No matter what side of the immigration and citizen debate one gravitates to, the inability of our nation’s leaders to find consensus has been distressing to watch. During one of our team meetings, we found ourselves sharing our own stories of what the word immigration means to us. We thought we’d share a little more about our team members over the course of time.
The immigration stories that my co-workers have shared gives me an even greater appreciation of the richness we have within the Change Matrix. Here are some stories shared reluctantly from my maternal side of the family. I always sought to know about my maternal ancestors. It all seemed so shrouded in secrecy, in comparison to my paternal side, in which tales unfolded that included many generations, locations and destinations. The very bits and pieces I could gain from my mother came after direct inquiries. I received partial responses to questions such as: Where did our people come from in Ireland? Surnames like Shannon, McNamara and Skillen were scattered throughout a conversation. The details were always missing. Why did my maternal ancestors come to this country? Were they running from or running to something? Was there a reason that we did not revisit the past? Why was it my mother behaved as if time began with this current family configuration? It was not until my mother, Mary Elizabeth, was already in her eighth decade that I could coax a bit more out of her. The curtain was pulled back in a moment of urgency on my part to obtain information from my last maternal connection that was still on this earth walk. I had to strain to hear the story, whispered, as if the telling would somehow bring a shame that one could not recover from. While she saw disgrace in the elevated status of recruitment for a position in the “new” country and a subsequent failed employment, abandonment of the family by the patriarch, the humiliation of poverty, the shame of alcoholism and the scandal of single parenting in a no Irish wanted world, I saw strength, resiliency and fortitude to forge new beginnings. Since that whispered conversation and my mother’s passing, many years ago now, additional components of the story have been revealed that confirmed the power of that decision to come to this country changed the course of generations. I go with my sister this year to meet those relatives that stayed in Ireland, to walk that land of my maternal ancestors, to stand at the edge of the sea and say, this “tara”, this stone of destiny, this earth, that I walk on has the bones of my Irish ancestors and is a part of me.[Picture above: Shannon as a young girl]