My Irish Relations

I don’t know why I love the Irish. Maybe it’s because I halfway belong to them on my mother’s side.

I snapped this pic from the train to Belfast from Dublin this summer. The countryside is so delicious.
I snapped this pic from the train to Belfast from Dublin this summer. The Irish countryside is so delicious.

But I also belong, halfway, to my father’s Scandinavian side. And the two sides of me are occasionally in conflict. But there is one thing they agree upon. Traveling expands you. My people are a traveling people. My ancestors set sail and did not look back.

In the U.S. most of us are halfway something. And even if we came from this soil, this fertile soil of America, we too, are nomads. Travelers.

So, too, are our relations – the gazelles leaping across the Serengeti or the Monarch butterflies flitting towards Mexico. All of us belong to a branch of the biological family that is on the move.

And we do not necessarily travel fast. Consider the sloth. They are part of our family too. And I don’t want to stretch this metaphor until it snaps back on me, but my husband who has Parkinson’s is a bit on the sloth spectrum. Yet he hangs on to the family tree. And still, he travels. (Heading to Florida for a month and a half to direct a play.)

Still on the go.

The difference between us and our biological family is that when we return from our distant adventures – down the branch of the tree or across the vast plain or swamp or ocean – when we return from our journeys — we tell the tale. We huddle around the campfire, the Sunday dinner, the AA meeting, the bar, the water cooler, the back of the bus. And we regale our friends and family with stories of our successes and failures. We make something out of an ineffable nothing — that place that only resides in our memories — our distant homeland, our Ireland, our watering hole, our home.

And that is why I love to travel. And I believe it comes from both the Irish and the Scandinavian. It is not that I love the journey — the uncertainty of where I’m going. But it is that I love to return and tell the tale.

So today, look up from your computer, glance into the eyes of your officemate, your lover, your daughter, your spouse. Ask:

Where have you been? Where are you going? When you return, will you tell me all about it? And then that place — your place, your story — will live in my memory, as a story, too.

I Need ME TIME!

At book club, one of my friends asked, “How are the kids managing with you working so much?”

“Kids?” I asked. “Kids? What kids?”

But I felt reassured last night. A fellow teacher told me, after I declined Happy Hour to come home to work, “It’s good you work a lot. Better to be a parent of benign neglect than a helicopter parent.”

This is a recurring theme with me, so skip the next coupla paragraphs if you’ve read this from me before. But I feel so badly that my kids’ father has Parkinson’s Disease that I do too much for them. I work too hard to provide every fabulous thing or vacation they need (or want). (Did I mention H. is going to Patagonia, Coco to Costa Rica, and Cate may go to Alaska?) I want them to have a happy childhood despite their father’s disease.

But then, I get the feeling, What about me? After organizing the whole family, I get resentful, “I’m working too hard! I need some ME TIME!”

I just saw this news on Facebook of a women’s writing conference. This warmed me — the thought of women writers sitting barefoot on the grass, talking about nothing or everything, at Skidmore College. Chatting about childhood, mothering, girlhood, international sisterhood! How nice is that! Maybe I’ll sign up. It’ll help me get me through the winter.

An Arctic wind is rattling the scaffolding outside my apartment window. I have so much housework to do. Loneliness settles in. I need parties and gatherings, but also need to burrow down, sort through papers and plans and permission slips. I need to dust and vacuum.

I need to do all that, I also need to work. So let me get back to my freelance writing, lesson planning, and sound design. And then get to the housework.

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