Mom and I are driving through the rain.
It's just after ten, and the sun is setting in that glorious burn which only happens over the city skyline - rain is falling, unnaturally heavy rain, and it's me and Mom in a car, trying to get home. We've just had Christmas dinner; it was a rich meal, too filling, and the heat from the fireplace shimmered in ice and crystal, tinsel on the tree.
Everyone had been there - my three grandparents, all four parents, my sister, Auntie Glo - everyone but my husband, who didn't exist. Hugs all around, hugs like the low blue flame over firewood, hugs of happiness and holding on to the past and remembering how good it used to be, before I grew up and could see.
Outside there was an Englishman with a beard and a cigarette, waiting to audition for some play, the long history of my life, the Shakespeare of the every day - I wanted to say hello. He didn't see me.
In the car, I explain to my mother how the sun stays up, well into the night, and how life doesn't start until ten o'clock, when raucous music bursts out into the streets, wild and unfettered. We pass a church, and I consider stopping the car right there and kneeling in the rain, outside the doors, until God lets me in again.
I say, "If I could, I would live here every day of my life."
My mother, driving in the rain, says, "I know."
It's a longing like hunger in me - so much so that once I week, in my sleep, I return there and try to find all the places I remember: a gold and chestnut restaurant on the river, a mountain where the fairies live; a bar filled with students on trad night, a market of fresh eggs and meticulously butchered meat. When I sleep I try, panicked, to get back there - I'm in an airplane looking over the impossibly green patchwork of grass, or I'm walking down the hill and past the river to Patrick Street, or I'm in a play of prophetic poetry and I can't remember my lines.
There's a part of me, a part I miss like a phantom heartbeat, which is always there.
Yeats wrote many well-known poems, and the following is one of the most famous, perhaps for its pureness, a simplicity, an image with which we can all identify, a longing for solitude and home. The poem, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," was beautiful when I first heard it, but now it holds a double meaning for me, a beauty and a truth. It's that hunger, the gnawing of a belly half-full, the meter of the tide, the thrumming of bees, the purple and bright midnight.
Dreams say so much, in myriad of frightening and confusing ways, and what my brain does when my body switches off is as much a part of my reality as my waking hours. Along with my enduring love and longing for Ireland, I know that there is fear in me - a fear that, even if my husband and I manage to get there, it won't be the same.
Yesterday I wrote about hanging on to the past, and how destructive it can be. That's good advice, and true - but no, I will never give up, I will never release, I will never come to terms with that part of my soul which is there with red flowers and sunset, with music and dancing, with magic and God and that feeling of explosions of faith and identity so ripe that I can taste it.
Don't leave me, don't leave - in my dreams I seek and seek, and I'm there, but I can't find myself. And sometimes when I'm awake I feel that way too, as memories of childhood resurface and then fade, empty.
Missing Ireland is the way I miss being little - a time and a place where I didn't understand the bad things and could put them in a box of ignorance, a box of, I'll open you later. Missing Ireland is the bronze cast of the afternoon sun on the hardwood of my parents' apartment - something warm, delicious, and sad.
It's Christmas dinner without my Grandpere, but with his shadow in the corner, untouchable. It's a stage where I've forgotten how to act. It's driving through the too-heavy downpour and realizing that my heart spans an ocean.
So much loss in love.
My mother and I are driving through the rain, and it turns to snow. Home is waiting - my sister, still small; my stepfather, patient and understanding; a family of parents and grandparents and icicles on the tree.
It's snowing. I'm not there, yet.