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  • Jeanette Baker

The Comfortable and Familiar


My mind goes blank as I wander from room to room in my California house. Did I remember the Stevia, the night cream for my eyes, replacement blades for my razor, maple syrup, my Wen Shampoo, an extra battery for my laptop, my sun block? It’s just short of frightening to imagine waking up in Tralee and realizing that my Gummy Calcium chews are sitting on the counter in California. 

You might wonder why the panic. Ireland isn’t a third world country. Aren’t Irish women just as calcium deficient as American women? Don’t they shave their legs, worry about fine lines and manage their weight with artificial sweeteners? Yes, to all of the above, although maple syrup isn’t a typical staple on grocery shelves, unless it’s the pure version imported from Canada at a shudderingly outrageous price, and I haven’t yet found fruit-flavored calcium chews. But everything else, razor blades, sweeteners, sun block, etc., is there, for a price.

It is price that determines the level of my panic, price and the comfort of familiarity. The dollar, at the time I wrote this, is weak against the euro and then there is that 17.5% value added tax which to an American is cause for bearing arms. Whatever I forget in California must be replaced at one-and-a-half times the price, which means that unless it is a true emergency such as a laptop battery, I usually go without. And, while I’m confident that the brands found in chemists’ shops in Ireland are good, I simply am not as comfortable as I am with the ones from my local Target. 

The Irish are a healthy population. Smoking and drinking are down; exercise and natural food consumption are up. They are a do-it-yourselfers, cleaning their own houses, caring for their own gardens, repairing whatever it is that needs fixing in their own backyard sheds. I love that they walk or bicycle everywhere. I love that they are knowledgeable about the politics of other countries. I love the manners of their children. I admire them for their writers and certainly for that wit that leaves me tongue-tied and struggling to catch up. 

But when it comes to a cobalt blue sky, white sand beaches, waves of summer heat, fireworks in July, hamburgers just off the grill, watermelon, sweet corn and fresh peaches from local growers, America is number 1. Happy belated 4th of July everyone.

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