Sunday evening we returned to The Rock, a pub in Leenaun, County Galway, which holds a session from 6:30 to 9:30 on Sundays in the summertime. It was last Sunday we arrived at 6:15, but the session did not begin till 7. So this Sunday we left the house where we were staying at 6:15, planning to arrive to The Rock at 6:45. When we arrived at that time there was one parking spot left and music was pouring out of the open windows of the pub. Irish timing remains a mystery, as American timing may be a mystery to the Irish.
My husband joined the circle of musicians and took out his bodhran, and I went to the bar to order a pint of Smithwicks for him and my own bottle of sparkling water. Many people were already in the pub, but there was ample room for me to sit on the padded bench that ran along under the front window of the pub, where, i had noticed over the couple of years we have been coming to this session, most of the elderly folk had a tendency to sit. To my right was the front door of the pub and on my left a man just a bit older than myself. I fell into a conversation with this man, who comes from Lincolnshire, which is north of London. His aunt lives in the local area, and he visits her several times a year. At one point in our conversation, a man sitting at the bar began to sing an old song in acapello. From my seat I could not see him, but the man next to me explained that the singer was the same man who was sitting in front of me at the bar last week. I then put the voice to the man, and noted to myself that I was remembered from the week before. I realized I might be the only American in the room, other than my husband.
By this time another couple about the same age as me had come in, and they could not at first find a place to sit. I moved a bit closer to the man from Lincolnshire making room for the woman next to me on the padded bench, and her husband found a small stool which he set in front of her and sat down. This woman and I would chatted when the musicians paused from playing. She had thought the man next to me to be my husband, but I straightened that out thinking perhaps I Had moved too close to him when making room for her. She has lived her whole life in Louisburgh, a small village not far from Leenaun, and raised six children there, only one of whom has emigrated. The rest are married and settled in Ireland. I have found that parents in Ireland keep track of such things, and take great pride when children have managed not to emigrate in the same way American parents may go on about the prestigious universities their children attended.
As the evening wore on, the pub became very crowded. One woman entered, tall, blonde, beautiful, and pregnant, with two blonde little boys in tow. One was perhaps four, the other six. The four year old squirmed his way through the legs of the standing crowd to get a look at the musicians and then squirmed his way back to his mother to tell her what he had seen. He did this repeatedly, but each time he moved closer to the circle of musicians and watched them play a little longer. Eric, the accordion player and a father himself, engaged the child in a conversation, and then John, the guitar player and a bachelor, did the same. The next time I looked in that direction, the young boy was seated at John’s knee on the small box that held John’s concertina, which placed this little four year old boy right at the center of the musicians’ circle. The musicians played on, the crowd keeping time, pints flowing from the bar….no one seemed to take note of what appeared to me the most poignant image of the entire evening, an image that again reminded me that we are put on this earth to do good things.