The event center was a big open room with a gorgeous garden out back, the toilets were outside under a huge white tent, very clean and typically Irish. I have never been anywhere that public facilities were so nice, it was that way everywhere in the country and it always impressed me.
The bar and tables, brimming with food, were arranged against the walls with a large stage at the front of the room and a big dance floor surrounded by stand-up two tier tables. I watched as people went up for their food and drinks. I don’t like to stand out as a tourist so I try to do what the locals do and blend in as much as possible. It’s almost a game for me to see how well I can observe and mimic the behavior of people around me. Most of the time I think I do fairly well but of course I’m found out as soon as I speak and they comment on my “American” accent.
On this day, I was feeling very emotional as I knew I would be returning to the US in a few weeks. Unable to secure a work permit I could not stay in the country. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving this beautiful place and my heart was breaking. Before I left I wanted to go to one of the Oyster Festivals so I decided on Clarenbridge, it was just an hour or so from where I was living in Shannon and perfect for a day trip. Much like my mood, it was a cloudy, misty September day and the weather was changing. No bother for the Irish, celebrations go on rain or shine.
As I waited for my Guinness I looked around the room to see where would be a good place to stand. There were several small open tables near the stage. That would be perfect so I could watch the band. I didn’t know there was music and dancing but I wasn’t surprised, it goes on everywhere with all kinds of music - Traditional Irish, Country Western, Rock & Roll, Oldies and always a happy, festive atmosphere.
The food was fantastic, fresh oysters, so sweet and tender they melted in my mouth, excellent chowder and fresh baked brown bread. That and a great pint, what else could a girl want – I was very happy. As the crowd began to arrive the band started to play. They were very good local musicians playing a great mix of American and Irish classics. Most of the songs were old fashioned, sentimental favorites that everyone could dance or sing along to. I was very grateful that my girlfriends had tried to teach me to waltz and jive, I wasn’t great but could manage to follow with a good partner. I drank, ate and danced all afternoon and had such a wonderful time.
As I stood there soaking up as much of this amazing experience as I could, the band began to plan “Que Sera Sera” an old favorite of mine by Doris Day! I was stunned not only because this was an all-male band playing this song but because it was what I had been saying to myself about having to go back home and I couldn’t help myself as tears came to my eyes. It was as if the universe was telling me that everything would be fine and it was one of the most touching moments of my entire 6 months in Ireland. I smiled as the guitar player nodded gently to me as if he understood.
Even now it seems like a lovely dream and I knew that day that my heart and life would never be the same.