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.