Horse and rider on Kilkee Beach in the evening. Photo by Eoin.

Well, we had a bit of a scare, which also turned out to be an embarrassing experience. It all started with a horse galloping on the beach one evening. Eoin and I had just parked on the strand along the beach, on our way to Maud’s Ice Cream Shop for an after dinner treat. As we got out of the car we saw a beautiful horse being ridden back and forth along the shoreline of Kilkee Beach. Of course, we had to stop and behold such a wonderful sight! I took the camera out of my purse and handed it to Eoin and he ran down to the beach to snap a few photos. Finally, the horse and rider left the beach and Eoin and I headed for Maud’s where he chose a strawberry ice cream cone topped with tiny marshmallows and I, a small scoop of the house concoction that consists of vanilla ice cream, caramel and Nutella. Ice cream in hand, we decided to take the long route back to the car and walked down the main street – stopping to laugh at a couple dozen birds maneuvering for their night-time resting spots at the top of the AIB (bank) building, and then continued on back to the strand and up to the car.

It was getting pretty cold and I was in a bit of a hurry to get into the car and head home but was not happy when I spotted the car with what appeared to be a ticket under the windshield wiper. Annoyed and wondering what obscure traffic law I had violated I reached for my keys to unlock the door so we could get out of the spot. That is when I realized my keys were not in my purse pocket where I always keep them! It was late evening and all my keys, those to the cottage as well as the car keys were nowhere to be found in my purse. Panic set in immediately!

The first thing I had to do was go to the only shop we had stopped in, Maude’s. Tired 8-year-old in tow, we made our way to Maude’s in hope that this situation would quickly be resolved. However, after rushing into the shop asking about my keys the owner of the shop and the girl working there shook their heads saying they hadn’t seen any keys. Feeling sheer panic I fretted about how I was going to get keys from the car rental company at 9:30 pm in a town in the far west of Clare, and how I would manage to get into the cottage once I made it back there. The ice cream shop owner looked up the phone number for the Garda for me and then went outside to ask the few people gathered at the front of the shop eating their ice cream. These people came inside to talk to me and assure me everything would be alright. A young man there told me he had served me earlier in the day at the Diamond Rocks Cafe and said he would keep an eye out for my keys. A middle-aged couple offered to bring me back to their house to get the Golden Pages so we could look up the number to the car rental company and for a locksmith if needed. As I left with them the ice cream shop owner took my phone number so he could contact me if he heard anything and also asked that I let him know if I found the keys.

On the way to the couple’s home, which was just a few doors down the street, the man suggested we go back to check the car one more time before making any calls, so we headed down a small lane that brought us back to my car. Just as I had said, the doors were locked and the keys were nowhere in sight. Finally, the man walked to the front of the car and saw the ticket under my front windshield wiper. However, when he said, “This looks like a note”… I suddenly realized that in my panic I had failed to consider that the “ticket” on my car may have been a note! Sure enough, there in the man’s hand was an envelope with a note stating, “Your keys are at O’Mara’s Pub.” That is when the embarrassment set in… I had involved all these nice people in my little drama and it all could have been avoided if I had just stopped to take a look at the paper on my windshield! When I said this to the man holding the note he replied, “You just panicked a bit, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” I thanked him for his help and headed to O’Mara’s where a sweet elderly couple told me they had found my keys sitting on the wall along the beach – right where I had stopped to watch that beautiful horse galloping… right where I set my purse – and apparently my keys – down to get the camera for Eoin. In my usual way, I felt the need to explain the ordeal to the couple who found my keys and told them how I had involved so many people in the search simply because I hadn’t looked at the note on my car. They were very nice of course and the lady smiled and remarked that she remembered passing me earlier on the footpath and that we said “hi” to each other. Next I went back to the ice cream shop, as I had promised to do if I found the keys. Again, I thanked the shop owner for his help and when I mentioned how embarrassed I was for involving so many people, he said, “Sure isn’t that what a community is for?”

After telling this long story to Anton on the phone later that night, he laughed and said, “Mom, it’s good to know you’re the same person in Ireland as you are here!” Well, that might be so, but I prefer to blame it on the horse.