This past February, I traveled to Ireland with my mom. We visited 14 counties, had countless wonderful experiences, and sadly said goodbye to grandma. The winter trip to the Emerald Isle was filled with many emotions, from elated excitement of exploration to eyes bawling sadness. At the end of the two and a half-week adventure, I came home with countless amazing memories of a great road trip with my mom the likes I haven’t seen since I was 12; a trip I’ll never forget and always cherish.
Traveling to Ireland was always special to our family. When my brother and I were young, my mom and dad would bring us there every few years to spend the summers with grandma and grandpa. We’d explore around, tramp around the farms, climb the hills, lay low on Sunday, play games with local kids and our 65 cousins (lol), wade through streams and pick up frogs, that sort of thing. Looking back it was an incredible deep immersion in a different culture, one that was part of our history as a family. Of all the childhood memories that have become faded, these regular trips to Ireland remain vivid in my personal history. More than most of the many things I have experienced in my years, traveling overseas for months at a time to a particular place of familial heritage gave me a deep sense of belonging with the Irish half of my native culture.
On this most recent trip my mom and I were able to see many of these places and many of my family members again. I’d also never been there in winter to experience the unending rain (much like we get here during our dreary San Francisco winters). We saw grandma and grandpa’s house, the homes and farms of my aunt’s, uncles and cousins, the area where my mom grew up, the house she lived most of her childhood in, the schoolhouses where she went to school, the places she hung out as a teenager, and the town she was born in. It was a real treat to visit my family and see these places again.
I can’t explain the emotions that run through you in these situations. I was 17 the last time we traveled there and seeing them as a full-fledged adult gave me a deeper appreciation of where I’ve been and where I come from. The entire experience lent itself to showing me a whole other dimension of importance of paying attention to the here and now as well as respecting and never forgetting your past.Your never know when those lighthearted trips where you just go with the flow will suddenly turn into a two week long reflection of your entire existence.
Grandpa (who has now been gone almost 10 years) & Grandma’s house is now for sale on the real estate market, and the place in Celbridge we used to call home will now only be a place I’ll visit someday with my family. It won’t be grandma’s house, it’ll be someone else’s. We won’t spend 8 weeks basing our lives out of there traveling the land, we’ll have to stay somewhere else for only a week or two. I wasn’t expecting to be so sad to see that little bungalow listing online. Grandpa’s flower garden which still blooms so beautifully in my head, will likely only be a row of bushes against the road or someone else’s interpretation of what should be there. I will always have the countless memories that flurried back into my head the moment I arrived back there after 17 years of not seeing, smelling or tasting the life we used to have.
I’m happy to be sharing a few images from this trip with the world. If you’re on a slow connection, sorry for the load time on the huge string of images, it was really hard to pick a small number of favorites, and I hope you enjoy a little slice of my Irish life…
(after the images, stay tuned for a little story I think you’ll enjoy)
Quick little story before I go (OK not so quick, but I promise it’s worth it)…
Initially, when grandma passed, I wasn’t sure if I could make it to see my mom and dad over there to help out with everything. My mom set out to spend a month overseas, and my with my dad’s schedule, he could only take 2 weeks with her. Long story short, we decided it would be best that I would join my dad at the end of his two weeks so I could be with my mom for the second half of her trip. This way she wouldn’t have to be alone for a minute. Initially, there was very little overlap planned (only one day), and I was excited I could see both of them there again. Turned out that scheduling didn’t quite work out (with the threatened Aer Lingus strikes damn you!) and I couldn’t fly out and arrive until the day my father was set to leave; his flight was set to take off two hours after mine arrived actually 🙁 This meant that after not seeing my father for 6 months even in the United States, we’d be in an airport in Ireland at the same time, but we wouldn’t get to see each other. Knowing that we’d at least be in the same building made me feel a little better, but I was still really upset about missing seeing the two of them together there, especially considering the timing.
Then a funny thing happened. My flight arrived a little early, and since I had sat up front on the plane I was able to scoot right off and head to arrivals. The way the new international terminal at Dublin Airport is set up, the whole thing except for the floors is pretty much all glass, you can see across the entire concourse and out into the landscape. It’s really beautiful actually. On any other day this would be a minor seemingly unnecessary detail, but I stopped to grab a coat from my bag, use the restroom and then proceeded to walk back and forth a bit to set myself up for a cool picture of the “Welcome to Dublin” sign. I remember this because I took a shot quickly at first and kept walking, then I looked at it on my phone a few steps later and realized it wasn’t what I wanted and that I needed another, so I walked back to get it.
So, a few minutes later than expected I’m bummed I’m going to miss my dad, but happy I’m finally on my way to meet my mom in arrivals. It’s on the second floor and departures is down below. As I walk down the hall I see this crazy man in the distance waving and jumping up and down. My first thought’s were “who is this crazy idiot acting like a jackass (on an escalator no less) in the middle of this airport?!?” Then as I got closer it all came into focus – THAT CRAZY JUMPING IDIOT IS MY DAD!!!
In all of humanity’s history (OK, maybe it’s not that deep, but at least in my history), there was literally maybe a 5-10 second window where this could have happened. He’s going down the escalator at Dublin Airport at the exact same time I’m walking past it on the floor above?? Travel times, trade winds, the need to pee, my insatiable desire to get the right photograph, not to mention all the timing in my dad’s life, the fact that he even saw me, and millions of other incidental actions all combined into this moment have all come together. I run over to wave (like a crazy jumping idiot) back at him. The elation is profound; I might actually get to see and hug my dad on this trip after all!!! I head over to a security guard by the exit door and ask” “Is there any way to get to someone on the other side of this glass down there? That’s my dad and I haven’t seen him in… and we’re only in Ireland in the airport for… blahdee blahdee blah….?!?” And I receive a resounding: “Nope. Secure area. They don’t mix. You’ll just have to wave from here.” “Really, dammit! Do you have any idea what…?!?” Insert BUBBLE BURST here.
So I didn’t get to be close enough to my pops to give him a hug, but I did get to see him at the bottom of the escalator. We waved, we smiled, we made shruggy WTF gestures as we found out we weren’t able to convene. It was really funny actually. I took it for what it was worth – insanely amazing timing the likes of which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen. I was especially sensitive to it considering the circumstances of this trip. It was in this moment where I was reminded that everything happens for a reason; that we’re put here on this earth to make the very best out of our lives, and that sometimes, timing is everything.
What a start to an amazing journey.
See all of the galleries here: