EMIGRATION OR IMMIGRATION OR MY MOTHER IS WHY I WRITE

I was asked in a blog interview why I write. I didn’t know. Why do I write? When did I start? After some thought I realized, it’s my mother’s fault. (Isn’t everything?) Emigration from Ireland can cause writing, be warned.

Aside: You emigrate from and immigrate to. i.e. She emigrated from Ireland. She immigrated to the United States. Drives me crazy when people get that wrong.

When I dragged my children kicking and screaming from Ireland to the United States (we are a family of four back and forth, back and forth generations so far – starting with my grandparents who tried America and went back), they had the internet and cell phones to keep in touch; email, texting, Facebook, tweeting. Not so in my day. We had the post office. There was no internet. We had no cell phones. For a while, not all of us had phones. And even if we did, you didn’t make transatlantic phone calls. Long distance was bad enough. I know when the first transatlantic call happened in my family. 1980. I was in the US having a baby and my sister was in Ireland. So what did we do?

We wrote letters. Some of us wrote letters that were more like postcards. But not in my house. See, money was tight for us stranded in the US. My father had died and left my mother with two young children and a mortgage. So she had to pinch pennies and that carried down to something as small as the mail. She figured out the cheapest way to keep in touch with home were these airmail flyers they used to have. It was one sheet of paper with tabs that cleverly folded up to mail. So for the price of an airmail stamp (the flyer was free you paid only the postage printed on it), she was able to cut out the price of writing paper and envelopes. But you were not going to waste even that much. So no postcard long letters for us. You wrote small, you wrote neat, and you covered every square inch of those mailers with your letter. Weekly.

My sister quickly rebelled. And my mother got lax through the years. Her sister in Ireland was better sending letters to her than she was at sending letters home. But I kept it up. It was never a chore – although a bore to those on the receiving end, I’m sure. And soon the mailers were not enough. Spendthrift that I was, I would write pages and pages of my boring life, regularly, paying extra postage over the price of an email stamp. I still do it. One aunt in Ballaghaderreen is not online and just received four pages along with a copy of my book (on sale today in paperback so grab it now). So that is really the only explanation for why I write. It started with the letters and became a habit.

My mother, who started it all, finds the book concept confusing. She turned my book over and over in her hands. Why would you write a book? And you’re writing another one? Yes, Mother, I am. And it’s all your fault!

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