This Thanksgiving weekend I thought I would share a delightful story of discovery, connection, and blessings during a trip to the Emerald Isle.
Sheila M. Cronin is an Irish American writer whose holiday book, The Gift Counselor, won the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Award. In today’s post Sheila shares a beautiful story of an unexpected trip to Ireland with her mother, and introduces us to her wonderful holiday fiction.
And good news! There’s a giveaway for a copy of Sheila’s book for one lucky reader. But first here’s Sheila’s heartwarming tale of her first trip to Ireland…….
Irish American Mothers by Sheila M Cronin
My sister handed me the kitchen telephone receiver. “Mom wants to ask you something,” she said excitedly. I was my sister’s houseguest, having recently returned to Chicago after a long absence.
“Sheila, dear,” she greeted me in her best I’ve-got-an-agenda tone. “My travel partner has cancelled on me. We were supposed to leave in three weeks for Ireland.” I shot my sister a puzzled look.
“Honey,” Mother hurried on, “since you’re not working yet, how would you like to go with me to Ireland … as my guest?”
“Um … well …” I didn’t know what to say.
Mother’s gift had some strings attached. For example, instant acceptance on my part—so she could keep the reservation. That was the least of it.
Just that afternoon I’d signed a lease on a new apartment that I would be moving into in three weeks. Right about the time she wanted me packed and ready to go.
I’d never spent any extended period of time alone with Mother who entered my life when I was five years old, after my own Mommy had been called back to heaven. A large Irish Catholic family hadn’t allowed much time for bonding.
How would we, strangers in many ways, do traveling together?
But then, among my goals when I returned to Chicago (from Los Angeles) was to get to know this woman, adult to adult. Plus, with her financing the whole shebang, would any of my siblings be jealous?
Ireland with all her Troubles didn’t excite me one bit. But I was about to adapt a screenplay into a Christmas novel and since Mother happened to be a professional non-fiction writer, might synergy be lurking in this endeavor?
Moreover, didn’t writers need to go back to the land of their ancestors for inspiration or validation or at least for a vacation? Or was I making up that part?
My sister pivoted, saw me stalling and threw her hands in the air as if to say, “What’s the problem?”
Mother, a seasoned gift-giver, filled the gap. “You’d be doing me the favor. This will be my fifth trip there. And, honey, I’d love to show you Ireland.”
Her fifth trip to Ireland? Already I was learning something about who she was.
I moved into my new apartment on a Saturday and we left for Ireland Monday evening. I’d never been across the Atlantic. I’d never shared a plane seat or hotel room with Mother. Nor had I ever left a new apartment in an unpacked state; however, it was time to put that mess behind me and get with the program!
As it is, my Irish roots are strong. My father’s mother was a Kelley from Newry, County Down, who sailed to New York when she was all of four years old. The Cronins hailed from Thurles, Tipperary County. Mommy’s grandparents (Hayes and Larkin) were both Galway natives who met in America.
While both sides of Mother’s family harkened from County Roscommon and Tipperary. Which is why I like to kid that I’m 300% Irish-American.
Ireland Felt Like Home:
I’d approached our trip with trepidation but the moment we landed in Ireland, my misgivings—good word in any discussion about gifts—vanished.
Ireland was instantly familiar to me. Partly due to movie classics, partly due to books, partly due to songs and theatre. But deeper. Ireland was familiar to me because Ireland felt like home.
The Emerald Isle quickly seduced me. The sheer beauty of it, its moody weather, the lively music. The welcome in people’s eyes. Their facial features, coloring and personalities. The eagerness to talk, to get to know us, to laugh—aye, to roar out loud. And sing, dance, tell tall tales. Share a pint.
Irish art was a revelation to me. So was Irish food, both excellent.
I doggedly kept us on schedule through the two week bus tour, then Mother rented a car to show me her Ireland. We covered a lot of ground, stayed in fine hotels and enjoyed shopping.
She introduced me to tea every afternoon and I introduced her to after dinner Irish coffee.
She was a newspaper columnist who had no difficulty approaching strangers or getting them to tell her their stories. She flattered, charmed and displayed endless energy, staying up late to read, but behind the bathroom door so the light wouldn’t wake me. Always cheerful, she was game for wherever our adventure took us next.
Counting Life’s Blessings In Ireland:
Life brings many sorts of blessings. Infrequent but powerful is the unexpected gift, the thing we didn’t even know we wanted until we receive it.
Good gifts do not take away all that’s wrong or unfair or sad about life. Rather, they sustain us. They encourage us. They help us thrive. They give us hope. Sometimes they heal.
So it happened. Maybe during high tea at Adare Castle, maybe in Donegal or Sligo. Perhaps during our minor spat in Killarney, or on the pier in Cork. Or during our stay in Ballynahinch where she told me about putting on a show with college friends in the hotel’s lobby. One day, I started calling her Mom.
The Gift Counselor:
The novel I eventually published is called The Gift Counselor. Winner of the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Award, this Christmas story centers on a Catholic single mom with a knack for helping people choose gifts, her ten year old son who wants a dog she won’t let him have and the man who enters and changes their lives one December.
Visit me at The Gift Counselor website for discussion questions or to leave a comment. (I’m writing the sequel which features a trip to Ireland.)
So tear up your gift list this year. The Gift Counselor is the ideal gift for everyone on it.
One lucky reader will win a copy of The Gift Counselor.
Here’s a little excerpt from the Beacher Weekly Newspaper’s review ….
“This book is the perfect entry into the holiday season. It will warm your heart,
make you smile, and maybe think twice about the gifts you buy and why you bought them.
The writing is smooth, the story draws you along and the characters are ones
you will come to care and root for.”
To enter just leave a comment on this blog post by noon on Monday, December 7th 2015.
Any comment will do. What you write does not affect your chance of winning, but if you need inspiration for your entry why not tell us what your favorite Irish gift would be this Christmas.
A winning comment will be chosen randomly. Remember to leave your e-mail so that I can contact you should you win. Your e-mail won’t be published or shared, just used to contact our lucky contestant.
Winners will be announced on Monday December 7th, 2015, at the bottom of this blog post.
You may check out Irish American Mom’s complete terms and conditions for sweepstakes entries by clicking here.
A big thank you to Sheila for her lovely story of visiting Ireland with her mother, and for sponsoring this giveaway. And thanks to everyone who supports this little giveaway.
Happy Thanksgiving weekend, and happy Black Friday shopping.
Update – Winners Chosen On December 7th, 2015
Good news. Our winner has been chosen using the random “Pick Giveaway Winner” WordPress plug-in.
Congratulations to …..
I’ll send you a quick e-mail to let you know you are our prize winner.
Thanks to everyone who joined in and entered this little giveaway.
And a big thank you to Sheila M. Cronin for providing a copy of her wonderful book as a prize.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
A quick note: Here’s the link for purchasing The Gift Counselor on Amazon. This link is an affiliate link, which means I will earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase using this link. The price you pay will not be affected. Thanks so much for supporting my blog ….
Where to next on your Irish heritage journey of discovery? You might be interested in ….