Posts Tagged ‘Irish Culture’

The Department Store Tree

When we were packing up the house in Atlanta and choosing what to ship to Ireland and what to put into storage for two years, I have to admit…..I was not in my right state of mind. I was on drugs. Hard, heavy drugs…..the kind they give you
when you’ve just been sliced open for the third time, while having your fourth baby. So, I did not put up the usual fight that I would have on some items. John was totally of the school of “Let’s put everything into storage and just buy everything new there”, more or less. I was more of the school of “Ehhhh…..whatever. I love Vicodin.” But the thing that stinks was that I had just enrolled in that school. I hadn’t even bought the sweatshirt yet. I had been a life-long student at “ I love my things and attach sentimental value to them” school. But not of the hoarder variety. Like, I don’t think an empty Saltines box has sentimental value, because we always ate Saltines as kids or crap like that. So, of the many, many things that we agreed (me on drugs, remember?) to leave behind was every single Christmas item. After ten years of marriage, one more living together and four kids, we had amassed a lot of great stuff. And yes, I do weed it out every year. Some things are just meant to be around for one Christmas, then into the bin they go. Others are lifelong keepsakes.

So, when we got back from Atlanta for the Thanksgiving visit, we set about getting the Dublin house ready for Christmas. Now we needed a tree, lights, ornaments, stockings, stocking hangers (the mantle is stone so nails are out.), decorations for the house, a wreath, etc. etc. We got a great tree…..about 9 feet that fits right in the front bay window of our house. Our house in Atlanta never had a good spot for the tree. We had it in four different rooms over the 5 years we lived there, including the dining room. That was a weird year. Anyway, John and the kids went out to get lights and decorations. They came back with packs and packs of beautiful things and we trimmed the tree happily. Afterwards, the result was quite stunning. But here’s the thing…..there was no emotion for me. Yeah, it was fun trimming the tree with the kids and they had a great time. But we were done in about a quarter of the time that it normally takes us. And that’s because there was no stopping as we unwrapped each old ornament to reminisce about when we got it and where and who should get to hang it. All the ornaments (about 200) came in plastic sleeves, big groups in each pack. Afterwards, I commented to John that the tree looked great, but I missed our old ornaments. And his response was “Oh, no! I love this tree. It’s the way
I’ve always wanted a tree. ….like a department store tree!”.  And so there is was. The difference between how we grew up, demonstrated in a Christmas tree. Getting the ornaments one by one, out of choice, “collecting” them over the years is one thing. It builds nostalgia. But if you feel like you can’t get all the ornaments at once, what could be greater than instant-perfect-tree? So, now I love the tree. Because it makes John happy, in that I-got-something-that-I-always-wanted kind of way. And that makes me happy. Plus, the tree IS pretty damn awesome. Matchy-matchness and all.

December 23, 2011 - Posted by gothamfamily

It’s always interesting to go somewhere new and have your notions of how life should be challenged. Sometimes this is done in a major way through politics or religion. But more often its achieved through the minutia of daily life, like food and grocery bags. For example, in Ireland the government now requires that all grocery stores charge for bags. The result is that most people bring their own bags each time. The stores all sell bags in a range of qualities and prices from a crappy plastic one for about 5 cents to a really nice woven one with handles for about $3, that Pottery Barn would probably sell for $45 as “the Ultimate picnic bag”. This is great, right? Good for the environment, etc. However, I almost ALWAYS forget my bags. Even when I put them in the back of the car for next time, when I get to the store, I have no bags. So I buy more. I will own 10,947 grocery bags by the time I leave here. But that really is a user error. So, here are my lists:

Things I Love

1. Nice, reusable grocery bags

2. Fresher produce, meat, & dairy

3. Being able to walk many places

4. The kids’ international school

5. That people get out and do stuff, no matter the weather.

6. Being able to easily get foods that are considered exotic or foreign at home (Indian, Spanish)


Things I Should Love but Secretly Hate

1. The resuable grocery bags – only because I never remember to re-use!

2. Fresher food – I have never had to throw away sliced bread after three days before.

3. Being able to walk many places – sometimes I am just lazy and take a cab anyway.

4. The kids’ international school – I feel like an outsider sometimes. Plus, I could’ve lived my whole life without hearing “Blowin’ in the Wind” sung in German.

5. The expectation that you should go out and do something in spite of the bad weather.

6. Lack of foods that I miss…..Mexican, more than one kind of sausage, mac-n-cheese.


All of this is good for me and makes me get out of my rut. But I will admit that there are days when I wish I were back in my rut. Maybe redecorating it or something. I am sure when I go home I will lament the lack of good Indian food in the grocery store and our blatant disregard for the environment with all those free plastic grocery bags. But then again, I can just bring back some of the 10,947 bags I will have amassed here. Best of both worlds!!





October 4, 2011 - Posted by gothamfamily

As these last days of the longest summer of my life tick by, I am trying to balance out the park days (days we just make some sandwiches and head to Herbert Park in the hood) and days of outings where we try to do some new activity in Dublin. Today, I decided to take Soph, John, and Lincoln to Dublinia, the Dublin Viking Museum. It’s got some pretty good exhibit areas, showing how the Vikings lived, fought, and even went to the bathroom. (The expression on the wax figure they have sitting on the Viking toilet is priceless. Someone at Dublinia has a sense of humor). But, as Sophie pointed out several times, the wax figures were “creepy” and she was not a big fan. Can’t really disagree.
Dublinia is connected to Christ Church. So, we bought tickets to check that out, mainly to see the mummified remains in the crypt below the church. Someone had told me about these and the kids seemed keen to check them out, especially Lincoln. Sophie was the most hesitant, especially after the wax figures. We wandered down under the main knave of the church to the crypt, which sounds spooky. In actuality, it was like a very well lit wine cellar, minus the wine. It had beautiful arches and several display cases of some of the church’s treasures, like gold plates and goblets. Turns out that there are no mummified people remains down there. However, it is home to a mummy cat and mummy rat that were found trapped in the organ in the 1860’s and were immortalized (even more!) by Joyce in Ulysses.
In the cheerful and weirdly cozy crypt there is also a small café to one side, with tables and chairs and puffy red velvet couches. The kids insisted that this was the perfect spot for lunch, so we sat and ordered some sandwiches and drinks. Lincoln was the first to finish his food and start acting the fool, as his babysitter might say. So I tried to sternly tell him, “Do you know whose house this is? It’s God’s house. And if you misbehave in God’s house, he is going to be very upset with you”. Normally, I NEVER pull out the “God is watching you” card. But he had just been talking about Santa and being very despondent about his chances for presents this Christmas, based on his own self-assessment that “I am always bad. I hit John.” So, I had been about to say that Santa was watching him, but then the God thing popped in my mind because of the locale. As soon as I gave my “This is God’s house…” etc. speech Soph and John looked at me and then both burst out laughing. I couldn’t resist and started laughing too .I guess dogma is more effective when the person delivering it at least believes it themselves.

August 12, 2011 - Posted by gothamfamily