May the road rise up to greet you. May the wind be at your back.
– Irish Blessing
My grandmother sailed steerage from Ireland to Ellis Island looking for work and a new life. Fifty-one million people chased the American dream that way. Can you imagine two whole weeks on the Atlantic Ocean in the bowels of a ship rife with dysentery? After a few years mopping floors in New York Grandma went back home to visit family. She married Peter Mulholland and never returned to America. I emigrated a century later courtesy of Virgin Atlantic, disappointed the seat didn’t go completely flat and the wine options were limited.
I’d been planning an Irish theme for today, excited to share memories of summers jumping streams and picnicking on Slieve Gullion mountain or playing the mandolin in pubs as a student. I was going to riff on my passion for W.B. Yeats and love of Oscar Wilde. I might have debunked a few myths about leprechauns or challenged the authenticity of the burial site of St. Patrick, but I am unable to wax lyrical – am in San Diego recovering from the flight here.
Clearly, when Robert Louis Stephenson suggested ‘it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive’ he had never flown American Airlines. At a certain point on the way from Miami I was no longer traveling hopefully, I had lost the will to live. The wind was definitely at our backs and I wasn’t confident the road would not be coming up to greet me.
Surely there comes a moment when an old plane is sent to the place where old planes go to die? I mean you wouldn’t drive here in a 1980’s Buick. Still, thinking of my mother who walked barefoot to school, the oldest of nine children and of my grandfather who worked in a granite quarry in Killeavy, I’m counting my blessings today. After all, I’m the one in the family who did get to live the American dream.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day and as they say in the ‘auld country’- “ Slainte”