On a recent trip to Ireland I cried when the friendly and wonderfully-broughed officer at customs stamped my passport DUBLIN.
“Sure then you’re here in Ireland now. Enjoy it!” he smiled to me after wondering why I’d only be spending 2 days on the Emerald Isle. I explained that my quick trip to the land my great-great grandfathers both came from one hundred or so years ago was actually not a slight on the Old Sod but a genuflection to it. After all, this trip was meant to happen in France–Paris to be exact–a planned-by-my-husband, romantic getaway for the couple who’ve been through hell these past 8 years battling breast cancer.
Yet I’d always longed to see the green country where my roots once grew in two strangers’ lives–men I’d never know but would hear tell about during constant sing-a-longs round the family piano growing up. As I absorbed every word of “Wild Rover” and other folk songs coming from my Grandmother Murray’s lips, but belonging to every Irishman and woman on earth–and all who love them–someone would inevitably mention that on both sides of my parents I had Irish forefathers; my mum’s great grandfather and my father’s father’s father–and I’m sure I’m off a ‘great’ or 2–who were either, in no particular order, a grave digger or an ice man or a politician or or or or…–who came from Ireland in search of a better life. As a kid looking round the singing clan belting out songs to my nana’s piano-playing I decided they must have found that better life here in the USA. Or at least handed it down to me.
Which is why I asked my husband for a slight detour to Dublin before hitting the City Of Lights.
Sure I have breast cancer and all the fear and frustration that goes with it. And certainly my life is no day at the pub–unless the pub serves infusion drips in a pint glass. But standing there looking at the green ink freshly drying on my foreign passport I felt incredibly, enormously, powerfully grateful and happy to be right where I was, just as I am: an American in Ireland.
With any luck, my Irish ancestors felt the very same way as they saw whatever stamp they received freshly drying on immigration papers that meant, “yes, you can come find your new life here in the United States of America.” And though they’d never know it, their great-great granddaughter–whose full name bears both of their surnames–would do just the opposite a century later, in a hopeful search not for something new but to connect with a hidden past in her own life, and–wiping away a surprise spring of tears–
she’d find it
|Posted April 23rd, 2012 by|