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Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Generation Gap

The first thing we did when we got to Ireland was head to England because that is called a good some other universe.  Richard put his foot down way back when the tickets were bought--this trip is about Ireland and not about England.  I argued that we're right there, how could we not? 

The real pull was Ursula.  She is Elle's last great-grand standing and she wasn't going to join us in Ireland at nearly 91.  It's not that she's frail but, by her own admission, her traveling days are nearly over.  In the 14 years I've known her though she's taken herself to Chile, including Easter Island.  She's cruised through the waterways of Russia and her final big sojourn was following the Silk Road to Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan.  I'm blanking on what "stans" she was in but at 85 they're all pretty impressive travel if you asked me.

So down to the ferry and over the Irish Sea to Wales and then straight to our overnight stop at my mother-in-law's in Bath. 
For the record, she has the most beautiful garden I have ever seen.  Ellie calls it nothing short of magical.  Then off to Grandpa's where Ursula lives on the "grounds" (really just a big yard) in the deconsecrated chapel. 
Tiniest bit of the magical garden

Ursula is a man's woman much like my grandma Kate was.  They were only children, difficult childhoods and extremely bright.  However, they never saw themselves equal to men despite their own many accomplishments.  Instead, these women idolized the intelligence of the men in their lives, admired what they perceived to be an overall masculine superiority in the world without even realizing their footing was more equal than not.  They undermined their own strength and skills by not recognizing this.  They shuddered at women who sought to reach the same heights as men academically, politically, intellectually.  Well, Ursula more than Kate I reckon but still, the point is while Kate expertly played the male-dominated game of chess, Ursula became a WREN and lied about knowing how to cook in her interview though she was quite proficient at it thanks to "finishing school".  She thought she'd be damned if she joined the War effort just to be somebody's cook. 

We made the crossing because we didn't know when we'd see Ursula again.   It was bittersweet to speculate what we thought our futures would bring and when we may see each other again.  Sadly, Ursula is struggling with her memory so the conversation was had more than once.  But for Ellie's own memories it was lovely to let these two generations spend time together and for the older one to finally see the brilliance of a young girl.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Long Time, No Blog: The Irish Gathering

Today I'm going to start with my Irish.  Twenty years ago when my mother died I thought, right, time to figure out who these people were and much good it did do me. That's sarcasm for I still can't tell you for absolute certain where the emigrated from or how they ended up in Syracuse but I do know a great deal more.  More on that later.  The one thing I am certain of is they were Roman Catholics and they were poor.  I have long since been conflicted by my boggy roots and my Anglophilia. 

Enter my Anglo-Irish husband (not how he ever describes himself BTW) and no longer could I gleefully sing almost any given Wolfe Tone song.  The lyrics were too charged--almost forgotten to me now.  But once in a while R and I will play a little game of whose Irish is bigger.  He claims an Irish-born grandfather who I in turn call an imposter since my people were on the land hundreds of years before his took it.  This in turn begs the question, how long does someone need to be in a country before they can claim nativity?  In the US, it is almost immediate though we do say first or second-generation American to deferentiate between newness of transplants.  But R claims his blood is more Irish than mine.  I claim you're not Irish if you're not Celt.  We're both ridiculous and we're both American.

As part of an economic recovery plan, Ireland declared 2013 as year of "The Gathering".  Ireland wants her people to invite their scattered relatives home for gatherings.  That's why a few weeks ago there was a family reunion at Castle Townshend--R's family's historic home in Ireland.   Yes, you heard me.

In desperation to make the most of my chance to research my Sharkeys while in Ireland, I pushed hard and two weeks before our departure I finally had a breakthrough.  I think I found my peeps in Castlrea, Roscommon.  We took a lovely trip around Ireland including Casltrea before we settled into the castle down in Cork.  During our drive we both found new appreciation for each others' Irish roots. Richard swotted up on his family history--which is a good thing too since he helped his father make their genealogy website and it was time he read the content. Was Richard ever relieved to learn his relative Col. Richard Townshend was not handed his land for his loyalty to England but rather he bought it all himself.

 Naturally, both of our Irish are worth descending from and Elle gets the best of both worlds.

photo by John Townsend