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Colum and Sadie Mooney on Sunday afternoon

The Irish Homecoming: An Irish love story - returned expat loving Ireland more than ever

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Colum and Sadie Mooney on Sunday afternoon

The transition from New York to Ireland has posed no problem for all for APRIL DREW and her family. In fact, she’s loving her home country more than ever.

I’M in love. It’s like that very first love. You know that feeling  we’ve all had it.

You wake up beaming with happiness and you go to bed dreaming of all the wonderful memories you made that day. Your heart skips a beat when you realize how happy you are.

Well I’m in love again, and this time it’s with Ireland. I can’t describe it to you any other way.
Yes, it’s dreary when it’s raining. Yes, the economy stinks for a lot of people, and yes, we were abysmal in the Euros, but I can’t help this feeling.

I have it every night when I look out my mother-in-law’s front bedroom window and I get giddy with excitement. I get butterflies in my stomach when I think of all the wonderful things we have to look forward to in our lives in Ireland.

On Sunday the weather was fantastic in Limerick. After a spot of cleaning up around the house and a short shopping trip to a local toy store we visited good friends who recently had a beautiful baby boy. It was nice to sit down and compare babies.

John (my husband) and I are the parents of Colum (18-months) and Sadie (four-months). Our friends Roisin and Paul have Sophia (20-months) and Zac (11-days-old).

Over some scones and tea we shared stories about our kids, we broke up a few I-want-that-toy fights and most of all made plans for future meetings and play dates. It was nice. Really nice.

Taking full advantage of the fine weather, we put the kids in the back of the car and headed to Co. Clare to Cratloe Woods, a beautiful forest area around the village of Cratloe. Down came all the windows in the car to let in the fresh breeze.

As we drove past farms and fields we could smell freshly cut grass and cow dung and I loved every second of it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Ireland is the definition of paradise when the sun is shining, but I’m biased I know.

At the woods we met up with John’s family for a memorable walk in the park. The sun beamed down while the kids ran free.

After the legs were walked off us John drove us up to the top of the mountain where we looked down onto the Shannon estuary. It was a magnificent site. We stood at the top, inhaled the fresh air, took stock of what was before us and thanked God for another beautiful day.

John proceeded to show us where his dad and uncle used to take him when he was a child.

“I used to skate board down this hill,” he proudly said while we drove up a narrow bohereen.

“In a few years I’ll bring Colum back up here and show him how to skate,” he added.
And to finish off the afternoon we went to Limerick’s finest Chinese restaurant, the Shamrock, on the Ennis Road for a late supper. Colum discovered his love for prawn crackers and fried rice. It was a fantastic day, and there will hopefully be many more of those to come.

And the excitement builds. This week our container is due to arrive from New York. They tell us it’s already in Ireland at customs.

It’s only a matter of days before we have all our belongings to furnish a beautiful house we are going to rent on the outskirts of Limerick City. We are very excited to say the least.
The kids also start day care this week. Colum is already excited. He still asks for Patti, a wonderful woman who looked after him like her own in his day care in New York.

He understands what’s involved with day care (lots of kids to play with) and asks to go since we visited it last week. The facilities here in Limerick are second to none. The standard and quality of care appears to be outstanding from the outside. I look forward to seeing how they get on.
Sadie will only go part time for the time being – I’m a little anxious about her going because she is so young – but she will be fine. They always are in the end.

There is a baby room, a wobbler room, a toddler room, a pre-school room and so on. Rooms for everything and everyone. They have cameras in each room and they send the kids home each day with a schedule of their feeds and sleeps.

John, after an aptitudes test, two interviews and a medical, was offered a job last week. He will begin Monday, July 2. He is excited and so am I.

It’s not easy in this current economic climate to locate work in Ireland. A lot of people who came home before him are finding it difficult to get jobs so we don’t take it for granted. We thank our lucky stars every day for it and hope it all works out.

Am I missing New York? I’m missing my friends terribly, but I’m definitely not missing the humidity you guys have been having these past few weeks.

During the week I met a lovely elderly couple from New Jersey who were visiting Ireland for the first time. They stopped in a local store to ask for directions to Bunratty Castle (out the road from John’s mom’s house.) I chatted to them briefly.

Like any substantial conversation in Ireland it began with the weather. I informed them of our recent move home and the conversation quickly shifted to their love for our national airline. They couldn’t praise Aer Lingus high enough.

“We’ve flown all over the world and have never been so impressed with an airline before,” said the stout grey-haired lady.

I immediately concurred with them and we spent five short minutes talking about our experiences with Aer Lingus.

John and I flew Aer Lingus home in May. It was a bit crazy with the kids, the luggage, the strollers and ourselves.

The staff of Aer Lingus (from the check-in personnel to the air hostesses) were fantastic. They went out of their way to make sure John, the kids and I were well looked after during the whole journey.

“I’ve never been on an airline that the staff on board were so nice. It gave us a preview of what we were going to find on the ground in Ireland. They were lovely girls,” continued the American lady.

“And the comfort and leg room was an added bonus.”

Although a little bit disappointed with some of the customer service in the stores in parts of the country, overall they said they were already planning a return trip to the south west of Ireland in 2015.

“If we could afford it we would buy a summer home here,” she concluded, almost serious.

As someone who has been away for a long time I too find the customer service is some places not all  to be lacking in something or other. Sometimes a simple 'thank you' would be enough.
I’ve no doubt it isn’t easy at the other end dealing with frantic shoppers, but it doesn’t take much to be friendly. It’s the pretty Polish girls behind counters in restaurants and behind check-outs in Tesco that I find the friendliest.

Some of the Irish have lost that something precious. Maybe they are just worn out with this country, the politics, the economy and the weather. Or so they tell me anyway.

It’s funny. I can now almost predict people’s reaction when I tell them I’ve just moved home from New York.

It goes something like this.

“I just moved home from New York after nine years,” I would say.

Their response: “You what? Now why would you go and do something stupid like that for.” Maybe not always as blunt, but a raised eyebrow and a “wha” sound from their mouth always means the same thing.

A lot of Irish I’ve met in the past few weeks have a dislike for their country. 

“I’d be gone in a heartbeat if herself wasn’t pregnant,” said a friend of a friend last week.

This person has a great job, a girlfriend, his own house and a baby on the way.

“Why would you want to leave now,” I asked curiously.

“All I do is work to pay the bills, clothe the girlfriend and have a few pints at the weekend. What kind of life is that?” he responded.

A pretty decent one I think.

Several people have only ever seen New York on the television. They would make statements and ask me questions about whether I lived near the Empire State Building, or did I stay out all night at weekends (the city that never sleeps and all that), is my wardrobe to die for and the most frequently asked question  did I meet many famous people?

Sometimes I entertain them with my silly stories, but most of the time I remind them how wonderful Ireland is and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Grass is always greener no matter where you are but one thing is for sure, if you’re prepared to see the glass half full life is always easier.

Now let me get back to my romance with Ireland. I hope, unlike a lot of first loves, this one lasts.

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