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  • Kristan Higgins

The Emerald Isle

Updated: May 5, 2022


In all the years we’ve been married, McIrish and I have never gone to Ireland, where most of his family lives. I’ve only met three or four of his aunts and uncles when they came to New York. For the record, he has (or had) 18 aunts and uncles, plus their spouses and children, and their children.

But on Friday, we’re heading to the Old Sod.

When I was in college, I went to Ireland for three weeks. It was lovely (and cold, and damp), but the people were welcoming and uncannily able to mark me as a Yank just by my clothes. I remember giving money to little kids in Limerick, because “we have no shoes, miss!” only to see them take my offering and run to the candy store, the clever wee brats. I fell madly in love with a boy named Patrick Mulligan, who said his heart would break when I left (we’d known each other all of 48 hours, but still). I stayed with a family with four little red-cheeked kids who loved me on sight, and I them. I saw the Blarney Stone, drank my Guinness, visited Trinity College and genuflected in front of the Book of Kells. I’ll try not to adopt an Irish accent, though I can’t promise. It’s not on purpose…it’s just my thing.


This time, McIrish and I will meet up with his brothers, sister-in-law, niece, two nephews and my beloved mother-in-law, Polly. We’ll have a meal with one side of the family one day, then it’ll be Easter, and we might go to the horse races, because that’s a tradition, apparently. The next day, we’ll be with the other side of the family. Then, he and I will traipse off to Dublin for a few days and do lots of touristy things—a Viking boat ride on the Liffey, a tour of a distillery, shop for pretty Irish things on Grafton Street, walk across Ha’Penny Bridge, pay our respects at St. Patrick’s and, on our last night, have dinner with the lovely author Monica McInerney and her husband, John. Monica and I met 12 years ago and became instant friends, and we haven’t seen each other since.


But mostly, this trip is about my sweet and wonderful mother-in-law getting to see her brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews again. Letting them spend time with her fine sons and three of her five grandchildren (the Princess and Dearest are in school, alas). For McIrish and his brothers, it will be returning to the land of their parents and ancestors. For me, it will be looking into those familiar faces, putting names with Christmas cards, and finally, finally meeting my Irish husband’s family.



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