Summer Holidays at Home in Donegal
Donegal was a great place to grow up. I lived just a couple of miles outside Carndonagh in the town land of Cregnahorna. When I finished school I worked as a manager in the Ballyliffin Hotel. I really enjoyed working in the hospitality business and loved meeting the guests from all over the world. A few of the girls I worked with were talking about applying for the Morrison visa, and I thought it seemed like an exciting opportunity. When I got news that I had been successful in my application my emotions were a mixture of excitement and nerves, was I really moving to the USA? Yes I was, but not forever I told myself. It was a tearful goodbye to friends and family but I looked forward to my new adventure. Quite a few of my friends that I had worked with had already moved and settled in New York so at least I knew I had lots of places to stay.
Upon arriving in New York I headed to Maspeth to a friend from Buncrana. I eventually settled in and found a job quickly with the help of a friend. After some time New York became home and I was happy, but every year I made the trip across the Atlantic to beautiful Inishowen. I would look forward to it for weeks and usually went in the summertime, so I would have at least a chance of good weather! The long summer days in Ireland also appealed to me because in NY darkness fell at 8.30pm even in the height of summer.
Even though New York is known as the culinary capital of the world, nothing beat my Mothers cooking, and I looked forward to her legendary fry’s and Sunday roasts. A nice big pot of tea and brown bread sealed the deal!
My summer visit home usually coincided with the Clonmany Festival. It was great to catch up with friends and family and have the craic. The pubs would be heaving with locals and visitors making for a fun filled atmosphere. But the visits would be over too soon and I would be US bound once again.
As my background was in the hospitality and service I worked in Irish restaurants in NY and this is how I met my husband James. He is from Long Island. When we got married there was no question as to where the wedding should be, in Ballyliffin, Co. Donegal of course. Over 100 of our friends and family travelled from the US to celebrate the big day. It was quite a challenge planning it from over here but thankfully my sisters were an enormous help. It was a week long celebration. The wedding reception was held in The Ballyliffin Hotel with over 300 guests and was truly beautiful, we took amazing photos on Pollan Beach and even the weather co-operated.
Nowadays our family has grown, we have two kids, Emily 7 and Liam 5 and we live in Astoria NY. We take them home to Donegal every year and they love it. It is really important to me that they experience and enjoy where I grew up and see all the beauty that Donegal has to offer. It is such a treat for them to be with my family and many many friends. They have so much more freedom to play compared to New York. There, space and time constraints are sometimes an issue. Donegal is much more laid back and easy going. Fortunately I never feel too homesick. I have a lot of Irish friends here many of whom are the original group that came here in 1994/1995. They have settled in upstate New York and the Jersey Shore. I also have my cousin and his family that live a short distance from us.
This year we are heading to Ireland late July - early August, just in time for the Clonmany Festival. Nowadays when I meet up with my friends there, they also have kids and families. I guess life moves in full circles. I sometimes wonder where my kids will choose to live in years to come. I can't imagine what it would feel like for them to move away, like I did. People often ask me would my family and I ever move home to live and I always say, there's always a possibility!