It’s a seven and a half hour flight west to east and an eight and a half hour on the return. Doesn’t sound too bad. Add on customs, immigration, check-in, hanging around the airport for no good reason, and it feels like you’re traveling to the moon. In reality you (or I) am traveling from home to home. Not home to not home. Chicago, Illinois to Dublin, Ireland.
I went to see U2 last night. In The United Center. I wasn’t terribly excited going in. I’d seen them in 2005, and they were great. I don’t know any of their new stuff very well. I’m a mom. I’m still somewhat depressed, and generally couldn’t give a shit about anything at all. I don’t care that they’re Irish. Don’t care that they’re form Dublin. From the same part of Dublin as me. There were technical difficulties, and Bono came on the speaker fifty minutes after start time and made an announcement. I was suddenly propelled home. His Dublin accent threw itself right in my face. My daughter noticed straight away my accent changed. I wasn’t putting on a show. It often happens, but usually when I’m talking in a big group of Irish people. Maybe because he is from exactly from where I am from in Ireland. We both had the exact same accent at some point. Either way – my Irishness, my Dublinnees was of vital importance to me. He said something about four lads from the Northside of Dublin, and I went nuts. Ten minutes earlier I wouldn’t have given a shite. I still haven’t figured out what sets me off, and what doesn’t.
I’m almost afraid to say this, but I never feel this way about America. I do stand for the national Anthem. I’m generally up for the U.S. in sports unless it’s against Ireland. I just don’t get a lump in my throat. Until last night, I thought I’d lost it for Ireland too. I wrote a post about the Irish tricolor recently. There were a few tricolors at the concert last night. They didn’t evoke much in me – good or bad – last night. At the concert, when Larry started the drumming for Sunday Bloody Sunday, and all the Americans in the audience went wild, I started crying. Bloody Sunday was 46 years ago. Six years before I was born. Most Americans have no idea what it’s about. It’s just a good song. Why should they know what it’s about? ‘Only’ 14 innocent people were killed, by the British Fucking Army. I know such a long time has past, but I still find it hard not to cry, even as I type this. I cried during the concert. I bowed my head. I cried again as they played the clip from RTE’s headline the evening of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974. It was completely overwhelming. Once again I wasn’t alive when these things happened.
Then something else happened. Martin Luther King Junior’s face flashed up on the massive screen. Bono spoke of the day of his death fifty years ago and I cried again. Child #1, my eleven year old had learned about this in school, so I pointed to the screen and she nodded. She noticed I was crying. I felt it was a healthy learning moment for both of us. The screen then showed many positive moments, like the Million Man March. Then Muslims, Whites, Blacks, and everyone else smiling walking in unity. Bono calling out name after name. Nelson Mandela. I told #1 to remind me of various people and\or events in the car and we would discuss them. Anything I didn’t know enough about we would look up, otherwise I would tell her myself. I told her about Apartheid in South Africa, Bloody Sunday in Ireland, The Dublin and Monaghan Bombs in Ireland, Omagh, The Million Man March, Bigitory, Racism, and on and on. I reminded her that although her school was very diverse and Chicago had lots of different races, it didn’t mean that Chicago wasn’t racist, and worse, that the country wasn’t a terribly unjust place. Always be on the lookout for it. She is half Hispanic, but luckily for her (which is a terrible thing to say) she looks white. She is unlikely to know discrimination based on skin color. I will kick her ass if she is ever at the root of it!
I’m taking a wide tac here. It was nephew’s birthday party last weekend. My sister sent me a video clip of him getting his cake at the birthday place. All the kids and adults sounded so ‘Irish’. Doesn’t that sound so ridiculous! They live exactly where I grew up, but sound so different from me now. I know I’ve lost a lot of my accent. I can hear my own twang. I don’t mind most of the time, but I know a lot of Irish people think us ex-pats are putting it on. I remember my dad’s cousin, who lived in Atlanta came to visit once. He went to get into the car on the wrong side. The Irish all thought he was exaggerating or something. I swear, when I go over, I try to get in on the wrong side every single day, and then when I get back I do the opposite for about a week too. You can’t fucking win!
I am a woman of two lands. I am a woman of no land. I will never have a home again. It is impossible now. I have been gone too long to ever call Ireland my home again. I have missed too many years, too many political changes, cultural changes. I have changed too much. I have become too Americanized too much. I will never quite fit in again. I’ll always be different again. I used to have to remember to push myself to use American words while speaking with Americans. Now I have to remember not to use them with Irish people. Most of my Irish friends in Chicago have Irish husbands, friends, family living with them. They speak with other Irish people on a daily basis. I speak with my Mexican husband, my American kids, my American treatment team, other American patients, I still know how to banter, to begora this, begora that, yer man, yer one, for the craic etc. but that’s not my normal Dublin parlance. When I go home, I trip over my tongue trying to say Irish English. Trollies, lorries, kitchen paper (I had to think what that one was for a minute), the boot, etc. etc. Now if I lived in Ireland for 15 years I’m sure all that would come back. I’d be 55. My heart will probably kill me shortly after that. If the suicide doesn’t win first. Okay. Enough of the pessimism. Could 15 years in Ireland erase 15 years in the U.S? I don’t think so. Leaving your country doesn’t put things on hold. It erodes your culture and being.
I don’t know what 25 year old me thought how things would pan out. Did I think I would move home after a while? I think I was naive. I think I thought I would either move home after some time, however many years did not matter, or stay her in the States, but visit home frequently. That by visiting home, or even without visiting home, I would maintain my Irishness just as if I had never left. I am saddened by 25 year old Ingrid’s misunderstanding of how it all worked. I wonder if I’d known back then how it would all pan out would I have left. Would I have stayed for 15 years? Would I have stayed for one or two? At what point did it become two late to stay Irish? At what point did I become too American? At what point did I start tearing up at the prospect of having lost part, a huge part, of who I am? What have I done to myself? Who am I? What am I? If I am not Irish, am I anyone? Dear Lord, help. Please help. This is all wrong. I can’t go back. I can’t go back. I’ve fucked it all up. Shit shit shit shit.
Oh well. Time to pick up the kids. Make dinner. Do the laundry. Go to bed. Repeat ad nauseam. Same shit I’d be doing at home. Do it really matter at the end of the day?