When I first arrived in Dublin, I had nothing. Just a suitcase of clothes, a handful of books, and a laptop connecting me to back everything back in the states.
I had just moved out of my house of seven years. Packed everything up, sold some old bookcases and a decent couch, had a farewell party, and mentally started from scratch.
Needless to say, I was a bit emotional and discombobulated. I was in a foreign country, and needed a home.
For the first couple of weeks I lived in Dublin, Jack and Paddie gave me that home.
I had been inside “316” once before, after a wedding for Donal and Issy back in 2010. We ate and drank and sang songs late into the night. It was one of the best nights of my life, and I secretly hoped I would have the chance to experience something like it again.
Jack and Paddie are both retired educators, and had a spare room, and graciously offered to put me up until I found an apartment I liked. For nine nights or so, I ate with them, talked teaching with them, and stayed up very late drinking French wine and Guinness with them.
(Delicious AND affordable!)
Paddie offered up ideas about helping out in area schools, and Jack and I made vague plans to catch a Hurling match sometime in 2013. When I wasn’t apartment-hunting, or sometimes sleeping past breakfast (ahem…it uh…took me a while to adjust to the new time zone), I helped organize a garage and silently took notes while Jack prepared delicious dinners night after night.
Eventually I found a place near the university and moved in, but it was a bit of a disaster. I rushed into renting a place, and later discovered it was horribly damp. (It was a basement flat.)
A month later I found a new place, so all’s well that ends well on that story.
But back to 316.
(That was what everyone called Jack and Paddie’s place. Homes often get names over here, I’ve noticed. One of the little things I love.)
I had wanted to take Jack and Paddie out for dinner some evening, as a thank you for everything they had done for me during my stay at 316. But they were busy, as it turned out they were in the process of selling their home of 31 years. It was time to pick up sticks and live in the country a bit.
And so I headed back to 316 for one more night of singing and farewells.
I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of the evening, but it was quite wonderful, and I felt very lucky to have been there for the final gathering in their home. 316 had a long history of hosting extended visitors, and I was one in a long list of people who temporarily called it their home. Kind of like Sam Gamgee getting Ring-bearer status even though he had barely carried the thing.
Paddie gave me a big hug when I walked through the door, and soon I had a glass of wine in my hand. Many familiar faces from the last party were there, telling stories and laughing about the long history they had with 316. Jack worked his magic in the kitchen and piled food onto our plates.
And as the sky grew dark, everyone gathered in the front room for one more round of songs. I got to join in on the chorus of “Wild Mountain Thyme”, one of my favorites, and dug out John Prine’s “Paradise” again, at Donal’s urging. Guitar in hand, smiling and saying “I got your back on this.”
Lots of sweet, sad songs, and a meaningful goodbye to an important piece of many peoples’ lives.
I’ve started to think a lot about “what I learned” while I was over here. Sure, I learned the difference between semiotics and phenomenology, and read the complete works of Anton Chekhov, and I can now navigate the Dublin bus system like a pro. But really, I think, the most important thing I’ll take away from here is that there need to be places like 316 in peoples’ lives. A warm, inviting home that welcomes you with a big hug and leaves you with a full belly and an even fuller heart.
I used to love having parties, and hosting people in my home. But the place I have now is small and cramped and after a while I stopped inviting people over, and I also stopped wanting to invite people over.
My time spent in 316 woke something up in me. When it comes down to it, I think this whole trip has really been about me finally growing up and getting serious about life, and I would like nothing more than to one day have a place like Jack and Paddie’s. A home full of song and life and good friends and family sharing a few moments together. The light in the window for weary travelers. That would be a good life.
Farewell, 316. You belong to the ages now, but I won’t forget what I learned while I was there. And I’ll be back for that hurling match, Jack.
(Most of these photos were taken by my good friend, and very talented photographer, Elisa, and are used with her permission. Thanks, ‘Lis.)