In Ireland and the UK, something purple is usually blackcurrant flavoured.
In the US, purple is usually grape.
Grape is a weird flavour. It doesn’t really taste of much, just artificialness. But it’s absolutely a legitimate flavour here. Blackcurrant, on the other hand, is delicious, much more so than the tiny fruits themselves, and all the best things are blackcurrant flavoured: Ribena, black wine gums, purple lollipops…
My children, to my eternal shame, do not like blackcurrant flavour. Because they’re American.
We’ve passed the point of no return, then. Even if we moved to Ireland tomorrow – which isn’t happening, I hasten to add – they’d probably never appreciate Ribena. They’re ruined now.
Someone told me once that 12 was the magic number. If you live somewhere else for twelve years, you won’t come back. I’ve been here for twelve and a half years.
Someone else, when we were home last month, asked me if it was strange to be back. I answered, as I always do, that the weirdest thing about being back is how weird it’s not. It feels perfectly normal, and it’s hard to remember that I have a life somewhere else. It still feels like that, even now after all those years. “That’s home, then, isn’t it?” my friend said sagely.
I did indulge myself in the What Ifs while we were there, especially in my hometown, on the playground, looking around at the children my kids’ ages, wondering what it would be like if we lived there. Because – here’s the thing – I didn’t marry someone from somewhere else. I married someone from home. If we lived in Ireland those same children would still be our children. Except they’d like blackcurrant flavour instead of grape.
But then I found myself in a café avoiding the eye of a girl I think I went to school with, because I sort of hate bumping into people. It’s just awkward. I’m awkward. I’m weird. And I’m happy where we are. If we lived in Ireland, maybe I’d be awkward again, with the weight of other people’s expectations all over me again. Here, I’m free.
It’s a cliche, but it’s true: I can be whoever I want in America. It’s harder to do that in the place you came from.
Be careful what you wish for, then. It might not make you happy.