May, 2010

May 10

6 Planes, 7 Trains and I’m going to bed

In the past 3 and a half weeks, between Chiavenna, Virginia (USA) and Bristol (UK) Jeff and I have enjoyed the pleasure of some ‘quality time’ with every member of our direct family, except my brother Matthew. In the process we have further enlarged our carbon footprint to embarrassing proportions. It now resembles a large astroid crater rather than a footprint and shall be referred to from here on as our “carbon crater”. Our feeble attempt to reduce it (or rather, prevent it growing) by buying a GPL car seems like a laughable idea at this stage…

Anyway, as I was saying, we enjoyed our first visitors to Chiavenna, with a trip up by my parents for a few days, and more recently a short but sweet visit by two wonderful friends Síle and Ben. In between we spent 8 days in Virginia for my sister-in-law (Amy)’s wedding, and a 3 day stint in Bristol, UK with all my siblings (and “partners”) except Matthew, who was missed. 🙁

It’s impossible to cram all of the fun of the past few weeks into one blog post, and quite frankly it is unnecessary. So here’s a random collection of memories that come to me…

Strolling through the streets of Chiavenna, arm in arm with my mum, busy solving all of the world’s problems.

Hiking up the mountain side in the pishing rain with my Dad, as only the Irish do well.

Being refused permission to board my flight to America, and nearly ending up stranded in London instead of at Amy’s wedding. Of course I remained calm and Zen-like throughout.

The buzz of wedding plans in the final few days, with many an hour of ribbon tying and decoration-making and displaying.

Photos of the bride-to-be playing basketball in a red bikini the night before her wedding. Officially the most relaxed bride I’ve ever seen. And of course beautiful, in that lovely glowing bride kinda way. Good work Amy. 🙂

Dancing our socks off for hours on the wedding dance floor with my family of in-laws, with some particularly memorable dance moves from my brother-in-law (aka “an entire boyband in one body”) and my father-in-law (dentist turns gangster rapper).

Laughing ‘like ol’ times’ with some of the crew from Blacksburg who made the trip up to Jeff’s folks house for a sweet night of chatting, eatin’ and appreciatin’.

Touring the streets of Bristol with Lucia, my sis, catching up and philosophizing while scouring all the skips (dumpsters) for potential plant pots for her new garden.

The look on Diarmuid’s face when he discovered his siblings waiting for him in Lucia’s back garden for his birthday surprise.

A day in the park with most of the Smyths (& co), and some special cousins, playing ultimate frisbee in sweltering midday sun, and circus school with Lucia, who by the way, is very good at what she does.

And finally, a blissful 24 hours with Síle and Ben, friends from Ireland, during their somewhat spontaneous visit to Chiavenna, filled with ice-cream, pizza, walks and wine, under the sweet italian sunshine. 🙂

Normal life in Chiavenna recommences tomorrow. Although, we’re not really sure what that is yet. Whatever it is, it begins tomorrow morning when I head to the town-hall, papers in hand, to officially become a resident of Italy.

The rest remains to be seen…
(as do the photos which Jeff will post soon…)

May 10

There’s No Place Like Home

The other day Jeff and I were checking out the new Comhaltas online archive of Irish music. A wonderful collection of traditional Irish music (good work Darragh Curran!).

I was confused when I found myself feeling sad listening to it. Not homesick, but a different strange kind of nostalgia. As if it were someone I’m supposed to know well, but have difficulty relating to. A lost opportunity of a good friend.

With an Irish father and an Italian/English mother , growing up in the suburbs of Dublin, I was never immersed in the traditional Irish culture of GAA, Irish music and folklore, although I’m sure my father tried. We were never a family of céilís, Sundays spent watching hurling, or evenings spent singing old Irish songs in the local pub over a pint of Guinness. With the majority of Summer vacations spent visiting my mother’s family in England and Italy, with roadtrips across mainland Europe, I suppose from a very young age we were being exposed to different cultures. At a time when traveling wasn’t as cheap, easy or as widespread as it is now in Ireland, we were given a special opportunity to see a bit of the world outside of the small island of Eire. And our home in the suburbs of Dublin wasn’t exactly the epicenter of traditional Irish culture.

I first became aware of this “difference” between me and so many of my peers when I started my training in the School of Physiotherapy in UCD. I was one of only a few Dubliners in the class. And probably the least “Irish” of them all. We had party nights where everyone showed up in their home teams’ colours (GAA). I felt like a foreigner. Irish traditional music, although beautiful, doesn’t hit those emotional cords within me that other music does. It’s not “mine”. In a way it’s from a different Ireland, one I don’t know very well. I remember at times in University, with my class mates from all over Ireland, wishing that I too had this connection with the old traditions of my country. The feeling that it was “in my bones”. But it wasn’t there.

As we listened to some of the music on the Comhaltas website, Jeff and I chatted about it. It seems a sad thing not to fully understand or relate to your own country’s traditional culture. For a moment I allowed myself to dwell in that ugly sentiment of self-pity. And yet I feel Irish in my own way, maybe because of the family and friends that will always bring me home there.

But yes, a part of me sometimes wonders where I belong. If not wholly “Irish”, am I Italian?

Assolutamente No.

Is this what happens to everyone born of an immigrant parent (or two). (Sorry Mum that word sounds crude, but now I’m an immigrant too…) A part of them remains confused as to where they belong? My siblings may well disagree completely with me of course. But perhaps that explains why we have now scattered in the wind?A taste for travel. Spread from Thailand/India, Italy/America, England, to Ireland and at times Russia?? And yet I feel like we are still a very close family despite the physical distance between us.

Maybe what I mean is I don’t feel wholly Irish, or Italian, but I do feel like a Smyth.

Can a large family become a nation of its own?