Friday, November 9, 2012


I've mentioned before that this is my second time living in Northern Ireland for a period of time.  The first time was twelve years ago and what now seems like a short period of time - four months.

I was twenty and in love with a boy I had only started dating three months before I got on the plane to start that adventure. He got on a different plane for Costa Rica.  I thought my life would end.

Of course that's not true...I knew I'd be fine and I like to think I knew I was going to marry him before I even got on that plane.
I learned a lot about myself during that adventure.  I learned that I was independent and that I actually loved the place I was from - Middle America.   I learned that I needed to be more patient with people and to allow grace in my life. 
The diamond

I learned how to do things by myself.  I learned how to spot a rainbow coming and how to keep your jeans dry in the rain.  I learned what Corrymeela was, and about conflict that was still so fresh.

 The things I learned during that season of my life are so dear to me that it has taken me until now - over a year since the day - to return to the city I called home while I was here.

I wasn't scared of what I would find.  Rather, I had this preserved memory held close to my heart and I just wasn't sure I was ready to share it.  To be honest, I wanted to come back to the city on my own, or with the people I had come here with many years ago, and are still dear friends of mine. 

 But time finally won out and I made my big homecoming journey.

It all began because I was looking for fun Halloween-related things to do with the boys and I stumbled upon an amazing dinner, breakfast, and hotel deal for one night.  I told myself, "Self, it's time to suck it up."  I packed up my kids and husband after work on Friday and made a beeline for Derry.

There were no bells or whistles.  Nobody even noticed I was there.  In fact, my kids got more fanfare than I did.  We spent a lot of time in the hotel room, because for some reason my boys LOVE a good hotel room.  There was swimming (which is a rarity in hotels here), movies, and delicious food to be had.

When we finally mustered up the gumption and the wits to leave our hotel room, we walked the city walls I had walked 12 years ago.  I talked about all of the millions of things I remembered and forgot.  I kept remarking on how things had changed.  12 years is a long time in the life of a healing city.
The Bogside as seen from the walls.
There were times when I felt as though the city had changed while I had stayed the same.

And then I remembered what I was like when I was 20, and I knew that was just crazy talk. (I prayed it was crazy talk.)

 When my husband finally got tired of me talking mostly to myself about things he didn't care about, we finally made our way into the mall for the kids' festivities that had drawn us there in the first place.  (Strangely, the mall I had remembered quite well.)

  There was face painting, and games, and in the midst of all that, an epic tantrum, but I will remember the experience as full and lovely.  I will remember how Liam knew immediately, before we even saw the face-painter, that he wanted to be a tiger.  I will remember Super Miles' brief identity crisis when he decided he so-desired the face of Spidey-guy. 

When it was time to leave I wanted to make one last stop.  I wanted to see Nelson Drive and the house I stayed in.  My husband slowly made his way across the bridge following my directions - based completely on memory.  As he navigated the streets I slowly took in the route that was so familiar so long ago.  I pointed out places that meant nothing to him, but so much to me.  As we got closer I grew anxious for no reason I could identify.

When he turned onto Nelson Drive I was silent.  He finally asked me questions and I didn't feel like answering.

I don't know what it had been through since our lives had last intertwined, but I hoped desperately that I looked to be in better shape than this place I once called home.  I wish I could say it was exactly how I remembered it, but it wasn't.  I wish I could tell you that I knew exactly which house was mine, but I can't.  I wish I could tell you that in these more peaceful times it has flourished and blossomed, but it hasn't.

It's funny how anti-climatic it all seemed at the time, but in the days since I can't get it out of my mind.