Here’s a memory of a once-upon-a-time home (along with a bonus, an unexpected poem) from our Irish correspondent, Berna, over in County Kildare:
Well, as for Innisfree, I wouldn’t much go for Yeats’ damp ‘clay and wattles’ cabin. There would be drafts and the smoke blowing down the chimney on a cold night, when the kettle on the fire would be slow in boiling for the tea. But it could be cozy enough in the evenings if the neighbors came a-calling for a chat.
My grandfather’s house was an old farmhouse, probably built in the 18th century.
I’d be spending a month there in the summer with my mother, and the neighbors came visiting in the long summer evenings, when daylight lasted until nearly 10pm.
Mostly men, local farmers: they would talk about saving the hay and corn, hoping for a good spell of fine weather to get it into the barn, and local happenings that mostly passed over my head, but they would also come to visit with my mother, who grew up in that house. We children would wander in and out of the conversations, but mostly we waited for the time for tea and thick slices of Irish Soda Bread, which my mother baked every day, which we called ‘Curranty Cake”.
Then, it was off to bed, by candlelight, for the children. The only light would be from the moon if it was full. It was comforting to hear the voices from the fireside in the kitchen below until we fell asleep.
On evenings when we had no visitors, we would beg Granda to tell us some of his ghost stories. I have a poem about those stories –
The old man stirs the fire and stares.
We sit around the fire and wait
We children love to sit up late.
He tells of deeds of ancient men,
Of times that were and haunt us still.
Stories over, called to bed,
We cover up our heads in dread.