Ireland - land of my grandparents. I have been trying, for most of my adult life, to see Ireland in person and have yet to do so.
I am of Irish heritage by three of my four grandparents and while I can identify the Counties that they come from I can only clearly identify one city, for sure, where a grandparent lived. My Nana immigrated, to America, from Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland in the late 1880's. With the exception of one, brief, trip my parents made, in 1950, no one in my extended family - has ever visited her hometown.
My grandmother lived with us in the last years of her long life and I can still hear her saying, in her strong Irish brogue, that she was born in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland" like a badge of honor. She did not, however, speak much about her family; she was the youngest of 10 children. Over the years, I have been able to find some information about her family but not much. I've tried researching her family but have found the work to be frustrating and with little results.
A few years ago, after both our parents had died, my sisters and I tried, several times, to travel to Ireland to see where our grandparents once lived. Despite valiant efforts trying to combine four schedules proved too difficult and the trip never materialized. Then I decided to focus a trip just in an area I knew about - County Mayo, and with just my husband. This will be the 3rd time Chuck I have tried to schedule the trip!
That I can't document much of her family remains a frustration but I've decided that just being able to be on the land she once lived, and where her memories were so clear about, would mean everything to me. So many Americans have a rose-colored vision of what Ireland must be like, but I know that her family's life could not have been very easy. I'm not interested in the typical tourist stops one might see visiting a new country - I live outside of Washington, DC, I know tourist traps! - I want to see the land of Ireland in the closest way that she might have seen it. I want her to know, somehow, that homage was paid to her, and the efforts of her family, to travel to so far, to start a new life.
I remain grateful to each of my grandparents; they all made sacrifices to come to America and start a new life and I have benefited from their efforts. Still, there is a deep longing to see Ireland in a simpler setting, to be able to imagine what these family members had, and what they gave up. To me, the circle would then be complete.
I've probably failed miserably trying to describe my dream: it can be like trying to herd cats. I can see it, almost feel the desire to be over there, but explaining why sounds stilted. It is something that I have to do versus want to do. I need to acknowledge my grandparents odysseys.
Thank you for this consideration
Kathleen Reilly Acker
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