One image stands starkly vibrant against a murky background. Hands. Soft and gently wrinkled, kind and very giving. The hands of my grandmother. We called her Nana, and Saturday night was the best night of the week. It was the night she could call and we would get the treat of hearing her talk to us in her accent, one that made her always seem so vastly different. This was the time before Skype and web chats. I had only seen our beloved Nana in photos, until we received the wonderful news of our trip to Ireland.
I remember packing one night and agonizing over my nine year old appropriate wardrobe. What would my Nana think of me if I wore this sweater? Or that skirt? Would she find me unsatisfactory? She had many other grandchildren to compare me to; she did have twelve children each with their own large family. How was I going to impress the woman I had only ever spoken to on the phone? Pops, my grandfather, wasn't one to worry about. It was common knowledge that grandfathers automatically loved their granddaughters. These worries plagued me all through the night before departure, all through the eight plane rides, and only intensified when we landed in Dublin. My brothers, having already visited Ireland, had no such fears. They knew this woman whom I admired so. I worried as my parents rented the car, and we crammed in with all of our luggage.
I stopped worrying, however, when we reached the Cliffs of Moher. My mother showed us around with a gentle sort of leadership, making sure we understood every story behind every landmark we came across. Every "magic" spring and castle held its own mystical allure. She slowly slipped back into the Irish accent, becoming slightly alien to us. She became someone new, someone I hadn't known previously. We visited many places; The Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, a few castles, and even one of Ireland's Holy Springs where my mother blessed each of us.
As we came closer to Sligo, my fear and apprehension came back tenfold. My mother became giddier, and that infected each of my brothers, as my father easily drove into the beautiful village. We pulled up to my grandparents’ home, a two story house with an absolutely breathtaking garden out front. I felt like I had the entire trip, like I had been transported to a simpler time. I fussed with my outfit for what seemed the millionth time as we walked up the stone path to the wooden front door. My mother knocked exactly once before the door swung open.
Children came pouring out first, curious and chattering in that comical brogue. The boys swarmed my brothers, many of them already acquainted and picking up right where they left off, the way boys always seem to do. The girls were calmer, putting on an air of maturity, trying to imitate our mothers. They soon fell to the same curiosity as the boys, asking me endless questions about America, to which I proudly rattled off answers, most of them inaccurate. We were escorted inside and I knew it was time. I heard my mother exchanging loving greetings as we entered the country style kitchen, numerous pleasant smells perfuming the air. And there she was, dressed in a spring dress with a modest floral pattern. She was older than the pictures showed, and far more elegant. She seemed to glide when she crossed the room to gracefully kneel and hug my two brothers.
And then she turned to me, a smile still warming her face. She kneeled down in front of me and gently touched my cheek. Her hand was warm, and incredibly soft, wrinkled but not overly so. She smiled and told me that I was such a grown up girl. In that moment I saw the connection. This mysterious woman, a woman I had only ever heard before, was exactly like my mother. The way she smiled at us and gently tapped our noses. So I smiled and threw my arms around her. It's been nine years since that trip, and I still remember her hands.
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