Emigration Diary: Shamrocks, Chivalry and Such Shenanigans
A bad thing happened last week. I got a call to cover a shift and when I arrived I found out that the reason was that my colleague’s house had burned down. No people had been home but the family’s beloved pets and all their belongings had perished in the fire. I watched as the town sprung into action. The fire had happened on Wednesday morning and by Thursday evening three fundraisers had been organised by different local establishments with the first to take place on Friday night. The family were handed gift card after gift card for various different stores by people hoping to make this difficult time even a little bit easier for them. Hundreds of people attended the fundraisers which raised thousands of dollars. The family are still overwhelmed by the sheer amount of kindness shown. I had never expected to find this type of community spirit in New York. It was incredibly touching.
This is a small town. It has a population of about 8000 making it similar in size to Thurles or Dunboyne. I have spoken to adults who have lived here or in other nearby towns all their lives who can count the number of times they have been into New York City on one hand, even though it is just over an hour away. My children, not here much more than a wet weekend, have frequented Central Park, The Lego Store and The Subway System more often than a lot of adults who live here. Many people obviously do commute daily on the LIRR or by car but just as many seem to feel no need to leave this scenic, sleepy town for the skyrising, quickstepping, ever moving mass of confusion that is Manhattan. Despite the sea and the parks and the malls, I start to get cabin fever if I stay on Long Island too long, much as I did when I lived in Dublin 15 and didn’t venture into town for months on end. I guess as much as I am able to fit into Suburbia, I’ll always be a city girl at heart.
We’ve decided to take the kids into Manhattan to the parade on the 17th. It’s St Patrick’s Month here in New York. Apparently so that the bagpipers can attend them all and lend some authenticity to the smaller local parades, there is one every Saturday and Sunday in March in different nearby towns. Having previously shunned the Dublin parade with its amazing spectacle of tourists waving their cellphones in the air and the odd head of a tall puppet to attend the much smaller Lucan parade which featured every child in the town cheered on only by their sibling toddlers and grandparents, I’m not sure how this will go. I figure it’s definitely worth doing once though. Judging by the shamrocks and gaudy green tat popping up everywhere from the grocery stores to the sushi restaurants, I may have to make a little bit more of an effort than my usual green ribbon in my hair. Interestingly, any bar staff I’ve spoken to dread St Patrick’s Day more than any other. ‘People just drink way too much and usually fall over or get thrown out for fighting before they even tip.’ Sounds fun doesn’t it? I’m glad I’m not working in the bar that day anyway.
It’s a funny situation to be in, having left Ireland to go somewhere where people often get emotional with longing to visit towns and places I happily waved goodbye to. People hug me and shake my hand when they hear my accent, jubilant that they placed it correctly and that its not actually Scottish, then mildly disappointed when I don’t come from the precise town of their ancestors. Total strangers are constantly trying to hook me up with other Irish families, which although is very nice of them, I feel unnecessary. I live here now. I’ll be ‘the nice Irish girl’ constituent of this small community until I move on. My children say the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag every day. If I’m to become a teacher or even a citizen, I’ll have to learn it myself. We will wear green and wave flags on St Patrick’s Day just like we always did but that’s about as maudlin for ‘the old country’ that I’ll get. Like many before me, my leprechaun top hat hangs here on the Statue of Liberty now.