Growing Up Irish: Giving Thanks
By: Maureen Ginley
There is something truly magical about the Fall. Something about the changing leaves, the smell of weekend bonfires in the air, and pumpkin-flavored everything makes me feel so blissfully happy, that nothing can bring me down between September and November. One of the best parts about this season though doesn’t have to do with food or falling leaves that I so look forward to every year. It’s Thanksgiving. A time spent with relatives and family members as we reminisce on the past year and express what we’re most grateful for – what could be better? I’m a firm believer in expressing one’s thanks for the people and places and things surrounding and enriching the lives we live, so this month I will be expressing the thankfulness for all of the people, places, and things that make my life as blessed as it is.
I would be remiss if I didn’t begin my “list of thanks” by singing my family’s praises. There is something unique about growing up with four siblings that are all close in age. As kids, we were each other’s first and best friends. My parents encouraged my brothers, sister, and I to explore the world and discover what our true passions were.
We spent afternoons playing soccer, baseball, and other games in the front yard. Well, Katie, Chris, Mike, and Billy played. After an unfortunate incident that ended in a metal bat making swift, harsh contact with my face, I made a graceful retirement from the Ginley Sports League.
We spent weekends going to Geauga Lake or visiting at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house, where countless cakes, pies, and loaves of soda bread were made. We goofed off and had fun. Cackling laughter was the soundtrack to my childhood years. Now that everyone is older and off at school/working awesome jobs, some would think that things may change.
That is not the same. In fact, in the years since my siblings and I have gone off to school/graduated/began working, the entire Ginley family unit has grown closer than ever. This is due, in part, to the constantly buzzing group message we’ve got going, which is littered with life updates, the occasional viral video, and of course – lots of smiley face emojis. Thanksgiving is one of the several times a year we all are able to get together and spend a day talking and laughing together, and I am looking forward to see what the 2015 celebration has in store.
Throughout my life, education has been something that’s been extremely dear to my heart. For someone that wasn’t the best athlete/dancer/artist as a youngster, I compensated for those lacking talents by throwing myself into schoolwork. Some of my earliest memories are of recess times during Kindergarten and grade school – I’d take a book out on the playground with me, explaining the photos to my friends and eventually reading the text myself. I fell in love with words at a young age.
As a kid, I think I knew exactly what a story could do, and how it could change one’s life. Now, years later, as I approach the “halfway to an MFA” point in my schooling, I am reminded more than ever just how lucky I am to be able to learn about something I’m so passionate about.
Not everyone has been presented with the opportunities I have. It is a blessing that I get to wake up everyday, go to school, and expand my breadth of knowledge. I hope to take this luck, turn it around, and work hard to make sure everyone has access to the educational opportunities I’ve encountered during my life.
Through my years of schooling and the countless extracurricular activities, I have met an abundance of silly, thoughtful, and caring people I am lucky enough to call friends. They are smart, they are unique, and they challenge me in countless ways to grow and become a better person.
Some I’ve met through classes; they push me in moving beyond my writing comfort zones and encourage me to look at all views when it comes to any given subject. Others I’ve met through work; they make me laugh during long days, cracking jokes and making various projects even more fun. And some – as you may have been able to guess – I’ve met through the Ohio Rose Centre; they show me the true light and love of the Irish spirit, and encourage me to be strong and confident every single day.
Something I’m thankful for every year, but particularly in 2015, is my Irish heritage. The pride I feel for it was heightened ten fold by my experience with the Ohio Rose Centre, but even more so by the sheer amount of information I have learned about my family and their history in County Mayo.
To know I have relatives that worked as hard as they did to provide the life they did for their children/grandchildren/great grandchildren/etc. makes me wish I had the opportunity to meet those Ginleys (and Loftuses) that are no longer with us. From the stories I have heard from my Dad, my Grandma, and other relatives, I come from a long line of strong, confident Irish men and women. The greatest gift my Irish ancestors have given me is the strength to look on the bright side of things, and I plan to make them proud by continuing to maintain this positive outlook throughout every aspect of my life.
I have a lot to be thankful for, but not nearly enough space to single out, comment on, and praise each and every individual/experience that’s help shape me into the person I am today. My life is full of love, light, and laughter, and I am so thrilled to be able to share that joy with all of you.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.