|Bunbeg Strand, County Donegal|
6.30 am and the sun was splitting the sky while I drove down the road to Dublin airport. Tears were still dripping off my chin as I approached Newry. I could still picture my sister standing in her driveway, waving to me. Sorrow bubbled up so violently in my chest, I thought I'd burst. I wondered why on earth I'd moved to the opposite side of the planet, away from my Mum, my sister, brother-in-law and nephews. Not to mention the scores of friends and other relatives I'd met with over the past three weeks.
My Dad always said that the best time to drive the road to Dublin was at daybreak. He was the ultimate morning person. With the sunlight reflecting emerald from the fields, against the azure backdrop of the sky, I felt that Ireland was giving me her very own send off with this rare glimpse of good weather.
I ran the events of the previous three weeks through my head, determined not to forget one slobbery kiss from my three year old nephew and committing the relatively saner conversations with his older (nearly-six-year-old) brother to memory. The image of my Mum's teary eyes, as we struggled to be strong in our farewells, seared my brain. Was living in California selfish? I know she misses me .
In order to cheer myself up, I rattled through the good memories - in-jokes between my sister and I about cows doing star-jumps to keep fit - a you-had-to-be-there moment when we spotted cows running around a field. When she wondered why they were doing that, I suggested that maybe they were working out. She looked out the window then piped up, "Oh look there's one doing star jumps." A mental image joke that highly amused us but baffled my mother.
I thought of the craic I'd had with Laura up in Belfast and how well she'd looked after us. I mourned the lack of time I'd had to spend with friends, yet loved the stories that started with, "Do you remember the time..."
After each reunion and parting there were at least private tears, if not public ones. I feel proud and fortunate to have all these people who love me, but bereft to not be able to see them everyday. Yet, somewhere in the back of my mind a voice whispers the old cliche, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." I reckon that is more the case that absence makes you appreciate what you may otherwise take for granted.
As I queued for immigration preclearance in Dublin, one line of a Bruce Springsteen song rolled around my head. Except this was the version that my nephew sings in his cute little three-year-old voice.
"My was," deep breath so next word can be blasted out, "BORN in the New S A. My was," breath, "Born in the New S A." (Repeat adinfinitum!)
By the time I reached New York, I'd gotten over being nearly engulfed in emotion at leaving them all behind. At the airport to greet me was my Godfather, my Dads brother, who had immigrated to the "New SA" many years ago. I spotted him waiting at the barrier for me and I realised that here was a kindred spirit, another pioneer who would understand what I was feeling.
With joy and gratitude in my heart, I welcomed the bear hug that reminded me home is were the heart is, and I looked forward to the next couple of days with him and my lovely Aunty, pushing away the thought that another round of goodbyes would follow before I'd be reunited with my lovely Husand in California. Good times roll on.