"Listen to this, guys," I said over bagels and guidebooks one morning at the kitchen table. My three children eyed me sleepily, while my wife looked on with amusement. "It says here that you can actually view the Book of Kells! Think about it: the Book of Kells is twelve hundred years old!"
We were all going to Ireland, and I was trying to get the kids fired up. Their silence was not encouraging.
"Okay, so how about this: 'The Dublin suburb of Donnybrook was famous for its fair, founded by King John in 1204, but too much noise and fighting led to its suppression in 1855.' Hey, sounds like we'd fit right in!"
"Anyone want to hear about the Siege of Derry?Hmm?Okay, guess not."
Our trip to Ireland was probably inevitable. We named our children Caitlin (now 12), Gillian (10), and Rory (8). Kathleen, my wife, is one in a long line of Murphys from County Cork. My maternal forebears were Presbyterian Scots—who, according to Kathy, stopped off in Eire just long enough to oppress her family for a generation or two before moving on to America.
Not to say that we bleed green (or, in my case, orange). You won't hear any brogues at our family gatherings. We've even been known to let a St. Paddy's Day pass without a teary-eyed toast to the Emerald Isle. Still, we've always been proud of the connection, and long ago resolved to pay a visit to the ould sod.
By "we," of course, I mean Kathy and me. Though the kids greeted with joyful shouts the announcement that we'd be going to Ireland, I worried that, given the choice, they would have chosen Disney World over Dublin. I wanted this trip to be extraordinary for all of us, so I vowed to make the kids a key part of the planning committee.
First, we'd have to get them excited about what Ireland held in store. Obviously, snippets from guidebooks would not do the job. Irish music—as played by me on the mandolin—was no more successful; Caitlin simply retired to her room and turned up Britney on the CD player. Picture books raised the kids' interest slightly, but not enough to raise my hopes.
Then I brought home a half-dozen videos from the local library. The next weekend, instead of our traditional Sunday family movie, we watched tapes about Ireland, armed not only with bowls of popcorn but with pads and pens. The reaction was heartening. Every time the word ghost was mentioned (usually in describing some ruined castle), Rory would shout out, "Let's go there!"
"Write it down," I'd say.
Gillian was intrigued by the Blarney Stone.
"Write it down."
Caitlin wanted to see the 700-foot-high Cliffs of Moher.
"Write it down."
By the time we'd watched nearly four hours of video travelogues, we'd taken enough notes to form the basis of a 12-day driving tour. More important, all three children had invested something of themselves in our plans.