“My dad said we could do something special for my 6th birthday. ‘Anything you want,’ he told me. I think he thought I was going to say ‘ice cream.’ But I said I wanted to go to New York City, and two weeks later we were on a plane.
We spent the morning of my birthday shopping at the American Girl store. Then we went to lunch at Balthazar. Afterward my dad wanted to stop by an old Irish bar called McSorley’s. He’s not a creepy alcoholic father or anything.
He designs bars for a living, and he’s always looking for inspiration. It was early in the afternoon so the bar was pretty calm. My dad ordered a beer, and an old man came and sat down at our table. He looked very Irish: suspenders, loose pants, red face.
And he was very, very kind. He showed us a few card tricks. He loved that my last name was O’Brien. He kept calling me a ‘real life Irish princess.’ At the end of our visit we took a photo together.
And as he was leaving, he told me: ‘I’m Matty Maher. The owner of this bar. And I’ll be expecting to see you again on your 21st birthday.’ As soon as we got home, we mailed Matty the photo of us.
My dad and I visited McSorley’s a few more times over the years— anytime we were in New York. I’d always send Matty a postcard in advance, to let him know we were coming. But after awhile I wasn’t a little kid anymore.
The bouncer got less and less excited about letting me inside, so we stopped going. I didn’t see Matty for several years. But when my 21st birthday came around, my dad took me on one last trip to New York. I sent Matty a postcard to let him know we were coming, but I wasn’t sure he’d remember me.
It was early afternoon when we walked in the bar. It was almost empty—just like it had been fifteen years before. Matty was nowhere to be seen. And I was coming down with strep throat, so I wanted to leave.
But it was just like a movie. The doors swung open, and Matty came in like a ray of sunshine. He brought a plate of cupcakes over to our table. He showed me a framed photograph of the two of us—it had been hanging in his office all these years.
And then he gave me a birthday card. Inside he had written: ‘I’ve finally met a woman who keeps her word.’”
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