He's Irish-American too

Obama I mean, who earned an honorary apostrophe this week in Ireland.

Why did his words and the very sight of Michelle and him moving through the crowds move me so? I'm not sure. What Ireland's gone through recently. But deeper than that, my own longing to go home--to Ireland and to an unabashed acceptance of myself as Irish (half) and white (full).

White guilt again...hello old friend. Healing around that is the healing next in line I think. Because I'm living in Cohoes NY, cotton mill town that siphoned potato famine survivors, preferring (the mill owner Robert Johnson is said to have said) lone mothers and children as workers. Easier to manage. The spirit of the place, the stories, the wrecked and (fewer) thriving descendants of the mill workers surround me. I want to write about them, this time. Or, is it, for them?

Seeing him in Ireland, hearing him speak the tongue my grandparents rarely let me hear them speaking--the banned language--something in me connected. The one who'd always loved Black culture and courage, who found in it a way out of personal victimhood, met the girl who longed for "my old Irish home, far across the foam." Who in her longing reached not for a place but for a people--someone to be part of, to be proud of, to be strengthened by.

I don't know how my grandparents and great grandparents got by. No one's told me. The Irish writers are love are mostly of the upper classes. I value their art. I believe historical tensions and horrors compressed them into being--Swift, Joyce, Becket, and the great modern poets.

If it's not too late, I want to come home, too. And help tell the stories.

My grandmother had died suddenly and fairly young. I found a thick '78 in her closet and played it all one summer. Ballads and hornpipe tunes, tap dancing like snare drumming, long lonesome cries for home.

It's old ground, the immigrant stories. I'll make them new. I'll find a way. Is féidir linn.