We were invited to Ashling's (Ian's fiance) parents' house for dinner tonight, just two days before the wedding. Never before have I met a family so identical to mine back in Chicago...
Your drink is mysteriously kept full all night without you seeing. There's more than enough food for everybody in the house, plus more for anybody who happens to stop by last minute. A boyfriend shows up late after his football game, and within no time, has taken a shower and has a warm plate of food in front of him. The neighbors are invited in. Everybody is obviously welcome.
The kitchen is the spot for action. Bustling. Plates going in and out of the oven, the dishwasher, the fridge. Smells you can't identify but love anyway. People getting in each others' way and laughing. Way too many cooks in the kitchen, and thank goodness for that because these are some of the best cooks you'll ever know.
We sit around, talking across tables, talking across the whole room, yelling over one another, until there's an unspoken, spontaneous decision to listen to one person. People sit, hearing each other's stories, sipping tea and booze, learning our own history from each other. My father tells the story of the first time he met my mother's parents (special treat - listen to my parents tell the story here on Storycorps!). Although I have heard the story a million times, I watch the others listening to him, and hear it with whole new ears. I smile and laugh with them, and I look forward to hearing their stories.
Although this is the first time we've ever met, there's a beauty, connection, comraderie that arises immediately. We are family automatically, not by blood or legality, but by love. Immediate and immense love. Just like at home.
To feel so comfortable and so natural right away, I guess it could be partly attributed to the fact that we're pretty easy, socially. Maybe a bit. But really, it's because of the setting, the feel, the energy that this family has created and welcome us into. I did not feel like a stranger. All I felt tonight was joy and happiness and love. That's what they welcomed us with. Their attitudes towards people - us, each other - towards life was so beautiful. A quote from my aunt on the car ride home, after talking about how happy Ian and Ashling and the whole family seemed:
If I'd wish anything on anybody, it'd be that they find happiness. You can get through an awful lot if you just have happiness in your life.
What a beautiful way to think and to live. Thank you, Mary Kenrick.
Two days later we celebrated the marriage of Ashling and Ian. We ate and drank and talked and laughed and danced for 12 hours straight; well, some of us for 15 hours straight, but I didn't make it that far. I did shots with cousins I didn't even know I had. There was no "her family" and "his family," just our family.
At some point late into the night, I spotted Ashling's sister Tracy running up to Sara and I in her yellow bridesmaids dress, yelling something about a dance we had to do. Laughing, I let myself be pulled to the dance floor and paired up with Christy, one of the guys who carried our bags on our first night, and found myself in the middle of a traditional Irish line dance. As I trip over my own feet, trying desperately to learn the steps, I watch my two great-aunts, both in their 80s, dance like pros on the dance floor. I see old men, my uncles and aunts, teenagers, Ashling's and Ian's friends, all dancing, laughing, singing along. "My god," I think, "it's just like Chicago."
I leave Ireland a day later with so much love in my heart; for my new family, for my old family, for Ian and Ashling, and for love itself. Love for the sake of love. This? This was a damn good trip.
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