One Sunday in October 1996 I packed a bag and left for Dublin. At the time I didn’t think much about it. I was starting university that week and was heading off to my digs. I was 17. The thought that I was leaving home didn’t enter my head.
Since then, the longest period of time I spent living at home was two months. The following seven years saw me live in Dublin, Canada, Holland, Germany and Australia before settling in Germany, where I have lived ever since.
17 years in one village, 13 in another, separated by 7 memorable years without a real home.
My childhood was a happy one. I spent it in an ancient stone house, never moving house till I left home. For a very long time any attachment I had to where I came from was to my parents’ house and to my family more so than to the village.
As a child I wasn’t into GAA or Irish dancing and, to make matters worse, we were blow ins. With two incomes, two cars and the occassional foreign holiday, in a nutshell, we weren’t the typical rural Irish family of the 1980s.
In my adopted home, Germany, I have become part of the community in a way I never was in my original home village. Partly fuelled by the arrival of the children and partly by the fact that I am Irish and stand out in a rural German village, I have become integrated.
The lovely ladies in our local independent book shop know me and the children from our frequent visits and our ordering of books in English. The teachers at the school know me from my weekly volunteering hours there. The kindergarten mammies know me from my work on the parents’ council.
I fit in. I get on. I like life.
The only thing missing is a history.
Coming on holiday to my home village, Ardcath, Co. Meath, has taken on a different meaning since becoming a mother. As my eight years of motherhood have passed by and my children have become more vocal and inquisitive, it has slowly dawned on me that maybe I do have an attachment to the place. After all, I did spend one third of my life there.
Again and again I find myself pointing out the fields where we went sloe and blackberry picking in Autumn or explaining how much smaller the national school was when I went there. I tell them how we used to walk to the only shop, now closed, and buy halfpenny sweets. I show them the house my childhood best friend lived in and tell them stories of how we used to have to close all the curtains and play quietly whenever there was a funeral held in the graveyard my bedroom looks out onto.
The children love this place – the peace, the space, the cows and sheep in the fields, the landscape so different to their home on the banks of the Rhein. They happily come here year after year in Summer and at Christmas.
Even The Bavarian has become integrated after thirteen years of visiting. He stands out – a bearded Bavarian in a small Irish village pub – but fits in. He has shooting and fishing friends here now.
The children have their family here. The Bavarian has his mates. But my connection is harder to explain. It is as if memories of being an outsider make me belong. It has taken a long time and a lot of being elsewhere to make me see that this really is home, when all is said and done.
Linked up to Sadhbh’s linky Live Where You Live over at Where Wishes Come From