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  • In 2008, my partner and took my mother to Ireland. It was my second trip to the isle with Jonathan, and the first time my mother had ever been. My little brother, Sean, also joined us. It was a dream trip, and the 10 days we spent on the island were the most joyous, laugh-filled days of my life. Everything was perfect. Even the horizontal sleet when we visited Kylemore Abbey was perfectly biting.

    But then came the disappointment on the Hill of Tara.

    Before that, though, we spent days on the west side of Ireland. We based ourselves in Galway and took several tours. We laughed and called mom the blue gnome because she wore a sky-colored windbreaker with a hood whenever she went outside. This was before her knee surgery so walking was a little difficult for her. It didn't slow her down or diminish her enthusiasm, but sometimes when she thought no one was looking I'd see her eyes tense briefly in pain.

    She raced up the vertical assault of the stairway at Blarney Castle so she could kiss the fabled stone. She climbed the path along the Cliffs of Moher. And she moved without hesitation or limp through myriad castle ruins and cobbled streets. She smiled every instant, charming the young men in the pubs and the old women of the villages. That smile is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my days.

    But then there was the disappointment on the Hill of Tara.

    Sean and I are very close. We share and odd sense of humor. We enjoy making jokes about homoerotic incest, just to shock his wife and my partner. They're never shocked, but we continue because we still find it funny. Odd, right? Spending time with him was a thrill. He knows history like someone who lived through it. Ex-military, he has a slight bias toward the bloodier events of humanity's past. But he shared stories as we traveled around and repeated interesting facts provided by the tour guides. One afternoon he accompanied Jonathan and me to a gay pub in Dublin. Of the three of us, he was the only one who got an offer of a drink. "See," I told him. "They can tell."

    "Nah," Sean countered. "They just have excellent taste."

    Fun times, but then came the disappointment. It was on the Hill of Tara.

    There's an old tradition that when the High King returns to the ancestral seat of power, and touches the Stone of Destiny, the land will sing to welcome him home. Confidently, I strode to the stone, reached out, and placed my hand on its rough surface. There was the sound of camera shutters clicking and children calling, but no song. I put both hands on it. Nothing.

    "Try rubbing it," Sean called helpfully.

    "You wish," I called back, the disbelief obvious in my tone. I guess part of me suspected nothing would happen. But deeper down, where my conviction in the existence of God and faeries and Peter Pan lived, a little part of me sat stunned at the silence. Sean tried it, but happily the land was just as quiet for him. We tried it together, and there was song. Unrehearsed, unscripted, uncoordinated between us, as our hands gripped at the Stone of Destiny, we both threw our heads back and did an impression of an angelic chorus.

    I may not be the return of the High King of Ireland, but I certainly gained a king's ransom of priceless memories that trip.
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