The House that Built Us


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My husband’s family is from County Mayo in Ireland.  He’d been there countless times as a child and as an adult, but I had never been.  So, shortly after we were married, off we went to see the place his family calls “home” (even though they’ve now lived in the States for decades).

We had no destination, no plans, and no schedule.  We rented a car, bought a map, and started driving.  We saw endless fields of green (it looks just like you’d imagine it would).  We sat in too many pubs to name, climbed the Cliffs of Mohr, collected Holy Water in Knock, kissed the Blarney Stone, ate ham and cheese toasties, walked the River Shannon, and drove and drove and drove.

He took me to his grandparents’ old house, which still stands, abandoned, down a dirt path in the beautiful town of Bekan.  We broke open the ‘lock’ which held the door closed and stepped inside.

Although the old house had been abandoned many years ago, the contents of the house lay exactly as they had when it was still occupied.  The grandfather’s hat sat on a hook by the door, dishes lay in the dish rack waiting to be put away, an unfinished book sat on the end table in the sitting room.  The only signs of neglect were the layers of dust and mold covering everything, the peeling wallpaper, the crumbling walls.

Sometime in the past, that three-bedroom house was home to my husband’s grandparents and their fourteen children.  Yep, fourteen children.

I stood outside that house, with my hand on my swollen belly, thinking about my unborn baby who I didn’t yet know was to be Maddie.  I thought about how before this baby came to be, there had to be an us.  And before us, there had to have been this.

I thought about how Vincent (my husband’s father) had to grow up in this beautiful town with his 13 siblings in this tiny house halfway across the globe…. so that he could dream of coming to America where he would meet his wife…. so that there could be a Jerome….who would steal my heart…. so that there could be a me with a bulging belly that would soon become Madeline.

I felt, oddly, like I had gone ‘home’, too.  I felt connected to that house and so thankful for its existence.  The house that built us.


11 thoughts on “The House that Built Us

  1. This story sucked me right in. Once the lock on the house was broken I couldn’t wait to hear what you found. I found it amazing that it was like stepping into a day so many years ago…and I am curious as to the reason the house was left what appears to be so abruptly as to leave a book half read…etc. I loved the way you connected the house with the people living there…as US and how each generation created the next US. Very nice. Jackie

  2. Unreal! Love your word choice. So powerful. Love your connection to Jerome and Maddie and that place and that house! Again I think this is your best slice. You made me want to write about a similar experience that I had in Greece. Love it!

  3. Dana – I LOVE this slice!!! I was there in Ireland with you. It reminded me of my dad’s trip there just months before he died. Trips like yours and trips like his are so life-changing. Thanks for taking us on this journey with you.

  4. I like how you reflected on the journey that you have gone through and your husband and your husband’s family. Someday Maddie might do the same thing with the house that built her.

  5. I love this story…having been to Ireland when I was a child (it was my river Shannon!), I could imagine the fields, Blarney Stone, etc. My husband is from Iran and I have never been although I have heard many stories of his parents home…I hope, like you, to someday visit and see the place where he is from…to see the house that built us! 🙂 Love your blog!

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