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Moving to America: Birthplace of “Lucky Charms”

Ursula Kane, our producer / senior graphic artist, emigrated from Cork, Ireland, to the United States when she was 12 years old. She made the big jump “across the pond” when her father pursued career opportunities as a software engineer.

A century ago, the Kane family may have left Ireland on a steamship and would have been welcomed by the Statue of Liberty. Today’s immigration story involves a jumbo jet and the Michael Jordan/Looney Tunes movie, “Space Jam”.

Whether or not Bugs Bunny plays a critical role in your family heritage, you probably have a story as precious as Ursula’s. Award Productions is committed to preserving these type of stories in personal documentaries, TV-style biographies that capture emotions simply not possible in traditional scrapbooks or slideshows.

 

 

WE LOVED WHEN DAD went away on business. It meant he would return with videos from America that wouldn’t be released in Ireland for months. Then, upon his arrival home from one particular trip, he handed us a very plain looking video box that didn’t have any signs of the familiar Disney characters and fonts but instead was labeled, “Weston, Florida: An Arvida Community.” Confused, we were told to all sit down and watch as rolling golf courses and bright modern homes with swimming pools beneath clear sunny skies flashed onto the TV screen. “Well, looks like we’re moving to America,” my older sister, Dearbhla, announced.

As far as I knew, two things happened in America every day – the sun shone and you would always see a celebrity. And now I was going to live there. This even made me somewhat of a celebrity to people at school. But we were always moving, and even though America was going to be new and exciting, I was tired of being the new girl and making friends and leaving friends. And at the age of 12, even though I was being told I was so lucky, I wasn’t really sure. I suppose I was luckier than Orla, my younger sister. She thought we were just going to Disneyland to celebrate her eighth birthday up until about a month before we left. We still make fun of her for that.

Moving day came, and after a 15-minute sprint across Heathrow Airport (we’re not exactly the most punctual group), we piled onto the plane and into the gloriously comfy business-class seats Dad’s company had rewarded us with for the move. We each got individual handheld DVD players and got to choose from a vast selection of films. Not having held a DVD before, much less a personal player, I excitedly asked the stewardess for “Space Jam.” Ten hours later, when even the big comfy chairs didn’t seem so big and comfy anymore, we touched down at Miami Airport. Stepping into the heat, my brother Barry announced that he was never going back to Ireland. My Mum asked why, confused that he could so eagerly accept his new home. He replied that he would never be able to survive that plane ride again. There was no turning back now.

The first two weeks were like a summer holiday. The days were spent in our swimming pool and the nights eating out. Then, like all holidays, it came to an end, and we had to come back to reality. I wondered if it was really coming back if it was starting something new. This reality had 350 students in my grade, as opposed to the 30 girls in my class in Ireland. In this life, teachers made me read aloud at any given opportunity, and children stared at the girl with the funny accent who was obviously not one of them.

In Ireland, children wondered if Americans were all rich, outgoing, and funny. In America, children wondered if Irish people had cars, TVs, and leprechauns for friends. Even so, there seemed to be just as many Irish people in America as in Ireland itself. I was once asked where I was from, and upon answering got an excited “me too!” in response. Happy to hear I wasn’t alone, I asked where the girl was born. “Miami,” she replied. I had the feeling it wasn’t Miami, Ireland. Over time I learned so many people have great-grandmothers whose cousin’s husband’s father’s mothers were Irish, just like me.

It was interesting to think how everyone at home wanted to be American, but Americans defined themselves on what their families were before they became American. I found myself the celebrity again, but this time it was because of where I was from, not where I was going. I was the ambassador for all things Irish. I had to speak in Irish. I had to Irish dance. People were shocked I’d never kissed the Blarney Stone. I explained it hadn’t really occurred to me when it was twenty minutes down the road.

People wondered if I knew any O’Connor’s, because that was their mother’s maiden name, you know. I was something of a novelty, and because I wanted to make friends, I didn’t mind it. Again, I was the lucky one, and again I wasn’t so sure. It wasn’t fitting in, it was standing out in a way they liked. Here I was the Irish girl, there I was the American, which meant I really didn’t belong to either category. I was an anthropological anomaly. In the same way that a culture is defined by how it differs from another, I was defined by the part of me that differed from the people around me. It was like I had an Irish-American switch that needed to be controlled based on my surroundings. But I have to admit, it has come in handy.

Using this reasoning about contrasting societies, I couldn’t exist without the opposing cultures within me. Together they create the balance that defined who I have now become. I don’t know what I would have been like if I never came here, and it really doesn’t matter. I can’t imagine having stayed, and I definitely can’t imagine having been born here. Moving is difficult regardless if you’re crossing towns, borders, or oceans. Even helping my sister move down the street was a pain. But it’s important to take something with you when you go, to remember that part of you and add it to rest. I’m not just Irish, and I’m not just American. Maybe I am so lucky, because I am both.

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