Back when we were kids my Mam and Dad often brought us on excursions to see castles and beaches and gardens and the like. We would often drop in to visit people too and so we mostly found ourselves in Wexford, a large county with lots of tiny little towns and a network of skinny country roads, as many of our relatives lived there. Nestled in the mid south of the county is the tiny rural village of Adamstown and at the time of this tale an aunt of mine was visiting friends there. As we were passing it was decided we would drop by to say hello.
Even though I dreaded relatives I liked these trips because back in those days children were dispatched to the yard (or left out there in the first place)with a shower of Nice biscuits and a bottle of Miwadi flung after them. If a child got a wallop in the head from the bottle that just meant one less child to get stuck in between the hay bales in the barn, torture the chickens or try to impale the kittens on the combine harvester and so the grown ups got to relax in peace and nearly everyone, possibly barring the dazed victim, was happy.
I imagine the Adamstown visit must have followed along those lines but the details are lost in the mists of time. It was our departure that won it a small place in our family history.
In Ireland, when people are leaving after a visit it is normal for them to be ‘seen off ‘ and often as a child I found myself in someones yard or garden surrounded by a crowd of vaguely familiar looking but decrepit people (some of them must have been over thirty!)and caught in~ as a favourite author describes it~ the ‘false-hearty muddle of leave-taking’.
When finally, after a conflab that often lasts longer than the visit itself, the car has been stuffed with children and the motor coughs and sputters to life, a forest of arms will rise and hands will flicker like leaves in a gale until the vehicle is out of sight or even beyond and god help all those that live at the end of a long straight road. Or that is what usually happens.
Not so in Adamstown. The front door must have been opened I suppose. Goodbyes must have been uttered. Somehow in the flurry of getting all seven of us into the car we didn’t notice the absence of the usual chatter but when we turned to wave dutifully through the windows we found that the yard was empty and front door firmly closed against us and not a curtain flickering in any window.
I can still feel the shock at this transgression from the cultural norm but any feelings of outrage were immediately replaced by a rising hilarity at the audacity of these strange and unusual people and possibly even a grudging appreciation for their unwillingness to spend even a second more of their time on us than was necessary and before we had even reached the New Ross road the incident had been dissected and then named, in the way a battle is labelled after the nearest hill or hamlet.
Ever since then any leave-taking that is truncated in any manner has been referred to within our family by that label and to this day when I am being ‘ seen off ‘ I often end up stretching out my leave-taking that little bit more by telling waving friends of the Adamstown Farewell.