Friday, October 07, 2011
The Kennedy Homestead in Ireland
The Kennedy Homestead was not an easy place to find. As a matter of fact, we thought we might be in danger of losing one of our side mirrors to get there. The roads in Ireland are labeled with an M, N, R, or L. The M roads are super highways, nicely paved, 4 to 6 lanes and usually divided. The N roads are at least two lanes and usually paved well although there were some that could have used another topping of asphalt. The R roads are a little iffy. They are almost two lanes but can sometimes become more like one lane. They sometimes have a dashed line down the middle.
But the L roads. . .well, these are anything. They are usually only one lane with hopefully enough room to pass the oncoming car. If not, you back up to a wider spot or inch your way along and tuck in your side mirrors to pass. Side mirrors are the one thing replaced most often on Irish rental cars. Why? In addition to the narrow road, there are often stone walls lining the street covered with vines or hedges making them appear softer than they are. And then when you see grass growing in the middle of the road, you know you are on a back road--probably a LL.
Such was the road we found ourselves on to get to the Kennedy Homestead. Just finding the turnoff to the road was a challenge since the direction we came from didn't have it marked well. But it was worth the bumping, the dodging of cars, and the whomping of bushes against the car doors.
We were welcomed by a descendant of the Kennedys whose grandmother had welcomed JFK on his visit to the homestead in 1963 just a few months before his death. He took us into a viewing room where we watched a ten minute video of the visit. For a few minutes, we were transported back in time to see the president that had made such an impact on our lives when we were teens and young adults.
Once the video was finished, we were escorted around the small grounds that we had seen in the video. It is hard to imagine how they fit so many people into that courtyard for his visit that included tea and sweets for all provided by the locals. It was a down-home get together for all the world to see.
Our host pointed out the collected documents that show the lineage of the Kennedys. Patrick, of course, being the one who went to America. Our host's theory was that he went for love not for money. The Kennedys were in a situation that was much better than most during the potato famine and he wouldn't have had to emigrate to the U.S. because of financial problems.
It is a great story and he told it well including all the details of the story told him by his grandmother of JFK's visit. In the middle of his talk, a beeper went off. He apologized. "Wife's workin'. I need to turn the oven off. Dinner's cookin'."
He stuck the beeper back in his pocket and went on prompting all the wives in the group to worry about an overcooked meal. Finally one lady said, "We'll wait if you want to go over and turn the oven off."
"Naw," he replied just like a man, "It's okay."
The tour over, we were left to wander the out buildings a bit, read the tidbits of ancestry, and peruse the pictures. Our host disappeared long enough to turn off his oven. Meanwhile, we found a wreath in one of the small buildings that JFK had placed at the graves of those executed in the 1916 Rising. It was given to the Kennedy family.
Bob couldn't stand it. He had to ask. "What's for dinner?"
"Some kind of spaghetti thing," he answered. "Bolognese?"
"Ah, my favorite! What time's dinner?"
Having spent enough time in Ireland at this point, I almost expected him to tell Bob, "Why don't you stay."