Oh, St. Patrick’s day. Such a strange day; totally misunderstood by the masses, yet embraced by all.
Yes, I too love St. Patrick’s day, but for slightly different reasons than drinking beer, drinking green beer, dying our natural waters green, or bedazzling my outfit in shamrocks. No, I love St. Patrick’s day because of some strange portal it provides me to reconnect with a brief time in my history where I lived on the ‘mother land’.
I slept, ate, drank, breathed glorious Irish culture for a precious few months and while homesickness did have it’s occasional toll, it was by far the most perfect time in my younger life that I had experienced. Participating in a study abroad program, about twenty of us all sophomores at the time, packed up and began fall term in Ireland. We were in a small grounds about 20 miles south of Dublin in a fishing village called Greystones, living in the ‘Y’ called Coolnegrenia. We took our courses (all except for hill climbing) in a small one room school house; imagine a bunch of college kids, free in a new country, sitting at folding tables listening to the drone of James Joyce in the monotone voice of an Irish Grandmother. Not a lot of studying happened at times. However, the time was not wasted, I do have vivid memories of lessons learned on region in that classroom… but I also have fond memories of friends sneaking out the back window, notes being passed on clean paper towel rolls, the correct pronunciation of Gaelic tongue as ‘bhv- like bhhhh it’s cold!’, and everyone knitting away the long, long lectures into souvenirs to bring home.
My family didn’t quite understand the relationship or fondness I regard my time there with; so much happened that simply couldn’t be shared with someone else. Friendships and relationships were so complicated, yet simple. Exploration was everywhere. Freedom was something you could breathe. It was my time of going out, completely on my own, standing up for myself and how I wanted to be viewed/treated by others, and discovering my path in life. I remember after I came home my brother felt the need to remind me that I was an American and should reconsider which flag I would instantly fly.
So on St. Patrick’s day, I flip through old pictures and feel the wind (cold, wet and damp) on my face, remember the giant anchor that was ‘my place’ to reflect on life, taste the amazing fish and chips at the end of our street drenched with vinegar and seeping out of the brown sack they came in… I remember friends that I have lost. I remember moments where I wanted to be a better friend and person… and I remember saying goodbye.
But here I am. Year after year. My feet on old soil but my heart far away over the sea. I think I was a version of the best possible me there… or at least one that I am finally learning the importance of.
So, fair Eire- ‘Dia dhuit. Dia is Muire dhuit’, and may I someday show your freeing shores to my daughter… whom definitely has some Irish blood coursing deep within her veins.