My full name is Micaela Erin Flynn Connery. We have a sign “No Irish Need Apply” to remind us of when relatives first moved to Newport from Ireland many years ago and how they struggled. My grandparents, although born and raised in the United States, always emphasized being Irish as an important part of their identity. I remember my Grandpy hanging an Irish flag outside our house each summer on vacation. My Pop-pop sang “An Irish Lullaby” any chance he had. With such roots in and love of Ireland, being able to share this country with my parents and sister — on their first trip ever — was a gift.
I met them early in the morning on Christmas Eve at Dublin Airport. The arrivals terminal that morning was one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. Happy tears welled up with each granny in a Santa hat, dads taking selfies with arriving kids, and tiny tired babies meeting relatives for the first time. I waited excitedly with my reindeer antlers and “Welcome to Ireland” sign.
We started our trip with Christmas in Dublin. A Mitchell Scholar and now wonderful friend, Ally, let my family stay in her apartment (we would have been a little tight in my dorm room!). I decorated the apartment with garlands and thinly lights — plus a homemade cardboard tree. Under the tree was a gift for each of my family members: a small Irish souvenir wrapped it with a card telling them all about one of the cities we would visit.
We were busy for our three days in Dublin — shopping on Grafton Street and listening to busking on Christmas Eve, mass at Rathmines Church and mingling with the folk group I sing with there, pints in cozy pubs while meeting my classmates from Smurfit. On St. Stephens day we walked through the green and had afternoon tea at the Shelbourne Hotel, where the constitution was drafted in 1922. But, the far and away favorite of Christmas in Dublin, and the entire trip, was sharing Christmas dinner with the O’Rourke Family. Maeve has become my closet friend in Dublin. It was so unbelievably generous to include us for Christmas for a fun night full of great food, music, and new friendships.
We went from Dublin to Dingle, by way of Wicklow and the Rock of Cashel (yes… not really on the way but worth the 8 hour road trip!). We visited Killarney, took a Jaunting Car around the lakes and had tea with friends who live there. We drove up to Galway, taking the car ferry over the Shannon River and stopped at Cliffs of Moher with lunch in Doolin. The trip ended in Galway with lots of live music, good seafood, and New Year’s festivities. I even managed to get in my annual New Year’s Day plunge, just in the other side of the Atlantic Ocean this year.
My family left with an appreciation for all Ireland has to offer — incredible scenery, rich history, strong culture, and lively pubs. They heard trad music, drank pints, saw beautiful sights, and drove winding one lane roads. Still, as anyone who has spent time on this island will say, their favorite moments were about the people they met here and how much hospitality, kindness, and good craic they so willingly shared.