t. elizabeth renich

author of historical fiction

The “Extra” Days

February 1-4, 2011

On Tuesday morning (1-Feb), Bernadette drove me back to the airport at Shannon.  Instead of dropping me off at the curb, she parked and walked with me into the terminal.  Something seemed odd, as there was hardly anyone in line at 7:00 am for what was supposed to be a 9:00 am international flight.  There was, however, a congealing crowd of people in front of the Continental customer service desk.

I got in the queue with my fellow travelers, trying to ascertain what was going on from the hushed whispers and gloomy countenances.  An agent approached me asking my name.  She found me on the list and instructed me to wait until one of the ladies at the counter could assist me in changing my flight.

Excuse me?  What do you mean I can’t go home?

Well, it seemed that the anticipated storm was about to descend on New York/New Jersey and the rest of New England…  the Newark-Liberty Airport had shut down for the day, and for the next day as well.  Continental’s hub in EWR, they weren’t flying any farther south.  The first available flight was going to be Thursday, 3-Feb, but that was already full.  The soonest they could send me back would be Friday, 4-Feb.  I looked at Bernadette:  “Seems I’ll be here for your birthday after all.”

The customer service agent – a helpful lady by the name of Jacqui – told me they could put me up for the next three nights at the Park Inn Hotel which was right across the parking lot from the SNN terminal.  Bernadette shook her head and whispered, “I’m not leaving you here to stay by yourself in a hotel room.  Come back home and stay with us.  You’re welcome and we’ll have fun.”

I turned to Jacqui and asked her if we could make a deal.  She listened to my plan and agreed to it:  Instead of putting me up for three nights, Continental would comp a room with two beds for one night, Thursday, so that Bernadette and I wouldn’t have to get up so early to drive all the way back.  We’d spend the night at the hotel and be here all ready to go on Friday morning.  She even put it in writing for me (which turned out to be a good thing upon check-in on Thursday night).

Bernadette had taken enough time off from working at the crèche (day care center) for my “planned” stay.  I told her I didn’t mind staying at her house while she was at work, as it would give me a chance to read and study.  But, first, I had to make several phone calls in order to cancel appointments and reschedule things I’d booked for days I thought I’d be back home…  Of course, America didn’t “wake up” until almost 2:00pm Irish time, so Bernadette went to work and I got busy washing a couple of loads of clothes and folding the towels I found in the drier.  I could at least be useful.

It was funny, because we’d been having such a good time that I was too busy to miss Virginia.  As soon as they told me I couldn’t go back, the homesickness hit me.  More than I expected it would.  I received texts and e-mails back.  The guys I work with weren’t expecting to see me until the following Tuesday, so they wouldn’t be missing me.  Jim had a good laugh when I texted him.  He knows all about being stuck at airports and having flights canceled.  It happens to him all the time.

My trip was originally planned for a week, I’d packed enough vitamins and protein powder for eight days, but being gone ten, I was running out.  We went to a health food shop on Tuesday night, and found a sample of whey isolate protein powder, but it just wasn’t the same as the Unjury that I use at home.  The other powder (a soy/rice concoction) I left with Bernadette.  She said she liked it, but I didn’t care for it at all!

The next day, Wednesday (2-Feb), Bernadette came home for her break and told me what time the library in Gort opened.  She came back at lunch time and drove me to the square.  I had the map she’d drawn for me and following her directions I stopped off at the Internet Café, took a few pictures, walked past Supermac’s and headed up the hill for the library.  I didn’t see it at first because a huge shredding truck was blocking the sign, but there, behind it was indeed the building that housed the library.  The place was converted church – which explains the signs for the cemetery right next door.  Browsing through the local history section, I came across two books that were exactly what I was looking for.  One called Women in Ireland, which had some details in it, but the even better one was called Yesterday in Ireland.  Great pictures, details, and narrative that told of Ireland in the time period I was looking into.

When Bernadette came to pick me up after she got off from work, she talked to the librarian about my borrowing the books.  Bernadette agreed to co-sign for me, and to bring the books back after the requisite 21 days.  The lending fee was €1, and that was no problem.  I now have my very own Irish library card!  (Next time I am in Town on a weekday, I’m going to go to the Library of Congress so I can have a reader’s card from there, too.)  I was able to study all day on Thursday, then repacked my carry-on to get ready to leave again.

The extra days proved to be quite relaxing – actually, they seemed most like a vacation to me – and so I rested and read and spent time with everyone else when they came home from work and school.  There really is never a dull moment at the Whelans.  Whether it’s an impromptu concert with flute and accordion by Bernadette and Frances, or Frances dancing, or Colm making us laugh, Pakie singing “The Fields of Athenry,” and Mary cooking and talking about the political news on television.  It was nice to feel so included even though I was mostly a spectator.

Wednesday night, the winds picked up and the rains fell steadily.  Pakie said it was nothing to fret over, that it was normal for this time of year.  He didn’t think a little bit of a stiff breeze would keep my flight from departing come Friday.

Thursday night (3-Feb), Leonard met Bernadette and me at the Lady Gregory and we three had dinner at the pub there, and they gave me a beautiful Claddagh necklace as my going away gift.  Bernadette and I continued on to the Park Inn and once we settled in to our room, we talked for a good while until we fell asleep.  (Though I still think she was texting with Leonard long after I dropped off…)

Our wake-up call came on Friday morning, and once more, I stuffed everything back into my carry-on and rucksack.  It was a tight fit, and I was certainly thankful for the wheels.  I’ve had it for many years and many trips (3 to Ireland, 1 to Japan, 1 to the Super Bowl in Miami in 1995, once to Israel, several visits to Minnesota to see my family there, and to a couple dozen of the states in America at least.  I’m hoping it will last long enough to get me to those last five states that I still need to check off my list.)

In the wind and rain, Bernadette drove us across the parking lot.  Inside the terminal, there was a line in front of the check-in counter – very good sign.  And sure enough, I was able to hug her goodbye and thank her for everything before I left to pre-clear customs and wait at the gate.  I didn’t have a row of seats to myself this time – there was a gentleman who sat next to the window, but at least we had the empty seat between us to spread out a little.  He didn’t say much, slept through most of the flight, and maybe it was my imagination, but this fellow bore a very strong resemblance to Jeremy Irons.  I didn’t ask him who he was, though.  I’ve traveled with a few “celebrities” on occasion and sometimes, they’re okay with being un-recognized.

There was a good bit of snow and ice still on the ground when I changed planes in Newark, as there was once we landed at IAD.  Beth picked me up, we went to dinner at the Blue Ridge Grill, and then she brought me home, only to find my car had been plowed in.  She let me borrow a shovel, since I don’t own one myself, and the next day, after the sun had melted the snow a little, I started digging into the nearly 3’ tall bank.  I only had to go as far as I thought necessary to run over the rest with my 4-wheel drive.  Works for me!

All in all, it was a wonderful trip, including those extra days.  There are worse places than Ireland to be stuck, and if I hadn’t been stuck there, I wouldn’t have gotten to the library in Gort, and that’s where I found the books with the details I needed most.  I am still thanking the LORD for His provision.  He is so good, and I am blessed.   We’ll simply chalk up that enormously large international cell phone bill (insert choking and sputtering sound effects here) to experience and go on from here!  Just another lesson in what not to do next time…

About The Author

Author of the Shadowcreek Chronicles


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