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Return to the Castle Ruins
Bridget O’Connor, a 14 year old girl, is going to leave with her family tomorrow. They will be traveling to America. Bridget understands life is hard in Ireland and a better life awaits her family in America. Still she finds it difficult to accept she will leave Ireland, never to return. Bridget steps out of her house and looks at the castle ruins in the distance. She walks over a green hill and continues to the castle ruins. She remembers how she would play among these ruins when she was a child. She looks at the ocean. She knows she is going to the other side of the ocean. The ocean breeze blows through her red hair. She feels the sun on her freckled face. She turns around and looks at her house. She slowly turns and takes in the panoramic view around her. She knows she will never see this view again. She slowly walks back to her house.
Sunnyvale, California Present Day
Cathy MacGrew, the last living descendant of Bridget O’Connor, got home from another late night at work. She throws some leftovers in the microwave and watches as the microwave timer counts down. When the microwave dings she takes out her dinner and eats in the kitchen nook. As she eats she takes stock of her life. She had two failed marriages, gave up on two religions, and has a career that has gone nowhere. Despite this she knows she has to consider herself lucky. She is working and her finances are in good shape. She considers it pathetic she has to consider herself lucky. Then she muses to herself about the paradox of luck. People survive terrible accidents and say they are lucky to be alive. If they were lucky they wouldn’t have been in the accident in the first place. Then she remembers the phrase, “Luck of the Irish.” Then she laughs as she thinks since she’s half Irish, she’s half lucky.
She looks at the wall clock. She should probably go to bed but she doesn’t like the idea of coming home from work, eating something she threw in a microwave, and then going to bed. It makes it seem all she does is work and sleep. She notices the shamrock on the calendar. She turns on the television and flips through the channels. She sees one movie set in Ireland. It’s about a man who made a living by selling horse droppings. As she watches the movie she remembers stories her mother use to tell her about her ancestors. She laughs when she remembers the time her mother said to her father, “If my mother brought home a Scotsman my grandfather would have killed him.” Her father retorted, “Your grandfather and mine had a lot in common.”
An Aer Lingus commercial comes on the television. Cathy smiles, the only time she ever sees Aer Lingus commercials is around St. Patrick’s Day. She knows some channel will show The Quiet Man on St. Patrick’s Day. She hears “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” in her head, then “Oh Danny Boy”. Then she gets a feeling. She feels she should go on vacation to Ireland. She hasn’t had a real vacation since before her last divorce. Her mother always talked about taking a trip to Ireland, but she never did. None of her descendants ever went back to Ireland.
It’s Saturday morning, March 10. It’s a cloudless day. The weather forecast calls for showers in the afternoon. If all goes well she will be well on her way to Chicago by then. The taxi comes and she is on her way to the airport. The cab drives by Moffett Naval Air Station. Hanger One, the zeppelin hanger, dominates the area. She can’t help looking back at it until it is no longer in sight.
The seat belt sign goes off and the flight attendant announces everyone is free to move about the cabin but the captain recommends they keep their seat belts on when seated. Cathy is on the first leg of her journey. The plane is flying to Chicago. Cathy was born and raised in Chicago. She hadn’t been to Chicago since her mother died. Her grandparents moved to Chicago from New York. Her grandfather hoped to find work in Chicago.
Cathy waits in the terminal. She looks out at the tarmac. In the distance she sees an Aer Lingus jetliner. Its green paint job and shamrock logo on the tail tell Cathy her Irish vacation has started. She sits in her seat and a young female flight attendant with red hair and freckles demonstrates as the head flight attendant gives the instructions in a thick Irish brogue. The jetliner gains speed as it rumbles down the runway. It takes to the air. When Cathy feels the jetliner retract its landing gear she knows her next stop is Ireland.
Cathy maps out her route in her head like in the Indiana Jones movies. She spends much of the flight trying to get to sleep. She will get to say, “Good morning Ireland.” In between her cat naps her mind wanders. Her ancestors no doubt left Ireland for a better life. In school the party line was the American Dream wasn’t true for the immigrants, but was true for their descendants. Cathy takes stock in how the school teaching stacked up to reality. A member of their family was killed in the Civil War, another family member was killed in World War I and still another was killed in World War II. She was the only family member she knows about who wasn’t a homemaker or blue collar worker. She concludes the American Dream didn’t happen for her family. She knows most of the “Irish” songs Americans are familiar with are songs written by Irish immigrants who were homesick for their homeland. Cathy concludes the American Dream represents marketing at its finest.
It’s March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. She will leave Ireland tomorrow. Here she is on a bus tour of the Irish countryside. Her vacation has been wonderful. Ireland is a rich mixture of modern cities, quaint towns, and magnificent scenery. She has seen 1,000 year old castles and other structures that were hundreds of years old. Where she is they make a big deal out of a zeppelin hanger that was built in the 1930s.
The bus drives to where Bridget O’Connor lived. The house is long since gone. It is the last stop on the bus tour. Cathy steps off the bus unaware she is walking on the same ground her ancestors walked. The tour guide leads the tour over a hill with patches of green. The tour guide leads them through the ruins of an ancient castle. Cathy looks at the ocean. The ocean breeze blows through her hair. She feels the sun on her face. She turns around. She slowly turns and takes in the panoramic view around her. Cathy gets a strange feeling she has been here before.