Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Chasing the American dream

After almost a year in Boston, Brenda Mannion and her family have fully adapted to the American way of life, but watching family events in Ireland on a computer screen is as hard as ever.

Mon, Apr 2, 2012, 10:13


After almost a year in Boston, Brenda Mannion and her family have fully adapted to the American way of life, but watching family events in Ireland on a computer screen is as hard as ever, she writes.

Brenda Mannion and family in Times Square in New York

One year ago in May, I agreed to pack up and follow my husband, who followed a job to the USA.  We seized an opportunity to escape the bad news and the doom and gloom and along with our three young boys aged 20 months to 12 years, we moved from the west of Ireland, to a small New England town in the metrowest area of Boston.


Finding myself suddenly responsible for the day-to-day running of our new American household was very unnerving at first. Making my way around the supermarket took hours and I even had to Google the items on the school lunch menu. We now know that the boys love the meatball grinder but hate the ziti, and as for the PB & J sandwich, well that never stood a chance.  In a funny way, I never felt as Irish back at home as I did when I first moved here. On a daily basis I would make many mental notes comparing just how different things were.


Here, I have a cell phone. I put my groceries in a carriage at the store, where I no longer have to bring or pack my own bags. The lady running the register is always in a good mood. She always smiles, and says, ‘hi, how are you today?’ and as I leave, even if she does say it to everyone, it’s always nice to hear, ‘have a nice day.’ I could live in my car if I wanted to. I can withdraw money from the drive through ATM, collect my prescription from the window at the drive through Pharmacy, and then collect my morning coffee from the local drive through Dunkin Donuts. As for the news, I got tired of hearing about rescued kittens and overweight squirrels, and have opted for a news-free life and over time I have even unburdened myself of the need to constantly check the breaking Irish news.


Moving here has brought many challenges but mostly we are enjoying the novelty of watching the boys encounter things in their everyday life that they used to just see on TV. The joy they found in messing with the garbage disposal, riding the yellow bus, and even bringing their lunch to school in a brown paper bag. The first photo we took here when we stepped out of Logan airport was of our eight year old, at his request, standing next to a shiny red fire-hydrant with a big thumbs up and big cheesy grin.


In ten short months the boys have been well and truly been Americanised. They drink soda, eat candy, and play video games. Anything cool is now awesome, and sometimes I am not even sure that they know their friends names because they call them dude so often. Football is now soccer and I am now mom. Every sentence they utter sounds as though they are asking a question, but it’s still great to hear familiar phrases like, ‘cop on would ya’,’ or, ‘clear off ya’ big eejit,’ even if the accent is beginning to sound unfamiliar.


On a recent trip home, and having been away for just one year, it felt peculiar to find myself at times so in my element, but at others so out of it. It was odd to find that waking to the death notices on the radio was surprisingly comforting and familiar. While we were there, I noted that the roads really are quite windy, people drive too fast, and close enough to see their get out of the way glare in the mirror. I felt very intimidated as I struggled to re-adjust to driving a manual on the left-side of the road in the rain. Speaking of which, while we were there Ireland looked grey not green. 40 shades of grey I called it. Of course, as soon as we left the sun came out and spring has sprung, how typical. Dining out with family made me wonder, why do we put up with such crappy service? Would it kill our serving staff to at least pretend that they like what they do, and utter a, “have a nice day”, every now and then. I said it to a lady who served me in the bank one day, she looked bemused and I felt rather silly.


Although I tut at the bad rep that Irish people have here for swearing and drinking, the truth is that we do swear a lot. Yes, we like a drink, and how we love a good story and to chat, chat, chat. I love that we are spontaneous. We don’t need to check our diaries or schedules, or have to pencil in coffee and a chat a week in advance. By the end of the two weeks, I was ready to go anywhere at the drop of a hat, badly needed a detox, my mouth wanted washing out, and I was ready and willing to take on Eddie Lenihan himself.


It was truly lovely being home, but saying goodbye and taking the boys from their family and friends was just as upsetting as the first time we left. It’s hard not knowing how long it will be, before we see them all again. For now, we will continue to live our new American way of life. Sundays without grandparents, quiet birthdays, and watching the boys crowd the laptop, hoping to catch a glimpse of their smiling cousins, at family events we should be at. Thankfully, we have each other. We are closer now than ever before. Ireland will always be in our dreams but, for now we will continue to chase the American one.

Brenda blogs at