Moving home in a pandemic: What I’ve learned returning to Kerry from Dublin
After a quick exit from Dublin to rural Ireland in March, Edaein O’ Connell outlines the lessons she has learned since moving home in a pandemic.
On March 12 of this year, I watched Leo Varadkar speaking live from Washington from my office in Dún Laoghaire.
By 11 pm that evening, I was back living among the hills of rural Co Kerry for an extended stay, although at the time I didn’t know that.
Following the now-infamous announcement that schools and colleges would close, and those who could work from home should start immediately, I envisaged a Day After Tomorrow situation. I envisioned chaos on the street. Cars burning and rolls of toilet paper being thrown into the River Liffey. Brown Thomas being looted and people cramming into pubs to get one last taste of the good stuff. I anticipated all buses and trains would be full, with people throwing babies and young children through the windows trying to get them to safety.
However, the city didn’t even blink.
I packed one small bag and presumed I’d be back within two weeks.
In September I did go back, but only to gather the rest of my belongings and make a permanent move home to rural Ireland. Being honest, my soul had finished with Dublin a long time ago but when the shock wore off, the reality of the decision was hard to process.
I love the rugged country. The hills, the smell of slurry, the people, the nosiness, and the quiet solitude. But at the age of 25, I imagined myself to be a city slicker for a while longer.
Moving home in a pandemic so unexpectedly meant I had some lessons to learn.
And now, I share them with you.
A trip to the pharmacy will make you paranoid
The anonymity in Dublin can be lonesome at times, but mostly it’s invigorating. You don’t owe anything to anyone on those streets. You are a ball of energy moving along with a crowd of other energies. But in your home place, you are someone who has been a part of the blueprint for years. They know you.
This becomes apparent in the local pharmacy whenever you present with an ailment. While I know the good people of my hometown would never disclose my medical history, every time I walk out the door anxiety likes to play a showreel of the conversation taking place once I leave.
“Do you know Edaein O’ Connell? You know the singer? Mary Lyons’ daughter… her grandmother is Peggy. Ah, go away, you do! The one with the blonde hair? She’s the braces. Oh really? You don’t?”
“Well, anyway, she’s constipated.”
You need a car
There is no such thing as a transport system in rural Ireland. There are roads, but ask someone about a bus to the nearest town and they’ll laugh in your face. In Dublin, I cursed the Dart and didn’t understand the Luas. Now I realise I took it for granted. The fate of any plan rests in the hands of my parents, who decide whether I can go see my friends or not. I’m 15 all over again and my mother is telling me I can’t wear shorts to youth club on a Friday night.
So kids, the moral of the story is if you don’t have a car in the country, you are bollixed.
You will become accustomed to not seeing people
I could freely scream and run naked around my home and no one would see or hear me. I choose not to do it but the thought is freeing. During lockdown, I saw only my parents, the dog and the cows. It came to a point where my morning coffee was met with a conversation with the dog and then further pleasantries with the cows.
Just this week I walked the roads and saw an actual person.
I nearly jumped into the ditch with the fright.
You must relearn living with your parents
If I got a shock at being catapulted back home, imagine my parents. Their youngest and most vocal child came to mix up their retirement with some banana bread and Tik Tok references.
They had their issues but I had to adjust to the religious spirit that still haunts many countryside homes. Working from home proved difficult when my mother insisted on playing mass at full volume on her iPad while simultaneously blasting the Angelus on the radio.
Guilt is an inherently Irish and Catholic thing, but its worst form came the moment my mother accosted me for not going to mass for social reasons.
The memory of her shouting “REALLY ÉDAEIN I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU CAN’T JUST GO TO MASS TO SAY HELLO TO YOUR NEIGHBOURS,” besieges me.
You wouldn’t change it
Despite the growing pains and varying obstructions, I count myself lucky and privileged to be able to stay in a safe and stable environment, while the world outside becomes more and more unreliable. I love living with my family. I love that for the first time in years my friends are all at home and the past summer felt like a teenage fever dream.
I love the air, the grass, the green. I love how the seasons move more vividly here. I love the way I see every subtle colour change in the leaves. I love going for a walk down country roads. I love knowing the beach is a 15-minute drive away. I love how everyone salutes one another. I love the silence. I love knowing that while some things change, others stay the same.
I love knowing that despite what trouble may occur, home will always be here.
And I wouldn’t change it for the world.
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