My mother would recall how the sea breeze was her only comfort through a long difficult labour in St Geards Nursing Home in Kilkee on a hot July in 1958. My father was not present to greet his first born child as men were not birthing partners and the slogan “ Wild Atlantic Way “ was yet to be coined. I had left the waters of my mothers womb to begin my lover affair with the Sea.
A golden decade of Summer, Sea and Sundays began circa 1964 for my brothers aged 4 & 5 and my 2 year old baby sister and I.
The journey to the sea took forever and a day ( in reality 30 minutes ) in the back of a forest green Ford Anglia Van. As our mode of transport sported scattered cushions instead of seats and was devoid of seatbelts, my mother was our safety officer, insisting we sit down !!!
Magnatized and mesmerized by the first view of the crashing waves, intoxicated by the sea air, we helped make sandwiches and buttered Marietta biscuits. Towels and a rug down the steps in our place in the sand, slightly to the east of the Grecian blue and white Kilkee bandstand. Pulling off our clother and sandals, little milky white bodies emerged quickly but awkwardly in swimming attire.
The race was on to the waters edge. Repeated warnings of the danger of drowning hung in the air behind us. Fifty years later I can hear “ Don’t go too far out to Sea “, over the ankles but a good bit below the knees was permitted. Jumping and splashing, screaming and squealing we played tag with the ebb and the flow of the tide.
Great roaring foamy white waves slammed one another and crashed and flattened and became gentle, lapping our toes in the ice cold water. Gradually our feet grew warmer till we were lured into sitting at the waters edge allowing the receding waves to splash against our warm backs.
Gaxzing “ too far out to sea” I sang and fantized as I mythically swam beyond the glistening bobbing red and blue fishing boats landing on the shores of America.
Curiously enough I never did get to explore America. I was called to land back, slightly to the east of the Grecian blue and white Kilkee Bandstand to dine on the scrumptious sandy sandwiches, buttered Marietta biscuits to be washed down with red lemonade and orange Mi Wadi.
Sometimes my father would bring me to the sea on a working weekday. While he delivered potatoes and peas to the local Kilkee shops and hotels. I was trusted not to go “ too far out to sea “ that being the only conceivable danger for a child in his eyes in that era. He would ask a nice Limerick family to keep an eye on his 12 year old daughter who by now was spellbound and lost in the magic of the sea. Precious memories of my father returning to check on me every so often asking if I was hungry or lonesome.
Building and collapsing sandcastles was fun but not the heaven of sucking bulls eyes and clove drops while walking by the sea with my grandfather. Our walk could now be described as mindful and meditative, then it was simply “ Slow “.
I wasn’t to know then that those summers would ever end, of that my father aged 72 and my brother aged 47 would be called from their native shore to some other heaven. Or that my last happy memory of being with my mother was to be overlooking the sea. She aged 90, I almost 60, together on a Grecian blue and white seat. Her eyesight, her memory fading – till we closed our eyes and breathed the sea air again.
Time seemed to stand still, stolen time , extra time, past times, happy times a lifetime.
My only brother on this shore together with his son sells potatoes in Kilkee. When I walk by the sea my eyes are drawn slightly to the east of the Grecian blue and white bandstand to our place in the sand. I didn’t know then what lonesome was, but I do now, on seeing our happy little family there in innocent times.
Kilkee by the sea, place of my birth and continuing rebirth.
A Sea of Memories.