I think i’ve always wanted to move to Ireland. I was born an O’Brien, proud of his Irish ancestry, in Hurley, New York. The history, mythology, culture, accent, attitudes, all appealed to me from a young age. This dream never seemed realistic to me until I met my now wife, who is born and raised Irish.
Here in The States, anyone with an Irish last name, is “Irish” though, if one of us American born were to say such a thing to an actual Irish person, well, I’d just recommend you don’t do that! We come from so many different countries, rather, our ancestors did, and though we are Americans, what the rest of the world doesn’t seem to understand is our connection to our roots, and yearning to understand more and feel a connection to our mother countries. We don’t have much history compared to most countries in the world, and I feel that the countries that our ancestors came from ARE part of us, and our identity.
When I met my red-headed, Aran jumper wearing, no-nonsense, bride, I was in limbo, recovering from a brain injury, and lost. She was in a similar lost and despondent state, (minus the brain injury.) We “met” in a very unusual way, we were penpals. I always scoffed at these relationships, and never really heard of any that succeeded or that were genuine. I had enough trouble with long distance relationships when they were in-person meetings and then forced into long distance mode, let alone an international one, where we had never even met in person! Let me say now, the digital age is amazing. In fact, i’d actually say to any TWO people that find themselves equally and completely taken with eachother. We both knew almost right off the bat, that there was something amazing about this thing we found. and I mean days. Days of constant emails, every moment we had to write, we did.
Why would I recommend it? WELL…You do not have the full force lust factor involved. Yes, we saw eachother’s pictures a day or two after we started corresponding, but that’s just a general idea, and the natural human instincts, the physical body right in front of you, the smells, the voice, they are all hidden, or filtered through a screen and frozen in time. You really concentrate on the correspondence, we both can express ourselves better in writing anyway. I don’t remember how long it took for us to video call for the first time, but it was a while. After we both realized that we loved eachother. I started recording my thoughts via my studio’s microphone after a while, and then she started recording her voice soon after. I remember the first time I heard her voice, and saw her moving image on the screen, nervous, beautiful, and incredible. It was a short video, she was just sitting on her bed, as she still does to this day, and said that I might like to see her and hear her to return the favor. That was it, maybe 15 seconds long, but it will be in my head for the rest of my life. We took one step at a time, Email, Whatsapp text, recordings, video, then video calls. The video calls went from short ones, both of us nervous and excited, to longer ones as we lost track of time. Today, we have been married for 7 months and have video called just about every single day since then, and we leave it running at night even so we can glance over and even wake up seeing each-other, but that’s what we have right now. I still record my thoughts for her before I shut my eyes so she can listen when she wakes, just as I have done almost every single day since we met a year and months ago. We talk to eachother more than any married couple I know.
I’ll talk more about the relationship some other time, I’ll get back to my decision to move.
We “met” in January, and I was on a plane to actually meet her in April. By this time we knew this was IT for the most part, but we were both sensible people, (despite what you may think about our unique circumstance!) So, we had to meet of course! I wanted to go to Ireland anyway, and this was definitely reason better than any other. I got on a Boeing 747 headed through Heathrow to Cork at night, I love flying at night, the moon lighting the clouds below, the stars shining clear and bright. The lights of New York City shimmered below in an orange and white ant colony below. I saw them scroll off the window to the left and saw the moonlit Atlantic below. The statue of Liberty, that so many millions of immigrants saw welcome them to this amazing country waved goodbye to me, and we were off across the sea. I could not sleep, though I had been up for 20 hours already, the excitement was soaked to my bones. The flight was calm, quiet, and comfortable, and it “flew” by much quicker than I thought it would. (pun intended) It was still dark when Ireland appeared below. The lights were further apart, scattered, disordered, the landscape was rolling and old. The sun was about to start peeking around the horizon, but it was already brightening the sky halfway through our flight over Ireland. I wish they could just land straight in Cork, but there were no flights directly from New York to Cork. Cork being a small international airport. I didn’t seem to hear her when she told me that I could get a bus from Dublin, straight to her town in Tipperary for only 20 Euro! I wouldn’t make that mistake again! Anyway, by the time we crossed the channel into English airspace, the sun was dawning and fog covered the land below. We landed in Heathrow, and the sunny day, and crisp air woke me up the rest of the way. I had enough time to get to my connection and grab a sandwich before heading to the next terminal for my half hour flight to Cork. I texted my girl, who was waiting in Cork for the bus (she doesn’t drive.) As I went through the UK border, the officer asked me a few questions, where was I going? What was the purpose of my trip? do I have anything to declare? He then proceeded to smile and say that he has family that are O’Briens, and joked about me going home. I made brief small talk, and gathered my things, but started to feel like I really was going home. I got onto the plane a little while after and was off to Cork!
When I arrived in Cork, I went through the Irish immgration station, and the officer there, then proceeded to tell me that he was an O’Brien as well, and said “welcome home!” I laughed and gathered my things, put on my belt, zipped up my boots, and made a “Bee-line” to the baggage claim, which, in this small airport, was almost straight ahead and in view. I walked only a 100 feet then, through some red doors and saw a stunningly beautiful redhead sit down in a seat facing away from me just before I opened the second door. I paused so she wouldn’t see me before she sat down because I wanted to surprise her. It worked! I walked right up next to her and just stood there looking down until she looked up. She was listening to Pride and Predjudice (her favorite book) in her earbuds, and was surprised to see some boots right next to her! She stood and we immediately hugged so tight, and lingered as I smelled her hair, and whispered to her. We then just started walking towards the exit as if all was familiar and normal. We walked through the doors, and I was hit with a fresh air, mingled with the smell of a farm I remembered so well from my uncles organic farm in Pennsylvania. There were no beeping cab horns, yelling pedestrians, vendors, police whistles and sirens… just fields and cows. I remember thinking “this is my kinda place!” We stood in the smoking corral as I had a very much wanted cigarette, and I put my arm around her waist as I stood behind her.
I had no euro currency, as I thought I’d be able to exchange some when I got to Ireland, but not realizing it was a bank holiday there which the Irish take very seriously! In America, i’m used to those types of services in airports and cities, to tbe open even on most holidays. So it was a good thing she met me there, as I couldn’t even afford bus fare until I could change some money, my credit card stopped working when I got to Ireland, and I think it may be because I just used it in England an hour before. I’d have to find somewhere, or hope that the hotel would allow me to just pay after my stay or until I could get money exchanged or my card sorted. We got into cork city center, and were to meet up with her two friends that were with her in Cork to go out the night before. I remember the sun being much brighter, but not as hot. It seemed less filtered almost. maybe it was the lack of humidity and smog, but also the latitude possibly. We walked around a bit to find a pub and possibly a place to exchange my money, and ended up parking my suitcases in an outside area of a pub while she went in to get us pints. We sat outside in the bright sun, talking and commenting on people walking by. The owner of the pub came out and told me that I had to move my suitcases, they were taking up too much room apparently, though they were in between us and not in anyone’s path. I must say that this put me off, and stuck in my craw a bit, but I can’t stand that kind of illogical act that is more than likely because he didn’t like the fact that I was an american and probably though t we were both tourists. Who knows, I was just happy to be there with her relaxing on a sunny day in Cork city. (Which is a rare enough thing!)
After our pint, her friends showed up for another, and we drank, introducing ourselves and chatting for a bit before heading into town a bit more to look for food and a place to change money. I was directed to a small internet cafe and print shop, and they were able to change some money for me, though it was at a fairly steep percentage! Keep in mind that when you want to change money, it’s best to just go to a bank in a town somewhere, not in the airport or nearby, the percentage and fees are much more reasonable in the banks. So, I had money, two pints, this amazing woman beside me, and annoying suitcases. We had some time to kill, so we grabbed a hot chocolate and iced coffee drinks, and then headed to the bus after. The bus ride to small town Ireland, in south Tipperary, was a beautiful, scenic one, it was short as well, in American standards. I remember looking over at her, putting my hand on her leg, and holding her hand occasionally, there was a need to keep contact with her now. The sun was starting to set, and the light a bit more orange than bright white and yellow. The grass was so much greener, they don’t call it the emerald isle for nothing! We got off at the bus stop and started wheeling back into the center of town to the small 8 room restaraunt and hotel I was staying at. I arrived, and they already had my card info, so they gave us our keys and we headed up to the room to drop the suitcases and get ready to go back out. It was so relaxing, we just wanted to lay there, quiet and content, and slightly tired from the journey and day, but I got changed, and refreshed, and we headed out to a local pub.
The town was beautiful to me, nestled in a valley near slievenamon, and on the river suir. We walked around a bit and went to her favorite pub, a small antique pub in the center of town on a narrow street. This is not a tourist town, so I was now getting the true, unfiltered. unedited Irish experience, I wasn’t there for tourism, but to see where she lived, her natural habitat, if you will. We had a great night, and briefly headed back to my hotel before I walked her home, as she had some things to do around the house in the morning for her mother. The weather had suddenly changed cold, the mist in the air was almost frosty, and I needed a jacket all of a sudden. I was told the Irish weather changed very rapidly, and now knew, only slightly, what that meant. We walked past a group of screaming teenagers, the pubs were all closed, and it was about 0200, but they were screaming none-the-less. I was put off by this, an normally would have said something to them, but I was content, happy, and didn’t want any trouble to spoil my time. We walked a few more blocks, slowly, and without a care in the world. After I saw her safely home, I strolled back with my hands in my pockets, looking all around me, breathing deep, relaxed and content. The kids had gone, and all was silent by now. I thought how even in the small city I lived in upstate New York, there are 24 hour stores all over, and cars going every which direction. Here, there was only one 24 hour store, that was a 20 minute walk, and closed it’s doors so you had to order through a window, but since I didn’t know what they had, or any of the brands, I just ordered a good old coca cola, a bottle of water, and left it at that before strolling back into town.
I went back to the hotel, and continued texting her until we fell asleep. I would see her in the morning.
This was going to be my new home, I decided to move to Ireland for sure that night, and next, i’ll get into the process more, and all the things i’ve learned along the way.
To Be Continued…