Where Everybody Knows Your Name

On a visit to Ireland, a last name opens doors
By Bernadette Bonanno
Bernadette Bonanno
Bernadette Bonanno
Bernadette Bonanno lives in Albany, N.Y.
July 13, 2021 Updated: July 13, 2021

Several years ago, my husband Mike and I, along with 17 members of my extended family, traveled to Labasheeda, a small rural town in County Clare on the Shannon River in Ireland. My grandfather was born and raised there with his 14 siblings. The town consists of a post office, church, rectory, schoolhouse, general store, and Casey’s Pub.

After our long flight, Mike and I unpacked and headed down to Casey’s.

The pub was dark inside and the place went suspiciously silent with all eyes on the two strangers who just walked in. We sat at the bar and Mike ordered us two pints of Guinness. I began wondering if we’d ever make it out of Casey’s alive. It felt like we were in an old movie about two clueless tourists wandering into a rural pub in Ireland. Needless to say, I kept my eyes down and my mouth shut.

As the Guinness settled, we waited uncomfortably for the bartender to bring them over. With the exception of a few murmurs from the corner of the pub, no one was speaking.

Finally serving the Guinness, the bartender asked, “So, what brings you here?” Mike said, “My wife’s family is from Labasheeda and we came over for a visit.”

The bartender looked at me and asked, “What’s your name?” I assumed he meant my maiden name so I lifted my chin and said, “Crehan.”

Tilting his head back, he shouted, “CREHAN?” Reluctantly, I whispered, “Yes.”

Suddenly, the pub erupted in expletive-laden laughter and chatter as people patted us on the back and offered to pay for our drinks. The bartender led me across the room to meet one of my cousins. For the next nine days, the town embraced us simply because we were Crehans. They didn’t care about our past and we didn’t have to earn their approval.

Recently, my husband Mike wrote a beautiful song about the freedom that comes from knowing God’s unconditional love. The lyrics include, “I know I’m not worthy, but just the same, You know my name.”

I love the song but it’s not always easy to remember this truth. Fortunately, Irish pubs aren’t the only place we receive reminders.

As many know, nature has a mysterious way of speaking to those who are inclined to listen. So, Mike and I have taken thousands of walks together. On occasion, among the clusters, Mike finds a four-leaf clover. It often happens while we are discussing something important. Speechless at the unique timing of these discoveries, we finish our walks in silence.

When we get home, Mike presses out his rare finding to clearly see all four leaves. Then, with a smile, he goes upstairs and adds the clover to his collection. I don’t know where he keeps his collection as we never talk about it. Without providing answers, these reassuring clovers remind us that like the Guinness, things will eventually settle down and work out.

We returned to Ireland to walk the Dingle Peninsula a few years ago. While enjoying a few pints at local pubs, we remembered Casey’s and their unconditional acceptance, all because, like God, they know my name.

Bernadette Bonanno lives in Albany, N.Y. She can be reached at bernadettebonanno@gmail.com.

Bernadette Bonanno
Bernadette Bonanno
Bernadette Bonanno lives in Albany, N.Y.