I missed Ireland before I even knew it.
Years after I first met three wonderful Irish people while camping in The Outback, I found myself walking around New York City and saying to myself that I missed this island across the ocean.
It was an odd phenomenon, one that I didn’t quite understand myself. How could I miss a place I had never been to?
But I did. I missed the warm feeling I got whenever I thought about how one Irish woman, with her eyes the color of lime juice, and I would cackle in the backseat of the van while driving through The Outback.
I missed the Irish couple that had quit their jobs to travel for a year and their clear love for each other.
And I smiled at the memory of a different Irish woman with smooth, sweet facial features delivering what had to be one of the best cursing outs I had ever seen. As my grandmother would say, this Irish lady “laid one man’s soul to rest” after he made an off-color comment such as “Oh, you’re Irish. You must love to drink.”
Thus—two years later—I was rolling my pink suitcase out of a job that I hated, happy to be on Spring Break, and heading to JFK airport. After one five hour direct flight, I was driving down winding roads, some bordered with stone walls, to my friend’s Dublin apartment. I was one woman with two men (the third man was gone and kind enough to let me use his room) and days ahead of me.
A Belgian friend, who I also met on The Outback trip, met us in Ireland a day or two later. While my Irish friend worked, my Belgian friend and I toured around Dublin. We saw the famous Molly Malone statute, took a bus tour around Dublin (which I fell asleep on; we know how I do), and toured the Guiness factory.
I don’t like beer, let alone Guiness, but I loved the factory tour and drinking sipping giving away my free Guiness to a friend. The Guiness was enjoyed from the factory’s glass enclosed roof bar where quotes from James Joyce’s Dubliners were etched into the glass.
After visiting Trinity College, presumably to visit The Book of Kells though I have no recollection of seeing it; strolling down bustling Grafton Street; peering over Dublin’s bridges; and taking double decker buses to the town center, I have to say my favorite Dublin memory is me with my friend’s family during Easter.
We had driven up to Letterkenny–a town near the border of Northern Ireland–for Easter, and I found myself in the midst of a beautiful Irish family. There was the father who asked me why I had a good Irish surname (Kelly—though I spell my name with an -ey) for a first name and the mother who packed my plate with food and then said “I didn’t take much.” There were conversations about stereotyping based on race or ethnicity (because Lord knows the Irish have gotten that experience ten times over) and late, responsible (despite the stereotypes) nights in bars with just good conversation and a feeling of security. There were hours spent in a Lazy Susan reading the book that would make Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie my favorite author, walks along the beach, walks in a forested park, a mother pressing a bottle of Holy Water in my hands as a token of Ireland, and peace.
Weeks later, I would be jobless. My trip to Ireland—full of warm, sustaining memories—is what got me through the next four months. Whenever I was depressed, stressed, and beyond the deepest shade of blue—I would call up memories of Ireland and know that there would be good times again.
And there would be. Ireland promised me that much.