I took a trip to the “chemist” yesterday and a woman across the shop, a woman I didn’t recognize, called out my name. “Deirdre!” she shouted, with obvious affection. I nearly dropped my small bundle of purchases. Now, who was she, again? I racked my brain as she ran toward me – and then swished past me to another woman waving at her outside the shop window. Another Deirdre! I always knew Deirdre was an Irish name, but the Irish astound me with their unerring ability to spell and pronounce it without my assistance.
Galway now feels like home. I live in a neighborhood about a twenty-minute walk from the university, filled with friendly families and small children I wave to while I take my laundry off the clothesline. (Coming to Galway from a small apartment in New York, I find drying clothes outside a pleasure — though not so much having to run outside to grab it when it rains, or, in other words, all the time.) My husband and I are renting a house from a professor who is away on sabbatical for the year, and her family home now feels like ours, with a fireplace and better cookware and utensils than we ever had before.
And I’m so happy to be a student again. I spend my mornings struggling over fiction assignments, but I haven’t strayed from my previous life as a lawyer entirely; I’m writing a non-fiction essay on a legal case from Galway in the early 1900s, searching through old newspapers and university records to piece together the story of the trial. (I have come to know and love the librarians in the Special Collections department at the university – thank you Vera, Geraldine, Marie and Hugo!) I’m also taking a course on Irish theatre, where I attend a play each week and write a review of it. In October, the class went to the Dublin Theatre Festival, where I spent my evenings at the theatre, and my days hopping between museum cafés. I loved the hum of Dublin, but I missed Galway while I was gone.
Still, even now I find myself lost in the narrow, winding streets of Galway, and I often have to stop to lean against a stone wall to get my bearings. I don’t mind getting lost, though, even in the rain – it’s somehow atmospheric. The days are getting shorter, and I noticed just today that the Christmas decorations have gone up in town, an outward symbol of how quickly time is passing for me here.
I think about travelling elsewhere in Europe – my fellow Mitchells are always off to some fantastic destination, and my list of places to go is long, too – but I find there’s always a play on in Galway I want to see, or an arts festival I want to attend, or time I want to spend sitting on the rocks on the Flaggy Shore. Just as often, it’s the lure of the fireplace or a pub that keeps me in Ireland for the weekend. Somewhere where everyone knows how to spell my name.