Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mexico meets Ireland

Last week I forgot to mention a particular favorite moment hanging with my little friends, because it happened post-pizza, pre-park. Somehow we got talking and they wanted to know what my grandmother looked like. I have photos of my mother's mother in the same album with my photos from Ireland in 2002, when I went to visit her sisters and other family for the first time ever. So I dragged out the album and showed them.

The album opens with a shot of the small house where my grandmother was born and where her sisters still live. You can see the roof used to be thatch--they updated to slate in the 1970s, I'm told. The house is at least 200 years old. My great aunts still use a turf fireplace as their main source of heat, supplemented these days with an electric space heater in the bedroom. It was chilly and damp there in May.

One of my great-aunts looks especially like Grandmom, and they saw a lot of pictures of her and her sister. We were at the lake, we were in the country hills, we were at the church at Knock Shrine, we were at the Famine Museum. Then they got to see my grandmother visiting her daughter's family in Delaware in the early 1970s, about the time they were taking the thatch off the roof back in Ireland and maybe before the space heater. We have pictures of Grandmom and Granddad with my mom, me and my sister and brother in the driveway with our two cars and our two-story suburban house, built @1965. The boys liked seeing the pictures of me as a little kid. They said I looked like some girl they saw in a movie but I don't know who they meant.

The last half of the album is pictures of the island of Inishmaan, the least touristed of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay. It's shockingly quiet there and the birds fly right at you, completely unafraid. The few hundred locals who live there mostly speak Irish as their first language.

The boys saw photos of potatoes growing and cows grazing and rocky cliffs and blue water. They liked the horses and ponies and dogs the best. They were telling me how their cousin sold her cows to raise the money to come to the U.S.

They were very enthusiastic about Ireland. "It's like Mexico!" said one.

"Yep," I agreed, "just colder and wetter."

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