One-way trip from Galway to Montreal
On the eve of his departure with his wife and kids, Cian Blake reflects on the reasons for moving a family across the world
Mark Hadden and Simon Reynolds were neighbours for years. They had zero in common, but each were massive contributors to our memory bank. They sat on our bookshelf side by side as reminders of what we once held dear. I don’t think they or us ever foresaw the day they’d be swept off into the cardboard box bound for the Vincent de Paul.
Maybe I will be running after them down the road shouting ‘come back come back’? Or maybe I’ll be moving on so quickly that we won’t.
I have very mixed emotions at going but the overriding one is of a quick slice, a clean break with a laser sharp knife. Move on, move on, as a colleague catchphrased, accompanied with a hand wave and an eye roll.
I have a fear of the kids growing up in a house with no books, no CDs. But when was the last time I picked out a CD, checked for scratches, opened the CD player, put it in, bent down, pressed the buttons and picked a track? Probably before the firstborn arrived – pre 2008. When was the last time I called up an album from Spotify? Yesterday. It’s a transient data society now and if it’s not on the smartphone or within arm’s reach, it isn’t happening.
We wake up with a combination of excitement and fear and nervousness daily now as we prepare to fly our family to Montreal. The challenges over there will be so much with ourselves and our kids there will be no time (and maybe even less inclination) to wonder where are our cultural touchstones are and how we will instil that into our kids.
Why are we doing it? We are doing it to give ourselves a chance at taking a risk for once on our lives. We want to be able to look our children square in the face in 2043 and say yes: we took a chance and we jumped. We understood the risks, we looked at options, we evaluated and decided and compared until eventually we snapped the cord and hopped out.
Dates are fixed now. Flights are booked. One way, no return box checked. Day by day it becomes more real as small items are ticked off the list: clear the attic, buy the paint, empty the shed, find the birth certs, ring the school. Slowly the realisation dawns that our youngest daughter and only girl will start speaking with a Canadian accent. Her first words might be Mommy and cookie, not Mum and biscuit.
For parents, (as sons and daughters of Sligo and Dunleer), this gives us pause for wonder. Sometimes we look at her and her brothers and wonder: is this really fair, or are we satisfying ourselves at their expense?
And yet the 30-year question remains. This has been a guiding principle throughout this whole process: the conversation we may have in 2043 when the house echoes to the last slammed door and the youngest has been sent off to college on why we didn’t move when we had the chance. The point is the reasons proffered then for not moving and doing nothing are simply unacceptable to us now.
“Children are too settled”: they’re not, they’re too young.
“Too far away from home”: home is where we are immediately as a family. It’s not a soft screen, green-tinted memory clip of TK lemonade and sandwiches from the back of a ’88 Nissan Prairie. We make our own memories for our children as parents.
“We mightn’t like it”: we won’t know unless we go.
Very little is completely unknown today. Data floods downstream pushed by Skype, Google, Facebook, email. I can walk the yellow man on Google maps from my new Montreal home to my new Montreal office, look left and right, check traffic, and find alternative routes from my bedroom in Knocknacarra. Michael Moore refers to a sense of fear enveloping America in “Bowling for Columbine”. It is this concept of general foreboding around the unknown we want to drill out of ourselves and our children. Where’s the need? What are we afraid of?
If we achieve nothing else in the next year, that will suffice.