Monday, April 30, 2018

Airborne Migrations

The trip was meant for my mother in law. It went beyond being her 70th birthday to something that motivated her for nearly a year. It was a chance for her to return home, back to the county she came from, to acknowledge those that shared her journey, and for a brief time to get all of her brothers and sisters back together again for a laugh and a pint. It was referred to as “the wedding” since it would be that kind of a gathering with the purpose of celebrating life’s transitions.
But like most weddings, you hardly get to spend time with the bride. My only long conversation with her was when we traveled from the hotel to the airbnb and she refused to believe that google maps had a better understanding of directions than she did. In the end it turns out that she wasn’t Luke Skywalker with the Death Star and perhaps could use a guidance system. She was equally unafraid to give me other guidance about all things Irish as we walked, and such is the relationship between sons and mother in-laws.
I did my best to listen.
For me the trip was more about seeing if we could take two small kids abroad. In particular, it was about David who had never gone out of the country. He was named for his Irish grandfather, and has the same thick hair and curved eyebrows as my mother in law. It was just under forty years since there was a David from the family in Ireland, half of my mother in law’s life.
David lives in a world of super heroes that I am allowed to occasionally visit. What is labeled as five minute super hero stories from a book that is well worn often become 20 minute discussions about who is on each page. He wears as much batman clothes as he can, though I do my best to limit him to only 2-3 pieces at a time. When he got upset, I started to draw super heroes for him to calm him.
The drop-offs at school became David surrounded by five of his friends watching me make sure that Aquaman had an orange shirt and green pants. Accuracy is a very important part of his world of heroes and villains, and so we spent a year making sure that I drew Superman just so (always with a cape) or Batman with a utility belt. It was a pattern of convenience since a drop-off is like defusing a bomb attached not with with a red or green wire, but with an umbilical chord. It worked and we kept going even in Ireland.
We pretended that the Dublin Castle is where Bruce Wayne lived - even though as David’s brother, Edward, pointed out it wasn’t a real castle anymore just a museum. We learned about Brian Boru and Bram Stoker, of the heroes and monsters real and imaginary. We fled the leprechaun museum shortly after the multimedia presentation on Newgrange became too spooky. We built lego ninjas and robots in the hotel. We wandered through a country rich in legends and storytellers, a kingdom of faeries and selkies where the taste of salmon could bring the knowledge of the world, and the entire time David wore his Batman raincoat complete with two pointy ears on the top of the hood worn ever upwards even indoors.
Mythologies can flow both directions across an ocean.
I thought about migrations when we went to Herbert Park, a gem of a park only a few blocks from where David’s grandfather grew up.
On one side of the park is a modern playground with the same safe slides, scoopers, and child screams as in America. On the other is a duck pond surrounded by blooming trees that looks like something Monet would draw, elegant in its silence except for the occasional quack.
I wondered if these birds were descended from the same ones that were here when David’s grandfather was a young boy. Or do these birds migrate from all over only briefly stopping in Dublin. Are some brought over and released? Where do the birds fly?
Ireland, itself, is experiencing its own immigration. None of the workers in the hotel nor the baby sitters for the nights out with the cousins were born in Ireland. The cab drivers complained about the influx of foreign nationals. The aunt who sat next to me during dinner, seemed to have in interest in Donald Trump. Things flow both ways across the ocean.
My mother in law’s father had a stroke much too young. It meant that for each child there was less money, and the distance they traveled from their home in Navan to where they settled, correlates to birth order. The first went to the states, the next London, and so on. The birthday party was a reverse migration; the youngest traveled the least to make it to Trim, but when they all arrived back with the same bushy brown hair, that David also shares, it was quite clear that though they lived in different ponds that they were all of the same feather.
There is no such geography on my father in law side. The pattern is more of doctors and writers; red heads and brunettes.
The writers came in handy for all of the toasts.
The doctors came in handy since the other thing airborne we brought with us was sickness. Everyone except me had ear issues. My wife in particular was off balance enough where I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up medicine only to find that half the store was spray on tans and pregnancy tests. I assume that one leads to another. Our eldest, Edward, was the one who needed the most help since when we arrived at Trim his temperature shot up to 104.5. His fever caused him to scream desperately at night. It was the banshee voice of true horror, and my wife did her best to make him drink ice water to cool him down.
I am still frighten of whatever shook him in the middle of the night and was glad that the fever changed as quickly as the Irish weather.
The week before we left, David changed our drop off routine. He drew a villain for me. It was the Riddler complete with green pants and purple question marks. The face had the eyes in the right place, and there was the slightest of smiles.
My wife told me he had been drawing people all day long and that he was well beyond what was age appropriate. Representational Drawing is supposed to come in much later. There was one article that said that at 3 some kids will be able to draw for 15 minutes at a time, and I wondered about David’s ability to be at the art table for a hour or two.
There is a danger of over extrapolating your child’s abilities. A kick of a soccer ball, doesn’t mean a world cup invitation.
But at the same time, I felt something that I couldn’t help - pride.
When I dropped him off at school the day after our long flight home, he asked me to draw him an Irish Ninja.
I don’t know what he will remember from the trip, but I would like to think that he remembers it as a place of legends and family myths. That he dreams of things that fly whether they are birds, aer lingus airplanes, or Superman. That he looks at all of his great aunts as part of his own tribe. That he felt this was a country worthy of Bruce Wayne.
I asked his brother what was his favorite part of the trip.
He said without hesitation “Burger King”
Sometimes you don’t migrate that far away from home.