My paternal grandparents met at such a dance. When I was young, we still had a few, but most of our gatherings of extended family and friends were weddings and funerals; mostly funerals. Our funerals were fodder for great times and stories. A time when relatives and friends from all over came together to wear black, dance green, and sing with voices of the white light of heaven. We not only told stories, but made some as well. We celebrated the dearly departed, maybe even told some of their secrets, and remembered others who had gone before. As a boy in the Bronx, it was usually the only time I saw some of our relatives who left the city for some kind of greener pastures like Long Island, of Westchester, or Nassau, or Duchess Counties, or even New Jersey (we didn't talk much to the NJ folks). It was at these Irish funerals that I learned so much of my family heritage, my sense of humor (obviously dark & dry), as well as who I was and wanted to be. Now, living in the South with only my immediate family, we've lost the gatherings.
When Stefanie and I first married, we would go to any Irish Féile we could find within driving distance. To see the many families that would come with several generations in tow was wonderful. The richness of the music, the dance, the stories, the laughter enjoyed by all--and no one had to die to get together! At home, we enjoyed her Italian heritage, while away we enjoyed my Celtic roots. Now, we only have the stories for our girls, but not the full experience. Sure, we have a local St. Patrick's Day Féile, but it is not ours because I cannot participate like I would wish to due to my disability. I long for the bonds, the sense of belonging that my girls will not know. I miss the old neighborhood, the old ways, the old men and women who have gone before me. It is most probably that longing for the past connections that makes me the family historian. Once this surgery is over and I begin the long road to healing, I will also return to my journey to the past. My present, spent working for the future and searching the past. It is a work I greatly enjoy and look forward to, or is that back to?