One of the biggest surprises from our recent family trip to Ireland was the fact that the day when it was time to end our family week and head off our separate ways, we lingered over the goodbyes. We still liked each other. We were sorry to leave each other.
We had made a similar trip to Italy in 2006, including the pilgrimage in that instance to my dad’s father’s mountain village of Cusano Mutri. Italy was a fantastic trip, with amazing food and wine as you can imagine, and opportunities for us to cook large family meals. When that family week ended in Italy, it was time, and it was okay to wave goodbye and head off in separate directions.
What was different?
We have always felt a special connection to our Italian heritage, being raised closer to that side of the family. The Italian influence engulfed and almost squashed our Irish heritage for most of my formative years. (But we sure did eat well growing up!)
Why was this family trip to Ireland different?
Was it the discovery of our collective Irish heritage, no longer under the shadow of Italy?
Was it the fact that instead of vacationing in un-air conditioned lodging in 100 degrees in Italy, we vacationed in un-air conditioned lodging in 75 degrees in Ireland?
I think not, on both accounts.
The theory I am going to float out there is that this trip was different primarily for one reason: our children were older.
Italy: several kids ready to go off for their first year of college, nervous, anxious, rebellious; other teens and tweens off sleep schedules, wanting to ride with one family, no then the other, and hungry (+angry = hangry); and a very young few who really needed naps still in the middle of our days full of touring, dust, and 100 degree temperatures.
Ireland: several kids out of college and more part of the adult world than the “kid” world; other teens and twenties in college, or just about ready to start college, but under the guidance of their older cousins less anxious and more excited to start the new phase of life; other teens and the last tween old enough to knock around the (purposely small) towns we stayed in, more apt to adjust to irregular sleep as long as you feed them well (all boys); and the newest baby/king of the family, whose parents removed him for naps and skipped touring that might be challenging for an 18 month old.
I think in Ireland we helped our kids make memories that they will tell their grandchildren about: the night the older kids ended up singing in the pub; sharing their first beers with parents; engaging and laughing with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents; learning the family history; that LOOOONG bike ride in Mayo after staying out too late the night before!
Ireland was magical, because this family group of 25 still truly enjoys each other’s company.