Emigration Diary: Out with the Old
I can’t think of another annual chore I do with as much pleasure as the tearing down of the Christmas tree. Despite the merriment it went up with and how lovely Christmas was, I find comfort in reclaiming the corner it occupied and replacing the gaudy fairy lights with an unassuming lamp. I don’t see bareness where the Christmas cards stood, I see lack of clutter and I feel renewed and eager to get started.
How many times have I spoken about getting started though? When we moved here first in July, when the kids started school in September, after we recovered from the storm in November and now again in January because it’s the New Year. So we’ve been here six months and I still feel that I haven’t yet begun. What exactly is it that I feel has to start?
The answer is nothing. One great big moment of life changing epiphany is never going to happen. No fireworks or fanfare is scheduled to proclaim ‘Welcome to Your New Life!’ but slowly and surely things are getting done. George has a job he’s happy in for the most part. The kids are settled in school, have made friends and are getting good reports. I have a job I enjoy although I still want to get a better one. I’ve organised health insurance, doctors and dentists for everyone, I have a regular shopping list and I’ve got my New York driving license. I’ve even made some new friends myself. Our everyday routine is actually fairly similar to what it was in Ireland. It’s almost like we didn’t start a new life at all but simply moved our old lives to a new country.
We have a recording of our five year old last Christmas singing songs by the Christmas Tree. He was only four then and still had a babyish look about him. It was only watching it this year I noticed what a strong North Dublin accent he had. We recorded him singing the same songs this year and the Dub is mostly gone. He no longer pronounces ‘right’ as ‘roitsh’. Now it’s ‘riyte’. This doesn’t upset me in the least. When mine talk among other children their Irish accents are still perceptible. I wonder for how much longer. I’m working on building up the courage to record myself to see if my accent is changing at all. I can tell it hasn’t disappeared completely because it’s commented on so often, you know, by ‘Irish’ people.
In fact, my accent is quite the conversation starter in the restaurant where I work. Many customers would love to visit or revisit Ireland. There was a point on New Year’s Eve when I stood discussing the merits of various Irish golf courses I’d never set foot in while precariously balancing a stack of dirty glasses on a tray. Sometimes I feel like I should be getting commission from Bord Fáilte.
I mentioned The Gathering to a few people who expressed interest in making the trip. ‘Well, if you’re going to go, 2013 is the year to do it! The whole year is to be a celebration welcoming home Irish emigrants of all generations’. That’s where I ran out of steam though. It would be nice if I had some incentive to throw in: ‘There are discounts on all the historical sites and museums.’ No. ‘There are deals on hire cars or bus tours if you mention the words The Gathering’ Not at all. ‘There are special hotel room rates if you produce a postcard invitation.’ None of that. So, instead, when I was asked what the point of The Gathering is I had to answer humbly but honestly ‘Oh, I guess they’re trying to increase tourism, get people to spend money, improve the economy’ Which led to the same old conversation about negative equity, ghost estates, NAMA and run down shopping malls and with that the notion of romantic Ireland was dead and gone to me. Again.
I have actually been invited home to visit this year. I don’t think I can go though. There are many people I’d really love to see but I’d prefer if they’d all come here instead. I’m just not ready to go back yet. I’m not sure what exactly it is that I’m afraid of but the feeling of apprehension I get when I think of setting foot on Irish soil is similar to that of an impending 20 year school reunion. What is that I wonder? Perhaps it’s just that to me, with the unceremonious tossing out of the tree, the symbol of celebration of the end of the old year, 2012, the year emblazoned on every single form of acceptable ID I now possess, it’s a time to keep moving forward. Now is not the time to revisit and reminisce because the future path is still too unclear. I can’t look back yet because for now, while it’s foggy and uphill, I’ve got to keep looking where I’m going. At least, with the Christmas clutter cleared, I’m not stepping on pine needles on my way.