Home Again: A Storytelling Journey Across Ireland

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If you've ever heard an Irish ballad, then you already know each one tells a story.

I've known them by heart from the earliest days of my childhood. And though they belong to my dad's home, their sounds and verses connected me and my sister to the stories of Ireland long before we had the chance to stand upon its rolling hills.

I feel like this post needs to convey what those songs make me feel when I hear them—a longing for those hills and a connection to the people who live among them. 

Since returning from a 10-day trip — from one side of Ireland to the other — I've been trying to make sense of my newly-shaped heart; to understand how it could be so full and changed by the moments I experienced there, but also saddened by knowing the journey is behind me now.

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When we first heard that my parents oldest and dearest friends' son was getting married, we had a wouldn't it be great if we could go moment. But then the logistics of schedules and children and responsibilities set in, and we too easily brushed off the possibility.

My dad has wanted to take us home again for awhile. The wedding gave us the perfect reason to go and the what if we went thoughts wouldn't go away.

At some point it became clear we needed to think less with our heads and give the decision over to our hearts.

Familyselfie

Even though this trip could only happen if my sister and I left our husbands and children behind, something told us it was important. And I know it surprised some to hear I could take a vacation like this without my own family. But if we were going to travel through my dad's childhood, and really get a good picture of what it was like, we had to go alone. 

I'm so glad we did.

I've reached a time in my life that plays tricks on me. I still have so much to look forward to, but I've also come far enough to feel the value of what lies behind me and gratitude for each day that I am given. I've gone past the days of taking any of it for granted.  

And it was this trip that showed me how important it is to see every page in my story. I realized how much I want my children to hear about the moments that came before them—the beautiful and the hard—because it has everything to do with the moments I'm creating with them now.

Fourbefore

{Our first family trip to Ireland, 1986}

Fourafter

{Roscrea, Ireland where my dad spent his late teen years after leaving home}

My dad's childhood wasn't an easy one. And taking us back to those places and memories was both good and hard. We were too young on earlier trips to fully appreciate what he wanted us to know. 

In the moments that my sister and I stood and listened to our dad's memories, we were his children more than we were anyone's wife or mother. He was carefully handing us a torch to pass on when we feel the time is right. And with each story it became more clear how much his early life shaped the way he raised us and how much he triumphed over pain to love us unconditionally.

Even in my toughest parenting moments, I am reminded that I already have everything I need to succeed. I only have to love my children the same way I was loved, and I know it will be okay. Because my parents made the choice not to dwell on what they didn't have as children themselves and instead gave us everything they didn't have and more. 

Gate

When we first pulled up at the gate of the farm property, where my dad spent his first 15 years being raised by his grandparents (until he left and made his way in the world on his own), he pointed to the fields through a rusty gate and began to tell us what we were seeing from behind the barrier — at a safe distance.

It was my bold and feisty sister who climbed through it and beckoned for us to follow. There was a brief unspoken moment of understanding exchanged between the three of us, and then we were all on the other side. 

We spent nearly an hour exploring the abandoned buildings (that humbled me beyond words and still cause my heart to ache looking at the photos now) and hearing things about my dad we hadn't known before, that he hadn't been ready to tell us until now.

Farmhouse

{Newport, Tipperary. Family farm}

 A couple of years ago, my dad and I were having a cup of tea in my kitchen. My 10-year-old came into the room, long after she should have been asleep, and told us she couldn't sleep. I sent her away with a less-than-understanding tone.

He waited until she left and then told me that at 10 years old, he was often left on his own for days. There was no one to go to when he couldn't sleep. He reminded me then, sometimes kids just need to know they're not alone

As we stood looking at the place he had spent his childhood, I remembered the many times I had gone to him in the night to tell him I couldn't sleep. He never sent me away. He never left me on my own. 

Field

{In the field on the family farm. Newport, Tipperary}

My dad has lived his life with unanswered questions and it was this trip that gave him the courage to face them. It was a privilege to be there for each step that he took beyond that rusty gate. And I'm so grateful for the understanding and compassion he was shown along the way. 

Geneaology

{On our way to the North Tipperary Genealogy Centre}

We were welcomed by so many of our extended family members and friends. And I know my sister and I both feel like it will be a homecoming when we go back with our children in the future. Because of this trip, we have stories to tell them and a history to share when we get there.

I hope it changes the shape of their hearts, too.

Wallbefore
Wallafter

Thank you, Ireland, for giving my family this extraordinary gift. Thank you for reminding me that life is too short to waste a chance.

I've always felt connected to you, but now I know my story begins with you. I know where I come from and so much more about who I am and what a gift my life has been. I can't wait to see you again.

There's a spirit that flows in an Irishman's soul,

and carries within it, all the dreams of the past.

In each Irishman's heart,

there's a part of you inside.

In my heart,

I have been here before.

{Back Home To Ireland - Irish ballad)

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Elan Morgan

Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who blogs from elanmorgan.com and works from elan.works, spreads gratitude through the graceinsmallthings.com social network, and speaks all over. They have been seen in the Globe & Mail, Best Health and Woman's Day magazines, TEDxRegina, and on CBC News and Radio. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.