The flights to America leave from Terminal 2 in Dublin. There was a time when arriving at the airport was a relaxing part of the trip. It was a last chance to sit at O’Brien’s and have one last authentic fry-up, one last cup of well-brewed Barry’s tea before stuffing a real scone in my bag and heading back to the land of hot dogs and coffee.
Time has changed things. O’Brien’s is not what it was. The tea is a weak European blend that we don’t recognize. The fruit is green and the sausages are no longer spiced in the Irish style. The staff are eastern European, serving up a cheaper version of the Irish experience that has lost everything in translation without gaining any international flavor. The beans are insipid at best.
But this barely matters, because we no longer have time to stop there for breakfast before our flight. New American security concerns mean that we must go through two sets of security screenings, as well as customs, before we even get to the gate. Well over an hour later, when we’ve gone past all of that, we queue up for half an hour at the one restaurant in the American section of the airport, where I pick out a muffin that I don’t want because we no longer have time for the staff to heat up a panini. The plane is already boarding, even though we’ve been at the airport for two and a half hours. I swallow half of my cappuccino before throwing out the rest so that this time, thank God, we don’t end up running for the gate. I burn my tongue.
It has been an exhausting trip, this trip back to Ireland to bury my brother-in-law. I’ve cried a great deal more than I expected, while remembering more names than I anticipated. My in-laws are a veritable tribe, a tribe that shows up en masse to major life events. There are cousins and friends and adult children with children of their own, all of whom seem to remember my name. When I ask my Beloved to clarify which cousin Mary that he had just referred to, he gives me a blank look at my dense incomprehension, then rattles off a string of names and relationships that I lose hope of being able to follow by the second sentence. My family has been declining in numbers for a generation; I am simply not equipped with the skills to remember everyone, even after four years of marriage. But I am getting better.
My sister-in-law brought pictures of my Beloved and his three siblings to the wake, one from shortly after the birth of the youngest and another from right before my Beloved left Ireland for good in the late 80s. They are children in the first picture and barely more than that in the second. The second photo hung in the family home for decades, becoming such an icon that my Beloved and his siblings retook it a few years ago. I am so glad that they did now, though I remember being in a rush at the time, because there will never be another one with all four of them together. That time in their lives has finished, long before we ever expected that it would. So we passed around the pictures and told old stories to the new generation, while marveling at the changes in the family between then and now. Baba wandered at our feet, pulling at the photographs and trying to find out what happens when you bend them.
My brother-in-law was buried on Saturday, so we took Baba and her cousins to St. Anne’s park on Sunday for some much needed downtime. There is a playground there that is a Dublin institution. The carved horses and cows had fresh paint once, but it has been worn off by generations of small hands climbing all over them. Baba climbed up onto the Viking ship, which is far too tall for her, and her eldest cousin, who is a man himself now, reached up to keep her from falling. We posed her with her two cousins, and tried to keep her still enough to get a good shot. She doesn’t understand why we would want to sit still in a playground, where there are so many things to climb and explore.
Perhaps there will be a day, years down the road, where we’ll make another photo like yesterday’s, when Baba is old enough to understand, and marvel again at the impossibility of capturing time.