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Nana Liz and Colum at JFK Airport

Mommy Diaries: Saying goodbye to family just gets harder and harder

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Nana Liz and Colum at JFK Airport

I don't know how many more airport trips I can do -- the return ones I mean.

You know the one where the journey to JFK/Newark is quiet, very quiet. Awkward conversations take place in an effort to cover up the impending sadness that’s about to take place at a bustling international airport.

The planes are (in my case) always departing back to Ireland. In my eight years in New York I’ve done many of these drop-off trips, more than I’d like to count, but it never gets easier, does it?  I guess it’s always harder when it’s family though.

I see updates constantly on social networking site Facebook. Comments like “I hate goodbyes,” “Their trip was too short,” and “This never gets any easier.”

Posts from Irish immigrants (mainly those who don’t get to go home too often if ever at all) who have had a flying visit from their loved ones in Ireland. It’s always sad to see, but it’s part and parcel of life as an immigrant I guess.

Last week’s car journey to Terminal Three at JFK Airport was pretty much the same as the one before. Conversations reminiscing on the week’s vacation took place.

My mother, Liz, and her partner, Mike, came to visit our nine-month-old son, Colum, and us for seven days. Their time in New York was precious, just like every time.

But this journey was a little different.  John (my husband) and I were away for three of those seven days at John’s best friend’s wedding, Damian Mescall, in Pennsylvania.  So Nana Liz was the boss, which suited her down to the ground.

Within hours of our departure she had Colum on a strict schedule. They took several mini-walks around the neighborhood where we live in Yonkers.

Short trips to the local CVS pharmacy to visit some of the Halloween mannequins (yes, my mother has a strange sense of humor and by all accounts so does my son) and lots of playtime were had. Colum had a great time with his grandparents, but certainly not as good a time as his nana.

“Oh, how will I leave my little man this time?” asked Liz upon our return from Pennsylvania.

The last time she visited us in New York Colum was just four months old, and as any mom knows babies at that age are just about smiling, laughing and that’s pretty much it.
 
It was a whole different experience this time around. Colum is now crawling, walking along furniture, copies everything we do, talks to us in his own language, is extremely energetic, loves the fun and knows very well how to work his parents and grandparents into getting his own way.

I was constantly getting text messages from Liz on Colum’s every move.  I could tell from the tone of the texts (and their frequency) that she was falling in love with my son all over again.

For John and I the visit really put into perspective our decision to move home next May.
 
Seeing Colum with family brought joy to our hearts. It’s what we want for Colum and our second child. (We are expecting another baby in February).

He is too young at this age to even comprehend that Liz is his nana, but soon enough he will be clued in and I don’t want to have to explain to him that ALL his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins live an ocean away.

I want him to take for granted that he can see all those people when he wants. It will make him and us happy (and nana Liz too).

As the time for booking flights back to Ireland quickly approaches it becomes crystal clear that Ireland is the place for us.

Yes, we’re well aware that there is a looming recession with no end in sight, that jobs are few and far between and people don’t have the same quality of life as they used to have.

“It’s just like the eighties were,” I hear over and over again.

If I’m being honest I can’t remember the eighties being bad. Granted I was a child, but I was a very happy child who wanted for nothing even though we didn’t have much money.

I don’t want my children growing up in a world where everything is handed to them. I earned pocket money by vacuuming, washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom. It may have only been a pound a week, but it showed me the value of working for what you want.

My kids don’t need Play Stations, iPads and designer jeans. They need love, love from family and friends.

People have “warned” us about our social lives when we return to Ireland.

“You won’t be able to go out as much at home now April,” they say.

I’m always quick to remind them that we’re now parents, and going out to the bar is something we don’t do anymore unless it’s a special occasion (and can get a sitter).
 
We’ll be perfectly happy having family and friends over to our home for dinner and chats (once I learn to cook properly). 

And if we’re all honest, the best nights out we have are when we are surrounded by friends nattering about life’s trials and tribulations; it just doesn’t have to be done on a bar stool.

I’m lucky enough to go back to Ireland with a skill that’s still in demand. In my former life I was a sign language interpreter, and to my advantage there is currently no working interpreter in Limerick (where we will hopefully live). 

So my days of working from home will be coming to an end, and that’s good too.  I’m sure after the second baby (God willing) I’ll be ready to get back into a suit and out into the world of work in Ireland.

And if I’m being honest, most of the people I know (who bought big houses in the boom and fancy cars) are still able to afford their yearly trip to Spain, a ticket to the All-Ireland and an odd weekend away. And some of these people have lost their jobs.

What we have on our side is the radical drop in house prices and a strong work/survival ethic that life in New York gives all immigrants.

Yes, the Irish weather is bad, but anyone who knows me in New York knows I strongly dislike our summers here.  (It might have something to do with the fact that I was pregnant for the past two, but a bit of rain will do us no harm.)

But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again -- we will miss New York.  How could we not?

We’ve made great lives for ourselves here, developed life-long friendships and I strongly believe that they’ll always be a part of us.

But thanks to the Internet, phones and planes, New York and our friends are never going to be too far away.

While unloading mom and Mike’s luggage from the trunk of our car last week at JFK I glanced around to see other people saying their goodbyes.

One Irish woman with a strong Northern accent was hugging what looked to be her father tightly.  She cried as he assured her he would see her at Christmas.

It didn’t seem to quell her tears though. She left him at the door of the airport and one could feel her pain immensely.  I knew we were next to do our own goodbyes.

Like most people I hate them, so I clung tightly to Colum, threw him around for some last hugs and kisses and back into the car I lunged immediately.

We will be home in eight months so there really is no need for tears, I was telling myself. But eight months is still a long time, especially in the life of a child.

As we drove away from the airport that day John and I discussed how happy our decision to move home has made our own parents.

A New York-based friend of mine became a grandfather to a beautiful baby boy a few weeks ago.  He just spent over a week with his new bundle of joy in Chicago and told me on the phone today that he wept tears of sadness while saying goodbye to him.

“The last time I cried April was when I left Ireland as a teenager,” he shared.
I really don’t want there to be any more tears!

Liz has already picked out a stroller she wants us to purchase for her to go into the container home.  She keeps telling me what she has to baby proof in her house and gets so excited at the thought of her grandchildren playing on swings (that she doesn’t own) out her back garden. It makes me happy to see how excited she is about our return.

I guess having children changes everything, and for us those changes will bring us closer to our families and further away from the lives we once knew in America.  And that’s okay by us!
 

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