As everyone does from time to time, we clean out our attics, closets, and forgotten areas to make room for new things and our places are not over flooded with things we never needed in the first place. Yet we always find things in these places that just cant be let go because they have a little bit of magic of olden days and people we never forget. Maybe its a shirt, a photo, a ring or its a random stuffed animal you haven’t played since you were five.
For me, Its my nana’s vinyl collection.
This past Christmas season, my parents cleaned out our attic which had so many things from my nana’s old home. Since her passing in the bone chill of January 2002 we have had her stuff in a corner of our attic, away from view. We put it away as far as we could for both my dad and myself. The sting was still hurting. Many years had passed and we have slowly dug through the possessions of photos jewelry and other worldly possessions. Since these were new to me yet had a memory for others, slowly and carefully i began to ask my father what they meant and uncovering my family as slowly as they discovered the Pharaoh’s tombs so long ago. I always ask questions about who they were because of how little to no time i had with them, feeling as if they were of mythical stories and legendary tales you would see in novels.
My grandparents were of the Irish immigrants who arrived in the great depression looking for a better life from the Irish troubles of that time. They worked hard and made a good life for myself, a second generation immigrant. I always hear stories of them from my father and some kinda make me say “Ok now i know where i get it from” like my stubbornness is from my grandfather who would sit on hours outside his house in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston blasting his horn if his parking spot was taken by a neighbor, or part of my compassion and caring comes from my nana who even at age 80 plus would never forget to have a plate of my favorite cookies ready for my visit. These stories and now the newly rediscovered vinyl records finally connect me to people i never got the true privilege of meeting.
What the vinyl records mean to me, is everything. Its the glimpse i get into who they are and what they loved in life. These simple vinyls i got to have showcase things i never thought of. With all the music of their home in Donegal Ireland, it seems as if they were home sick yet they felt rewarded with their sacrifice to come here. All the times my grandparents were told “No Irish Need Apply” and found the worst jobs to make the money to find a meal and all the times they saw college degrees and marriages and a grandchild, made it worth something. They embraced Americana and her dreams of success while never forgetting their Irish love and where they came from, something i try to embrace when i think of what they gave up to let me live a successful life. We all have that one person or people in our lives that started from nothing yet we have everything that they never had and it just makes their work all the sweeter.
As i write this post, i have one of their records playing in the background of my one bedroom apartment, getting me misty eyed every other song. I missed them everyday, especially after these 17 years, these records to me seem to be a gift stowed away for safe keeping until i needed them. A gift in time. In a world where we sometimes forget where we come from or who have gone on to the great beyond, this is something to remember them by. These records of Ireland dreams seem to give myself a reinvigorated sense of identity. Not just the Irishman i know i have in my blood, but what being me means. My anger, my patience, my love, my flaws everything comes together because of these simple songs that they played decades ago on a small disc to console them yet remind them of who they were.
So as i listen to these records i say to my ancestors:
Mo aingeal Tá súil agam go bhfuair tú síocháin.