no shallow sentiment; it was a gut reaction, a reunion with a piece of my soul.
Ireland’s landscape was as gorgeous as its people were gracious, but my response to its beauty seemed greatest in Killarney. There, while bouncing in the back of a jaunting car, I became one with my surroundings. The cool wind caressed my cheeks and whipped my long, blonde hair into a wild mass which would’ve made any banshee proud. Low-hanging, purple clouds harmonized with rippling lakes, and the gentle slope of mountains accompanied them. Flowering bushes, rustling trees, and fertile soil moist with promise completed the symphony. Each note had perfect pitch. Every phrase was pure magic.
When our driver reined in his horse, my parents jumped from the carriage, eager to tour Muckross House. I shared their enthusiasm but was so caught up in nature’s melody I didn’t want the ride to end. Still, history summoned me, so I followed their lead and strode toward the house.
Abruptly, I hesitated. The lake to my right seemed familiar. The adjacent parkland beckoned, but I had to resist its pull. With our jam-packed schedule, an amble through the woods was out of the question.
Years later, I would explore those woods and discover a surprising piece to add to my life’s puzzle. Once again that night, Mom heard me speaking Irish in my sleep.
In my latest release, The Cauldron Stirred, seventeen-year-old Ashling Donoghue has a similar experience. And she not only visits Killarney, but gets to live there. Ah, the magic of fiction!
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