One of my favourite Ferron songs goes like this:
All the world can love you save for one
And I don’t know why it is that kiss will be the haunted one.
Lately I’ve been relating those lines to my family history search. I know it’s not what Ferron had in mind! It’s not a kiss but a name, or the absence of a name, that haunts me.
I have ancestors from Canada, Croatia, Norway, Sweden, England, and Ireland. For all but the Irish one, Charles Johnston, I can tell you exactly where they were born and the name of their mother. And I don’t know why it is, but it’s the unknown Irish foremother I most want to know about. Partly it’s the chase – but it’s more than that.
It’s Ireland herself.
My friend Laurie asked me the other day what drew LW and me to Ireland. We just returned after 30 days there – 30 glorious days. It was our 25th anniversary trip and a gift for my 60th birthday, which we celebrated in the air enroute to Dublin.
“I don’t know,” I told Laurie. “I’ve just always felt pulled.”
Now that I’ve been there, the tug is even more insistent: I want to go back. I need to go back. I will go back.
In the meantime, I treasure the memory of my Irish times. I want to write about them here, and I’ll do that over the next few weeks. I’ll probably start where we started, at Drogheda, and end where we ended, in County Cavan, where my so-far nameless foremother may have lived.
I may write about the Irish place names I’ve been butchering for years. For example, the Irish say KAVin, not CaVAN, and it’s not Drog HEE da, it’s DRAW heh da. (Well, it’s almost that. The gh is a sound in the back of the throat I’m still learning to make.)
And the Burren. My beautiful Burren. Maybe I’ll start there.