Forced emigration isn’t an easy pill to swallow. It isn’t the end of the world either. In my situation I left incrementally, in dribs and drabs, for a vacation, to work for a year, to work every summer while in college, and finally to secure a green card that I won in the Morrison Visa lottery in 1993.
Eventually the notion of “having to leave” transformed into “wanting to leave.”
“Of all the money that ‘ere I spent, I’ve spent it in good company. And of all the harm that ‘ere I’ve done, alas it was to none but me.”
I missed my family. I missed the Sunday walks in the forest park. I missed the smallness of a small town, and the bigness of a large family. I grew accustomed to a commuter town with sirens and car horns, with train tracks so close to my house I could hear the lonesome whistle of the diesel train as it passed by every Tuesday at 2am; and over here no one drops in for a cup of tea.
The Irish decorated their homes with flags, figurines of leprechauns, and tea towels with the ingredients for Irish soda bread to help keep Ireland alive. To me it was a reminder that I had left the real thing for something artificial.
“And all I’ve done, for want of wit, to memory now, I can’t recall. So fill for me the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be with you all.”
Twenty years later I too have brought bits of Ireland back with me. Sods of turf, cups with shamrocks, statues of Setanta and the Children of Lir, Christmas ornaments with the Claddagh design, ceramic tiles with the numbers 2 and 7 in Celtic design now adorn my mailbox, mementos of my hometown.
“Oh of all the comrades that ‘ere I’ve had, are sorry for my going away. And all the sweet hearts that ‘ere I’ve had, would wish me one more day to stay.”
Though I thought Ireland would stand still in time, it didn’t. Siblings grew older and greyer, and so did I. Nieces and nephews reached the ages where I now respect their opinions, talents, and advice. People died, babies were born, houses were built on a country road and shortened the journey that as a child I thought was a long one.
“And since it falls, unto my lot, that I should rise and you should not. I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call, goodnight and joy be with you all. Goodnight and joy be with you all.”
Things changed, people changed, and so did I.
The day is fast approaching when I will have lived longer in America than I did in Ireland. That day will be April 4th 2016. I will be 23 years out of Ireland. I left when I was 23. Do I miss Ireland? Yes. Did something stir within me in 1993 and make me rise and emigrate? Yes.
Emigration, either forced or voluntary, isn’t the end of the world…we’re all just trying to make a living the best way we can in different parts of the world. Four walls, a roof and a means to make a living; we’re all doing the same thing, only on different soil.
(The lines in italics are from the song The Parting Glass)