(Photo used by permission of Sonja Hansen)
Senior Sonja Hansen, sister junior Bianca, mother Deborah and sister fourth grader Morgan (front) at a castle in Deerpark in Cork, Ireland.

My bloodline is Scandinavian and Irish. I’m most familiar with my mother’s heritage since I have visited the ancestral home of both her mother (Denmark) and father (Ireland). (Until SpaceX starts regular trips to the moon and back, I’ll have to wait to chart my dad’s ancestry).

In 2012 before our family’s trip to Ireland to see my aunt, my mom began researching her dad’s family tree (the McCotters) on Ancestry.com so that we could go on a road trip around our ancestral country.

She traced our lineage back to a Viking who declared himself the King of Dublin, even though he didn’t really have the authority to do so. It echoed the time I declared myself captain of the golf team even though nobody asked me to and I’d never been selected to play in a match.

Our expedition started off rocky. On my first day I slept for 18 hours. It was awful.

We arrived at my aunt’s house in Dublin at noon, so I went to sleep.

I woke up at midnight and found my sister, junior Bianca, next to me and the curtains drawn. I peeked outside and saw that the sun was setting. I was worried that we were going to miss the whole day, so I woke up Bianca and told her to get dressed.

Then I went back to sleep. Bianca will take over from here:

“I immediately panicked. I jumped out of bed, still groggy from about four hours of sleep, and wobbled downstairs. Our aunt, who was in the kitchen on a business call, watched me as I silently got a bowl and spoon, poured myself some cereal, and proceeded to walk back upstairs to bed without eating the cereal.”

(Photo used by permission of Hansen)
Senior Sonja Hansen in Deerpark in Cork, Ireland.

Besides my thrown-off sleep schedule, our trip to Ireland did not bode well for my digestive system.

Have you ever played Russian roulette? How about the sweeter but just as deadly Irish roulette?

Irish roulette works best if you have an allergy – in my case, an allergy to walnuts and pecans.

To play Irish roulette, access to a box of See’s Candies chocolates is of the utmost importance – other brands just don’t cut it. Lucky for me, my mom had brought a couple boxes for my aunt, and she was willing to share.

The trick to Irish roulette is to judge each candy based on the striping, color and shape to discern whether poisonous nuts are inside. Participants are unable to handle or break open any truffles because that’s “gross.” The candy you pick up is the one that’s going in your piehole.

The game can be played anywhere, is for all ages and has no limit to the number of players.

I had about six chocolates and three allergic reactions within the first week.

A casual observer might suggest I retire and admit that I’m not very good at this game. But I’ll retort that the fact that I’m writing this blog is proof enough that the game hasn’t beaten me yet. And there’s something about your windpipe closing that makes you feel more alive than ever.

One time I nabbed a chocolate just before we hopped in a car to go to a park. I threw up in the car, and as I was wiping what remained of my treat off of my chin, I realized how much things had changed since the time of the first great McCotters. They roamed what used to be expansive forests, gloriously settled this land and pronounced themselves royalty. I had to worry about getting the barf smell out of my puffer coat, so I soon forgot that image.

(Photo used by permission of Sonja Hansen)
Junior Bianca Hansen with sisters, senior Sonja and fourth grader Morgan, at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

A few days after arriving in Dublin, we began our road trip that would end at the Cliffs of Moher, at which we found several teenagers giving each other haircuts. (The reason the kids chose the windy cliffs where their hair was free to fly into my gaping mouth is unknown.)

We had planned on driving all the way to Sligo (whose slogan is “Sligo – just a stroll and a giggle and a kiss away”), but we didn’t.

The trip started normally. We went to a lavender shop in the middle of nowhere, ate at a pizza place in an equally desolate location and passed a lot of sheep and a lot of fields.

We toured and spent some nights in a couple castles, at which there was an abundance of mounted animals. I always avoided eye contact with the deer heads when I passed them. If I was alone, I’d crouch and run. I know they’re dead, but some part of me doesn’t trust a stuffed animal.

We also visited Cork. Cork is known as the cutest town in the world. On a more personal note, it’s the resting place of my sister’s kneecap.

It was just before lunch when we arrived in Cork. My aunt and my mom decided to stop in a potter’s shop, so my sisters and I stayed on the street. Fourth grader Morgan decided we should play follow the leader and that (big surprise) she would be the one calling the shots. Bianca and I went along with it.

(Photo used by permission of Sonja Hansen)
Fourth grader Morgan Hansen

“The game started out slow,” Bianca said. “‘Simon says spin around,’ ‘Simon says hop on one foot.’ But it quickly escalated to ‘Simon says run down the incredibly slippery incline.’

It’s important to note here that it’s always wet in Ireland. The weather is only varying degrees of rain.

“Next thing I knew my perspective slowly turned sideways as I fell, banging my head on the street curb. My vision became slightly blurry as I heard a high-pitched ringing and saw Sonja screaming and crying for help.

“As my family ran to the rescue, I became increasingly annoyed and uncomfortable about the crowd gathering around me, so, with a bloody gash on my knee the size of a softball, I began to walk out into the street and back to the car, insisting that nothing was wrong and that I was fine.

Finally, my aunt managed to herd me into the potter’s shop, where the potter’s wife, in her thick Irish accent, marveled at how brave I was and stated that, if that had happened to her, she would’ve been ‘bawlin’ like a wee bab.’”

Bianca still has the scar and will show it to any interested party for $10.

By Sonja Hansen

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