Just back from an overnight in my beautiful Donegal. We were all up to celebrate the birthday of one of the Cunningham clan. All twelve of Teresa's children were there, coming from all over Ireland, from London and most especially from Chicago. It is only the second time in twenty years that they have all been together. It made for a very special night.
The drive up was fabulous - I normally groan at the thought of three and a half hours trapped in the car with my family but for once the lads didn't squabble and we were all stunned into silence by the beauty of the early evening sunset over the magnificent scenery. I commented that any tourist arriving into Ireland and travelling by car towards the Northwest would have been gobsmacked by the beauty.
The Cunningham clan gathered and gathered and gathered. The food was top class, the wine flowed, the laughter was great and of course the singing started. At one stage Teresa got to her feet and we assumed she wanted her bed . Not that lady. Dancing she wanted! As did her lovely sister and her 94 year old neighbour Brid, I danced with Brid and I swear to God the woman - a tiny wiry woman - has the grip of a thirty year old man. Unbelievable. They breed them different up in Donegal for sure.
It was great to see all the cousins, I think there were twenty of them there, all growing into fine bright young men and women. And yet, I couldn't help but wonder how many of them will have to leave this island, another generation - yet again- in order to find work? How many of them, God forbid my own boys, will end up rearing their families on foreign soil? How many times will they all be able to gather together in the one house at the same time, to celebrate a birthday, a wedding or to mourn the loss of a loved family member. It tinged the night with a little sadness for me. I hope all those cousins will look back on last night with great fondness, a night to be laughed over for years.
The making of good memories for our children is so important. Whenever any of us feel a little troubled remembering nights of good craic, company and particularly the complete acceptance of those who love us can soothe our troubles somewhat. And that is the thing I will carry with me always about the Cunningham clan of Donegal. In every home I visit there I have never felt anything but love and welcome. I have been a very lucky woman to have been accepted by these very special people. I LOVE YIZ LADS!!