A few weeks ago, I brought my family to the North Texas Irish Festival at Fair Park in Dallas. It made me reminisce about my semester during college as a study abroad student in Ireland. Leaving the safe confines of my Midwestern city to travel to Europe was exhilarating at the very least, and downright frightening in so many ways. Still, though, it prepared me for the numerous times I would make a new home for myself in a new city, the most recent of which has been Arlington.
Let me start off by saying, the Dallas area North Texas Irish Festival was brilliant!
There were vendors selling everything from Aran sweaters to scones to Claddagh rings. There was no shortage of beer sales, of course providing Guinness on tap for just 7 quid (ahem, dollars) a pint. (Luckily I never had to wait in queue for the loo). There was traditional Irish dancing by girls and boys, young and old.
And, of course, there were folks dressed in traditional period attire.
I’m not exactly sure WHOSE tradition that is, or WHAT PERIOD, but I guess it’s Irish…
Anyway, though, none of it compared with the music. Aah, the music was undeniably the star of the entire festival. The music stages (there were 9) were always packed and the musicians would play to a standing-room-only crowd. Hearing the distinctive music took me back to my semester in Ireland, sitting in a dark but cozy pub with a pint of Harp’s and 2 good friends, crowded into a corner booth and listening to a local musician. The Irish always appreciate good traditional music and coming to the pubs, listening to these artists share their talent, was so different than in America where the music playing in a bar almost becomes like background noise. I learned so much while I was in Ireland, the least of which was appreciating good music. But Ireland certainly wasn’t the last place I learned how to adapt to a new environment.
Living in Wisconsin, I was introduced to the snow blower. Being from St. Louis, I had never known the need for a snow blower. When my husband suggested we drop $300 on a snow blower, I quickly calculated in my head how many snow shovels we could buy with $300. Still, he insisted that we needed one. I thought, “Man, he is REALLY lazy.” Then we got snow…. and more snow…. and it was only November. 28 inches later, I didn’t think he was lazy. As I saw the snow accumulate on the ground almost as quickly as he was snow-blowing it away, I realized that I’d learned yet another lesson.
Then we moved to rural Illinois, to a town so small it only had a grain elevator and a church. It didn’t even have a Caseys. Heck, it didn’t even have a lone Coke machine for my kids to waste their allowance on. I was sure I’d never fit in there; I raced out of town every chance I got to shop at the mall an hour’s drive away. I complained to friends on the phone. My internet presence skyrocketed as I began reading blogs and uploading pictures of my miserable existence. But soon enough, that little town grew on me and I started to appreciate all the things I’d cursed before. I loved the safety of living out in the country. I treasured the starry night sky overhead, unobstructed by streetlamps and passing cars. I came to relish the quiet evenings, only disturbed by the song of crickets and the glow of fireflies.
And now, living in Arlington, I have again started over and made a home out of unfamiliar surroundings. Upon moving here in May of 2008, the heat was SURPRISING to say the least. I knew it would be hot, but I didn’t know that when the sun went down, it would still be 90 degrees at midnight. I knew that the metroplex was big, but upon driving to Northpark mall (which took me over an hour) and realizing I had not even left the metroplex, I realized I’d hugely underestimated how much bigger things were in Texas. And yet, Texas has grown on me. I love that our weather is warm enough that my kids can test out their new bikes on Christmas morning on our cul-de-sac. I love that our city offers an enormous selection of activities for my kids, from rock climbing to acting, amusement parks to museums, investigating history to investigating the stars.
Leaving one home to find another is never easy. Change can be adventurous but scary too. Once we feel that our feet are planted on solid ground, we have to open our eyes to all that a new home has to offer. We can’t whiz by on the freeway of life in the passenger seat, watching it happen as we pass it by. Our city has more to offer than I’ll ever be able to experience in a lifetime – but I’m well on my way to trying.