I looked out from our kitchen window, I saw the rain had stopped, and the clouds had begun to make way for the sun. The tea kettle began to whistle just as I finished buttering my cinnamon muffin. Sitting next to me, waiting for any crumbs to fall, was my little girl Kerry, our chocolate lab. “Sorry, girl, no crumbs today. You know your mom has been on me about my messes in the kitchen.” Her tail started wagging, and she gazed at me with those big brown eyes. “You are just like your mother. I cannot say no to her either when she looks at me with her deep blue eyes.”
“What’s this I hear, Peter? Seems to me you have
said no to me many times over our fifty years of wedded bliss.”
“Kerry, it looks like I am in a bit of trouble.”
I poured two cups of tea. “Kathleen, my dear, would you join me on the patio?” “Peter Twomey, I am the one that can never say no.” We grabbed our teas and muffin and went out to the patio. I dried the chairs and table. I took a chair. “Madam, I have your chair.” As Kathleen sat and I placed her tea and half of the muffin in front of her. I said, “What a glorious Irish morning it is. Spring has arrived our flowers in the garden are in full bloom, giving us their beautiful fragrances. The clouds opened just enough to let beams of light shine on the ocean below. We watched as the sunlight just seemed to dance across the waves making each sparkle.” Kathleen sat her cup down. “Peter, I loved this cottage house ever since I was a child.”
I looked at the smile on her face as she spoke. “I will forever remember the day your Aunt Hannah told us about her old cottage in Kerry, it was her wedding gift to us.” “I thought you were going to squeeze her to death.” “I was a bit excited, I had gone there so many summers with my brothers and sisters. We could walk down to the beach and swim all day. Then when we came back, Aunt Hannah would have supper ready for us.”
Kathleen’s eyes sparkled as she spoke about those days at her aunts. “Aye, those are wonderful memories, Kathleen, but do you remember the day we first walked in?” We both laughed. “How could I forget? My aunt had not lived in the cottage since my uncle passed ten years before. The dust was as thick as a boot sole.” “Do you remember the smell? It smelled like sheep piss.”
Kathleen took a sip of tea as she looked out at the ocean. “Yes, but we were young and in love. As we walked around holding hands, we did not see those things. We saw a stone-washed cottage overlooking the ocean and
the life we were about to start and the children we would have.” With the sun shining and the sweet-scented smell of our flowers, it was the perfect day for an old married couple to sit and talk about their past.
I looked at Kathleen. “Do you remember the night of our wedding, your bothers and mine all gave us a rough way to go about the cottage?” “How could I forget? I got mad at my brother Jimmy and threw a Jameson bottle at him.” “What was so funny, Jimmy was not mad that you threw it at him. He was mad t
he cork was not in the bottle, and most of it emptied on your parent’s grass.” “Fifty years later, and he still tells me I owe him a bottle of Jameson.”
“I can still see your face, Kathleen, when we drove up the road towards the cottage after our honeymoon in Donegal. The first thing we noticed was the fresh white paint and the green shutters. Even the grass roof looked new. There were fresh flowers in the window boxes.” “Peter, remember all of our family’s cars were parked off the driveway. I thought it was rather odd that only my Aunt Hannah came out to greet us.” “Yes, but the old girl was moving pretty quick with her cane.” “Her smile and the hug and kiss she gave me made me feel something was going on.” “I noticed it too, Kathleen. She kept saying over and over, Kathleen and Peter, you are finally home. When she took your hand, Kathleen, it looked like she was dragging you inside. Do you remember when I told her I was going to get our luggage from the boot of the car?” “I do. I have never heard my aunt use such profanity.” We both started laughing so hard that we woke up Kerry. Who was none too happy with us.
“I will never forget the look on your face when we walked inside and saw all of our families standing there. Then the roar of surprise.” “Peter, I have never been so surprised in my life. It was only after everyone was done hugging us. That I finally could look around and see that there was furniture, the walls painted, and the stone floor cleaned and polished. There was even some peat burning in our fireplace.” I looked at Kathleen. “I smelled that sweet aroma as soon as we had pulled into the driveway. Then your brother Jimmy came up to us with a bottle of Jameson in his hand.”
“The big bear of a man hugged me as gently as a fawn. Then he handed me the bottle and said.” “This is my gift to you since you threw mine on the ground your wedding night. Now you owe me two.” He laughed and told us. “You might notice a few changes to this old cottage. All of us worked our arse’s off while you two love birds were having a romantic honeymoon up in Donegal. We cleaned the old girl, painted her, and fixed up anything needing repair. We all know Peter could not tell a spanner from a screwdriver.” With that, everyone broke out laughing, especially my father.
“Well, I must admit he was right at that time, but over the years, I have become quite a handyman.” Your brother Jimmy spoke up. “Kathleen and Peter, our families love you both and know that if there was ever a couple married in Ireland that was truly made for each other, it would be you two. Now let’s all of us fill our glasses with the world’s finest whiskey, Irish whiskey, as I have a blessing for the two of you.”
We didn’t even have to move. My sister and her husband brought our glasses. Jimmy stood in front of the two of us. “Before, I make this blessing. I want to remind my brother Declan that it was his job to read this at your reception. It seems that Declan and Ciara, your bridesmaid, had run off to parts unknown. So, it is my job to carry on our family’s wedding tradition that I might mention is over two hundred years old. I ask all of our families to raise their glasses.”
Jimmy pulled out a tattered piece of paper. “Kathleen and Peter, will you join hands.” We took each other’s hand and looked at Jimmy. “A McGrail cannot be officially married until the oldest brother reads our family blessing.” We watched as he clutched that tattered paper in his hands and softly spoke.
May whatever path your life takes you. Know you will never walk alone.
When the sunrises turn to sunsets, may you have the memories of all those years together to warm your hearts and bring you smiles, knowing you have led a good and loving life.”
With that, everyone in the room swallowed their whiskey and shouted. “Sláinte.”
I looked at Kathleen; her eyes were closed as I spoke. Her face seemed to glow in the sunlight, and her smile could not be any wider. “Oh, Peter, what a night that was. Our families made our cottage home look as it did when it was built by my great-grandfather.”
Our party that night lasted into the wee hours of the morning. The last to leave was Jimmy and his wife. “I still remember them walking down the driveway, using each other as support. Thank God they only had to walk around the corner, and they were home.” “Peter, what a night it was.” “Yes, it was. But it was fireworks we enjoyed that night in bed that I will never forget.” Kathleen rested her head on my shoulder and softly squeezed my hand. “It was magical, Peter.”
Kathleen looked to the sky. “Peter, it looks like an
other Irish day. Sunny, nice, and then rain.” Dark rain clouds were filling the sky. We grabbed everything off the table and sprinted to our rear door. Thankfully, we made it inside just as the heavens opened up.
The house felt chilly, so I tossed a peat briquette into the fireplace. “Peter, the fire smells so good. Do you mind waiting for lunch? It would be nice to sit by the fire.” “Lunch can wait as long as the love of my life sits on the sofa next to me.” “Why Mr. Twomey, I would love to sit next to you. How about I get my love a glass of whiskey?” “Mrs. Twomey, I would love a glass as long as you have one with me.” Kerry found her usual spot on her rug in front of the fire. She curled up and went to sleep. I sat on the sofa as the sweet smell of peat filled the air, and its warmth made the dampness fade.
Kathleen handed me my drink and cuddled next to me with hers. “Peter, it has been a while since we talked about our wedding.” “Too long, my sweet.” I raised my glass and looked at Kathleen. “Here is to the happiest couple in all of Ireland.” “Sláinte.” “Sláinte.”
As we sat by the fire, we talked about our years in our cottage. We had six children, three boys, and three girls. How we managed all of those years with only three bedrooms and one bath neither of us knew. But what we knew was the love we had for each other the day we married grew stronger each day that passed. It was that love that carried us both through life’s ups and downs. Raising three boys, praying they would make it to adulthood.
Now they are all married and with children of their own. Our daughters, well, they were a bit more of a challenge. We dealt with their moods, their changing hormones, and the sisters fighting. Our girls all turned out lovely. Thankfully, all of them got their mother’s beauty and intelligence. Like our boys, the girls are now married and raising children of their own. Kathleen loves to hear her daughters when they complain to her about theirs. How temperamental they are and their moods. How Kathleen keeps from laughing when one of them says to her. “I wasn’t that way when I was growing up.” I will never know. Kathleen would sit there and smile, thinking to herself, “What goes around comes around.”
That night in front of the fire, the words of Kathleen’s family’s blessing seemed to flow through my mind. “When the sunrises turn to sunsets, may you have the memories of all those years together to warm your hearts and bring you smiles, knowing you have led a good and loving life.”
I kissed Kathleen and whispered in her ear. “We have led a good and loving life.”