The pure joy of being home for the holidays


The joy of greeting arriving loved ones is balanced by the sadness of saying goodbye.
The joy of greeting arriving loved ones is balanced by the sadness of saying goodbye.

DUBLIN — The storms that raged over this country post-Christmas were memorable in their intensity and ferocity.

I experienced the worst of the windstorms when landing in Dublin on December 27, a terrifying yo-yo ride as the near hurricane force gale picked up and tossed the Delta plane around the sky like a matchstick.

The Dublin Airport tarmac never felt so good, nor did the hearty Irish welcome from the immigration officer.

Addressing my daughter Alana, he ascertained she was under 17.

“We have a special rule here that all girls under 17 obey their dads,” he told her with a twinkle in his eye. (I wish!)

Then he turned to me, saw by my American passport that I was Irish-born and simply said “welcome home.” Such wonderful words, and no matter how many years I spend in exile (35 and counting) Ireland is still my home in so many ways and always will be.

Outside in the arrivals hall the relatives gather to meet their emigrant sons and daughters as they fly in from all points. It would be a stone cold man who would not shed a tear at scenes of such unbridled joy.

When does your native country stop being your home? Never, I’d say, in so many profound ways.

To be home at Christmas and New Year is to exist in a different country than Ireland is the rest of the year.

No one goes to work, the traffic jams disappear, and the focus on family and friends is intense.

From Dublin to Meath of the pastures, to Louth of the saints we go, meeting relatives, showing off my daughter, catching up with so many nieces and nephews it becomes a challenge to remember their names.

One is missing of course, our beloved boy, my nephew Rory, buried in a Drogheda cemetery with his granddad and grandmother.

Rory died in New York on April 1, 2012 thanks to hospital negligence now admitted, and the saddest part of our Christmas is recalling the red-haired New York Irish lad who was so much at home among his Irish cousins. May he rest in peace and know how hard his parents and sister are fighting for his memory in order to save lives.

There is food, of course. Preposterous amounts of it everywhere we go, but we comfort ourselves with the polite fiction that we will begin a diet on January 1. (It’s now January 6 and I’m slowly getting through the last box of Cadbury’s Roses.)

I complain loudly, if only half in jest, that this year I have had no trifle, that delicious Irish dessert delicacy. Serves me right! My sister-in-law Agnes whips one up, and the following night I’m fatter than a fool and just as happy after wolfing most of it.

At the races in Leopardstown the women are out in high fashion, the horses are flashing by in that beautiful amphitheater and the men are mostly disconsolate, except for the bookies who almost always win.

Then it’s all over. At the airport it is goodbye and back to America.

The same happy faces are sad. Now, tears of sorrow not joy as they bid their offspring goodbye.

So begins and end the great Irish Christmas. I can’t wait for it to happen all over again.



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