Though of course I consider myself an American by birth and citizenship, my family has only been in America for about three generations and thus this sense of foreign culture has arisen throughout the course of life. A relation back to the mother country, if you will, has given me an identity other than being American. From my name to even some physical features, I have always felt a connection to the Irish nation. However, up until a few weeks ago I was only able to trace my Irish roots up until our arrival at Ellis Island, New York in the early twentieth century. Following an adventure through the West of Ireland, my mother and myself were able to reconnect with distant relatives: the Griffins.
As we traveled towards Limerick, my mother began to recite all the information she had remembered from a trip she had taken to Ireland nearly 34 years ago. My mother was my age at the time of her trip, and was given the opportunity to meet some of her family over here in Ireland. Decades later, we travelled to Limerick with hope of rekindling the flame of familiar relation. Luckily for us the driver, a man by the name of Liam, had grown up in the area of Limerick and knew it quite well.
Upon arrival in the city, my mother told Liam that she remembered one of her uncles named Michael had worked at the train station for nearly the entirety of his life. Liam took us straight to the train station and beckoned for one of the officials inside to help us out. My mother explained to the official her story of her uncle in which case we followed the man inside towards some particularly older gentlemen who had known Michael quite well. Fortunately because Limerick is apparently a small-city, the men inside the train station knew the Griffins personally and even had their phone numbers. My mother quickly gave her long lost cousins a call and we all agreed to meet at an old pub called The Imperial.
After about an hour and a half wait, familiar faces walked through the doors of the pub and greeted us with laughter. Two Griffins had come to join us and we began sharing stories of how each of the families, both American and Irish, were doing. Following our introductions, the two Griffins explained our family history, showing us pictures and dictating the popular role our family had played in the local Limerick society for a century.
In retrospect, the experience of meeting the family that had chosen to remain in Ireland was extremely enjoyable and fascinating. While of course the context of the experience was wonderful, the thrill of the adventure to meet the Griffins was amazing in itself. I mean the fact that we could be able to walk into a train station and ask strangers for help finding our distant relatives, and succeed was just extraordinary. As my father exclaimed several times, “If you walked into Grand Central Terminal in New York City and asked someone for help finding your relatives, they would send you down to the mental hospital!” All in all, it was an amazing experience and it was one that I shall never truly forget.