It’s almost my favorite day of the year again. No, not Christmas. Not my birthday. Not New Year’s or God forbid, the hell that is Valentine’s Day. No, I live for March 17th. I live for the green and the shamrocks (don’t call them clovers, for Christ’s sake). I live for the bagpipes and the corned beef and the potatoes, the Guinness and the green beer, the soda bread and green bagels. I stockpile green shirts and break out my collection of green beer necklaces and shamrock stickers. I eat and drink and sing and dance and obnoxiously proclaim my love of all things Irish to anyone who will listen and everyone else who happens to be within earshot. This is my Saint Patrick’s Day, and I love every minute of it.
Until I’m crying, that is.
Saint Patrick’s Day will always be a reminder of what I did and where I was, and what I ultimately had to leave behind. Saint Patrick’s Day is Dublin. It’s Grafton Street and Clarendon Street and Trinity College and Irish American U. It’s the River Liffey and the Ha’Penny Bridge. It’s Leo Burdock’s and Temple Bar and Spar. It’s Bulmers and flakes and Cadbury. It’s Penneys and Dunnes and Saint Stephen’s Green. It’s the Garda Siochanna and Dublin Castle and Christchurch Cathedral. It’s the Dublin Zoo and the National Botanical Gardens and Enniskerry. It’s Powerscourt Gardens and Glendalough and the Cliffs of Moher and the Blarney Castle. It’s Belfast and terrorism and Sunday Bloody Sunday. It’s the Galway Girl and U2 and the Wild Rover. It’s Howth and Dun Laioghare and Cork. It’s Limerick and Killarney and the Burren.
It’s the little balcony I used to watch the sun set from. It’s the night that I wandered the city in the twilight and stood on the Ha’Penny Bridge staring across the river. It’s hiking the hills of Howth. It’s sitting on the edge of the Cliffs of Moher and thinking that nothing in the whole world could be more beautiful. It’s stopping in the village of your ancestors and seeing your family name on a poster around town. It’s green and rolling hills and open skies. It’s castle ruins and flocks of sheep and misty mornings. It’s pub music and bagpipes and cobblestone streets. It’s the park at Saint Stephen’s Green and my favorite bookstore on Grafton Street. It’s wildflowers and soft grass and warm sunshine.
It’s not wanting to wash your clothes when you come home, because then the scent from the Irish laundry detergent will be gone. It’s dreaming that you’re back, that you’re finally there again, and for that brief minute before you wake up you think “Thank God, how I’ve waited for this” It’s planning trips with layovers in Shannon just so you can maybe go outside and breathe the air. It’s closing your eyes and forcing yourself to recall every memory, every detail, so that you can be sure you won’t ever forget. It’s measuring the time that’s passed since your flight took off, and how much time it could be until you finally return.
Saint Patrick’s Day, for me, is being American by birth, Irish absolutely by the grace of God, and a Dubliner for a little while. It’s the beauty and joy of what has been coupled with the pain of not knowing if it can ever be again. It’s knowing that while at least I got to go, I now have to live with having to leave it to come back home and not knowing when, if ever, I’ll be back.
Ireland will always be a part of me. It’s the only place I’ve traveled that I’ve felt an intense desire to return to and aching pain when having to leave it behind. Ireland has brought and continues to bring me such joy, and I have nothing but gratitude for being blessed with the time I had there. Ireland isn’t out of my reach. But on Saint Patrick’s Day, on the day of my people and a celebration of a country that I lived in and a land I immediately loved, the distance seems insurmountable.
Ní thuigeann an seach an seang.