You may be asking yourself, “Who is this Saoirse?” and “How the heck do you say her name?” I get the latter a lot. The name itself is a popular one in Ireland right now for both genders. It’s pronounced seer-sha, and it means Freedom.

I’ve always been a stuffed animal fan. From as far back as I can remember, no matter where I was in our travels, the stuffed animal display in the gift shop would seek me out and lure me to it. Many a scene was had in front of them as I tried to convince an adult with me that I really needed yet another, and this one in particular wanted to come home with us. Sometimes it worked, but eventually they caught on to me.

It was wonderful to finally reach adulthood and start a family of my own. I now had the means and the authority to not only buy/eat Cocoa Pebbles if I so desired, but to bring home any plush new friend I made a connection with. Add in a job at a pharmacy with a gift shop… Can you say “Beanie Babies?” “Gotta Getta Gund?”

OK, I’m not the lady you’re picturing, with a room full of teddies dressed in outfits on display. As my kids have grown and traveling has forced me to scale back on stuff, I only need one – that one with the perfect plumpness to fit in my arms as I sleep and prop my elbow up to the perfect height. I had a special one at home, but while packing this last trip when space and weight were at a premium, he failed to meet the can’t live without it criteria. Or so I thought.

After many a restless night, which I blamed on: time changes, hotel rooms, heavy duvets, hot flashes, too much alcohol, too many lights, neighbor noises, early alarm clocks, mental checklists and itineraries… I realized that I needed a snuggle companion to fill the void in my arms. We set out on a quest to find that new friend as we travelled, a seemingly easy task, and was dismayed to leave shop after shop without meeting the right one. The animals seemed to be all the same. Where was the gluttonous overabundance of choices I was used to in the States?

We met Saoirse at, of all the obscure places, the News-n-Choose shop in Loughrea. She was a leftover Mother’s Day bear sporting an “I love you Mum” t-shirt on the bottom rack, almost tucked out of sight. We think she was hiding there long past the holiday in hopes we would find her. The cute face, the squishy belly, the proper height – she was exactly what I was looking for. I ditched the top and later picked up a shamrock necklace and a pin for her ear sporting Irish and American flags with a shamrock, for her to show her heritage.

She has become a delightful travel companion by train, plane, bus or by foot, and has provided me with the opportunity to speak to strangers when I normally would have kept quietly to myself. I’ve shared her photos on Instagram for my friends and many are curious to see what she is up to on her travels. Even Irish Rail used her photo in their own post – so she’s famous! I guarantee that from now on, wherever we travel, I will always make room for our sweet baby bear in my bag.



See Saoirse on Instagram at #irelandfound and #travelswithsaoirse.

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