There used to be an annual list, printed on New Year’s Day I think, in the Washington Post’s Style section. It was a tally of what was in and what was out. As an insecure teenager, I loved the list. It seemed like I had the decoder ring to popularity. Nevermind that I didn’t understand or have access to many of the items listed (Absolut out, Grey Goose in; tennis bracelet out, diamond chokers in). I clipped the list, saved it and studied it. And as I am making my way into living an everyday life in Ireland I feel like I am developing a similar sort of list. Only this one is a “Love it. Hate it.” list. I feel guilty posting this, esp. so early in my stay, like an ungrateful guest. But I am betting that the love its outweigh the hate its. And hate is too strong of a word. More like “things I wish I could change but I can’t so I’ll just live with them”.
Here’s my first entry for the list:
Love It: The people. It is a cliché, I know. The people here are warm and lively. Maybe it’s part small town life and part Ireland, but people remember you days after meeting you, joke easily in conversation, are patiently kind to children (even jet-lagged annoying ones. Not that I’ve encountered any like that recently), and are gifted at being generous without leaving the receiver feeling either guilty or indebted. Every person we’ve met has been kind, from Brian Polke, owner of the small grocery store/pub at the foot of town (his family’s run the store since the 18th century) to Mary, owner of Mary’s Cottage Kitchen, the town’s one restaurant, who sensed our exhaustion at lunch on Tuesday (just after arriving in town) and said “Not to worry. I’ll just put a plate of some things together for you. Do the little ones like drinking chocolate? And books about tractors? Because there are some books over there in the corner.” I met up with her again this morning, me running into a ferocious headwind and an unexpected stinging cold rain, she driving to the restaurant. She stopped, offered me a lift, and when I declined she spent a minute asking about the boys and David despite her car inerior getting pelted by the rain. She told me that the restaurant wouldn’t be open for another hour but I could always come around back and she’d make me some tea to warm up after my run.
Hate It: The mattresses. There are six mattresses in our house, five on twin beds and one on a double bed. Every single one of them is smooshed and lumpy. I slept on a simple foam mattress until I got to college so I am not one to get all princess and the pea on you. The mattresses in this house are lousy and I have fantasies in the middle of the night about just springing for a new one or setting up an endowed fund for the Arts Foundation that brought us here, expressly for the purchase of new mattresses. The double bed in which David and I are sleeping has the added limitation of being short; it’s hemmed in by a curvy iron headboard and footboard, a retaining wall that won’t let my legs and feet extend to their natural length. The good news is that a glass of wine each night insures that I fall asleep quickly when I hit the hay. I start drinking the glass with supper and then finish it while sitting by the peat fire, reading and chatting with David. This is a nice routine so perhaps there is a posturpedic lining to this lumpy mattress afterall.