It’s bittersweet, people keep telling me. And it is. The excitement levels are rising rapidly but so is that horrible nauseous feeling.
As I write this piece, my husband John is busy packing the last of the boxes that can be packed for now. Colum, my 17-month-old, is unpacking them and our 12-week-old daughter, Sadie, is watching all this unfold.
I’ve been given a stern warning that I only have two hours to complete this article as John wants to take apart my work desk and get it ready for the container that is due to arrive on Friday.
We leave this wonderful place on Monday, May 21. We are ready to start the next chapter of our lives in Ireland.
It will be hard to close this last one, though. John and I have had an amazing time in New York. It has been so good to us, and we leave with only good things to say about the people and the place.
TO date my life reads like a book – a happy one with little or no tragedy.
I grew up in Tralee, Co. Kerry. I spent a number of years studying in Co. Cork and Bristol, England. I worked as a sign language Interpreter around Ireland for a few years, trained as a television presenter and producer in Dublin and then came to New York for nine glorious years.
The next chapter will begin in Limerick (my husband’s county), and who knows how that will play out.
We had a few going away drinks in Moriarty’s Bar on McLean Avenue on Friday night. It was nice (and also sad) to be with all our friends one last time under the same roof.
When I came home that night I spent some time reflecting on our time here in New York and the wonderful memories we created over the past nine years.
I had only ever been to Europe prior to my big move to New York back in 2003, so arriving in New York that September was slightly overwhelming and also very exciting. Everything was enormous – the buildings, the food portions and the big personalities.
I had aspirations – to make the most of my short time here (I had planned to spend two years at the most in the country), learn the American way, meet Prince Charming, find a new career and stalk some celebrities.
A friend of mine who had lived in New York for a few years before moving back to Ireland (and now lives in Dubai) warned me, “New York will harden you April.”
At the time this statement meant very little to me, but now I understand. The first day I took the subway into Manhattan I was overcome with emotion seeing all the homeless people scattered throughout the city. I would spend the following few weeks giving them a dollar here and there.
This eventually subsided, and if I’m being brutally honest I’m not sure the last time I took notice of a homeless man or woman. That makes me sad a little.
A few days of settling in flew by that first week, and after five days of searching for work a lovely family living on the Upper East Side took me under their wing. I was to become a Manhattan nanny.
I was blown away by the maturity of the two boys I looked after. They were my first educators in New York.
After a year with this family I moved on to the customer service sector. I took a job waitressing in Eileen’s Country Kitchen in Yonkers. There I met my best friend in New York Marion Moriarty, learned the difference between over easy and sunny side up, and realized the importance of tipping.
I eventually moved on to an office job before going back to the service industry. Finally in 2006 I was given an opportunity like no other.
I was asked to submit an article about a trip I took to Philadelphia on behalf of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR). With a lot of hesitation (my education was all through the Irish language so English was never my strong suit) I completed my very first assignment for the Irish Voice, and a few weeks later I found myself sitting behind a rather large desk on 31st Street. It was then I realized my American dream was becoming a reality.
By this time I had met my Prince Charming (in Behan’s Bar on Katonah Avenue the Christmas before) and knew then New York would have a hold on me longer than I had initially planned.
What I didn’t know at the time was I’d stay another seven years, get engaged, married and have two kids.
In that short space John and I traveled a lot of the United States – I stood in a cell in Alcatraz where inmates once slept, I climbed the steps Rocky Balboa once jogged, I became an avid boxing fan and attended many fights in Madison Square Garden.
I also talked rubbish to Liam Neeson about immigration reform, told Bono he was a legend during a brief interview at the United Nations and followed Miley from Glenroe (an Irish television program) around the Irish Consulate one night.
I visited the Playboy mansion in LA on a work assignment and stood only feet away from where Hugh Heffner was sleeping. I also told Ian Paisley’s son I thought his dad was cute, tripped over Brian Cowen’s foot during one of his New York official visits, had a candid chat with Michael Flatley and had my picture taken with Colum and President Bill Clinton.
And with all the highs came some of the lows. One of my very first stories to cover was a murder/ suicide of a father and his two young children in New Jersey. I had to go to the home where the murder took place and interview the neighbors.
And that wasn’t the worst part. A few days later I had to go to the funeral of the children and report from the scene.
Although my article was front page of the Irish Voiceand even made the front of the Irish Independent in Ireland, it was one of the toughest pieces I’ll ever have to write.
It was also emotionally draining to see the promise of immigration reform that could have legalized thousands of undocumented Irish falling to smithereens.
After a year working with the Irish Voice I was also given the job as editor of the former Home and Away,and today I still remain (and will do so as I return to Ireland) as the editor of our newest paper Irish Central Community News.
It’s with the fondest memories I remember the first time my now husband kissed me in the Rambling House on Christmas Eve and the birth of our two children. It makes me extremely sad to know neither Colum nor Sadie will remember their time in New York because of their age. Colum’s first day at day care was also a big one.
Now what other country in the world can make a wife, mother, journalist and editor out of me in such a small space of time?
But now it’s time to say goodbye and thank you. Thank you to those of you who gave me a job when I needed one, and especially to Niall O’Dowd and Debbie McGoldrick of the Irish Voice for not only seeing potential in me but also treating me as a member of your extended family.
Thank you to my good friend Pete Coyle for all your words of wisdom through the years – if it wasn’t for your encouragement I may have never pursued my dreams.
To Marion for your years of unconditional friendship and laughs and the love you have shown Colum and Sadie – you I will miss like a sister.
Thank you to Tara and Aidan for feeding us, being wonderful friends and flying to Ireland for our wedding – your children are like our niece and nephew.
Thank you to Geraldine Gleeson for becoming an “aunt” to our kids over the past year. I’ll miss the gossip sessions.
Thanks so Charlotte, Val, Sandra, Angela, Molly and Barbara, Amy (my little sister), Mary Bop, Orla, Cahir, Molly, Kate, Shelly, Gen, Naela, Kerman, Nuala and Bernice for being wonderful friends who I could count on for anything over the years.
Thank you to Donnchadh for giving John a job a long time ago and encouraging him to do so well.
Thank you Becky and Damien for putting up with John and I on 234th Street for all those years. The memories are etched in my brain forever.
And a big thank you to New York for taking me in, treating me like one of your own and now sending me home skilled, educated and fulfilled. Words can’t describe how much I will miss you, but we will meet again someday!
In the meantime, I’ll be continuing this column from Ireland, letting you all know how we settle in to our new lives, so stay tuned!
Jackie Kennedy’s granddaughter has uncannily similar looks