Past, Present and Future
Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about Ireland, I love it, every last damn thing about it. How could you not love a city that looks like this:
I loved living in Dublin, a city steeped in history and always alive. I loved traveling the country–yes, there really are about a million shades of green there. I loved bringing my kids to a little house in a wild, secluded spot in County Mayo and saying to them “this is the house where your Great-Great grandmother was born and raised.” I loved bringing them to a cemetery down the road from that little house and telling them “these are the graves of your ancestors. This land is the origin of you.”
My great-grandparents left Ireland because they felt they had to, given the choice I imagine they would have stayed in the land of their birth surrounded by family and familiarity. For economic reasons they emigrated and this, of course, is a common story among the Irish. They became proud Americans while still maintaining the affection they held for Ireland. I think when people emigrate there is a thread that connects them to the land where they were born and, if nurtured, that thread will not fray– it will survive for generations. My grandmother told me stories that brought her parents, and their Ireland, into my life in a way I cherished while growing up and I still cherish now. I’ve done the same with my children so bringing them back to Ireland felt like coming full circle for us. We stood on the coast of County Mayo halfway between Belmullet, where my great-grandmother was born, and Blacksod Bay, where my great-grandfather was born, and I said to my children: “This is the land of your roots. Your ancestors left this place to make a better life and to help give us a better life. But we’re back now and, in being here, we pay them the respect of connecting with the country they loved and had to leave. We can walk the soil they walked, gaze at the water that was the backdrop of their lives and feel what they felt for this singular place.” Being able to give that gift to my children is one of the greatest blessings of my life. Ireland touched us in a way no place else in our nomadic existence has– but the nature of our lives is such that we move on.
This year we decided to throw a St. Patrick’s Day party, partly because it is a time when we especially miss Ireland and a party is a good anecdote for sad. I threw myself into decorating, planning the menu and making a playlist of music. The day of I let myself watch a few minutes of the St. Patrick’s day parade in Dublin but then went back to preparation. I let myself feel how much I wanted to be there but, after a bit of that, focused on where I was– in my house, with my family and waiting for friends who are an absolute joy. It was a wonderful day full of laughter, stories of travels, commiserations about trying to get our kids settled each time we move, looking back on situations that seem surreal in the present. After the party I sat on the couch with Eric and sipped a glass of wine while we chatted and watched the sunset. Life is good. I still miss Ireland every day because how could you not fall in love with a place where you can rent a thatched cottage and have a view like this:
But that’s okay. One of the challenges of a nomadic life is that we spend so much of our time preparing for the future, and trying to let go of the past, that the present can sometimes get lost in the mix. Just spending a beautiful day with family and friends is enough to remind me that finding a balance in letting myself miss Ireland, while still living in the present, is of the utmost importance; it is a gift I give to myself and to my family. As much as I love Ireland I don’t ever want to look back on my life and feel that I’ve lost the present because I was too busy living in the past.