I went to Ireland in November.
I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it was.
I went because of my mother, the youngest of ten children. She never knew her dad. He, who was born and raised in Belfast, died a month before she was born. Whenever she speaks of her childhood she tells us that there was always a distance between her and her siblings, and a hole where her dad should have been. She always wondered, beyond the fragile information her mother gave her before she went silent with heartache. And so we went to find distant family she hadn’t seen for more than three decades. We met them at the airport and it felt like I’d known most of them for ages. Funny, how even with distance the genetics don’t stray too far.
I’m not ashamed to admit that we’re a good-looking family.
The city centre of Belfast is new, young, and modern. With most of the old buildings destroyed during the bombings, new steel and glass structures have been erected and glitter in the light at all hours of day or night. Classic Irish pubs have remained the norm, the oldest of all being The Crown.
I had my first, official (half decent) pint of Guiness here. We sat in a booth, surrounded by old wood and match lighters and leather plush seats. Family told us stories of uncles and cousins who enjoyed their travels through North and South Ireland, stories of my granddad, and stories of ghosts long gone.
Somewhere during my travels, at a second-cousins house I believe, we were told how my granddad decided to up heave his wife and eight children and move to Canada. Despite working in the navy and having his choice of anywhere in the world, he choose Calgary, Canada. He fell in love with the Rockies, the Chinooks, the prairies. We saw postcards and photos with him and his kids in Banff and Canmore and elsewhere lost in the mountains…
I’ve alwas held a special place in my heart for the mountains. And since Ireland, since learning about my Granddad, the passion resonates deeper. I used to always think people searching through their family histories were crazy and having a mid-life crisis, but not any more. I see how it makes you see things differently and look at your surroundings in a new light. What you once took for granted you realize are what your family once fought for.
Finding your roots isn’t madness, and it isn’t weakness. It’s history. It’s the stories we only hope to be that were long forgotten. It’s remembering. It’s awakening. Slowly but surely, it’s connecting another piece of yourself to something that’s older and greater, stronger, and full of love. Those roots that grounded themselves deep within the childish earth are spread just a bit wider and become just a little bit stronger. And now, when you stretch into the world, you can stretch further with the strength of your own history and blood behind you, and you’ll know you can stretch even further.