Home is Where the Heart is

My family never regarded themselves as storytellers. So, they were quite surprised when I exuded the gift at such a young age. I would parade about spewing forth tales of princesses and dragons and would exercise this gift with wand that supposedly had the power to turn my father into a large hairy bug, or my younger brother into a frog. He would then eat my father and I could enjoy a box of cookies to myself. Unfortunately my imagination and storytelling capabilities far surpassed my magic skills. My father never turned into a bug. My brother-never a frog. I learned at a very young age that magic was solely through imagination, which saddened me. That is until I learned of Ireland.

My older brother, a much more advanced reader than myself, had obtained a book of folklore from around the world. However, my interest was caught solely by the Irish folklore sections. To this day, I can not recollect if we got any further to explore the cultures of mysticism. He would turn page after page of fairies, witches, wizards, dragons, and mermaids with me. I would beg him to read it to me night and day, inebriated by the magic, hungry for more. By age 10, I knew that my main mission in life was to go to Ireland. To be with my kind.

As the years passed, my belief in folklore became something more than a want – it became a need. Our father had left us for the tenth time. Our beloved home had burned to the ground. I had no clothes except for the circa 1970 apparel of my dead aunt to wear in the summer. I had no friends. No peers. My family had fallen apart to loneliness and addiction. All I had left were my thoughts of Ireland.

I held onto it during lonely hours recounting the creatures in the book and repeating to myself “It will not be like this in Ireland, I will not be like this in Ireland.” As I grew, my loyalty toward folklore had become scarred, but my hope had not. “I know” became “I hope” or “Perhaps,” but I remained faithful to one line of thought through the deadening teenage years: If there was any magic left, it was sure to be found in Ireland.

As I became a young mother and adult, I had resigned the thought of getting over to Ireland anytime soon. I had little to no money, no resources, and a small child that constantly needed my attention. Yet, I could still hear her calls beckoning me to explore her rolling clover fields, her roaring seas, her rocky mountainsides. As my life continued its downward spiral of oppression addiction and marital abuse, I used Ireland’s imagery as constant escape. Every painful moment was coupled with the pacifying emerald mountains. Every tear was echoed by the Sillkies’ cry. Every heart break, another wave that crashed to her shores.

I finally got the opportunity to go to my motherland, a lot sooner than I had ever expected. My university, Marywood, was to thank for that. My life had calmed down considerably; I was no longer confined to the hostile bonds of marriage and I had learned to break free of my childhood oppression. I was finally my own person and I was more than willing to finally answer the call. At last, I would be on the land I had craved for so much during my life. I would finally immerse myself in the last magic the world still held.

In Ireland, I was not disappointed. Of course, neither mermaid nor dragon revealed themselves to me: however in rural areas these mythical beliefs were still quite alive. It was almost contagious – the air I breathed in was that of magic. The townsfolk, absentmindedly mentioned these creatures as if they were right beside us. Our tour guide frequently mentioned the fairies lingering around their trees and forts. Students would banter, debate, or joke whether the magic was real, whether it could be found, or whether we were sane to believe it.

All around me, I could not see them – but I could feel them. As I heard rustling in the bushes around me, my imagination heightened. It was not merely a cat, or squirrel, it was the wee folk. The distant call of the bagpipes was not just a tune- but wail of the banshee. The waves’ break on the shore was not just a crash but the Sillkies’ dance. Every turn my eager head took was another glorious landscape that grew, budded, or sprung from the earth. At last I was in my element. Yet, in the distance I heard something other than Ireland’s song serenading me toward it. For the first time in my life, I heard home.

I had left my, now-seven-year-old-son back in the States to embark on this journey, and I was under prepared to leave him. I had long known that it was going to be very hard to leave him behind, but I had no idea to what extent I would feel the pains of separation. Although each moment on that beautiful island was a dream come true, and every breathe was a gift, I still longed for the piece of me I left back home.

Home’s aesthetic beauty pales in comparison to Ireland’s, yet I was as excited about returning as I was in the anticipation of leaving it. I realized then, that no matter how beautiful, how wonderful a place could be, nothing is as magical as being with the ones you love.


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