Ireland, Love and Butterflies

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Miracle of Love

Michele Brouder

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When you love someone, all your saved-up wishes start coming out.
~Elizabeth Bowen

On my first trip to Ireland, I was drawn to the magnificent scenery, as well as the greenness and the hospitality of the people. But it was more than that. I also felt a sense of belonging that I felt nowhere else, not even in my own hometown. When I left that island, I whispered a prayer: Please show me a way to live here.

Once home, I began planning for my next trip. At the same time, I was introduced to vision boards as a tool to bring about something in my life. Taking photos from my trip to Ireland, I created a vision board entitled “Irish love.” I included pictures of the Irish countryside along with a tall, dark-haired Irishman. I chose an image of a butterfly as my personal symbol and placed it in the center of the vision board. The idea of both metamorphosis and beauty struck a chord within me.

At the time, I was in my mid-thirties, single with a nice career. I had never lived outside of a five-mile radius from where I was born. I traveled a lot, but I always came home. So this dream to live in Ireland was pretty big. I carried on with my life, but I continued to gaze at my vision board. It made me happy. Sometimes, when I looked at the images on the board, I would get excited as if it had actually happened. I began to imagine myself living in the west of Ireland with the love of my life.

One year later, my friend and I returned to Ireland. Curiosity and perhaps a little bit of hope led us to the tiny town of Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, in mid-September 2001. We had heard about the traditional matchmaking festival that takes place there for the entire month — a remnant from years past when farmers came to town at the end of the harvest to choose a wife. Appropriately, we found ourselves in a pub called The Matchmaker early Sunday evening. My friend had been asked to dance, and I was left standing against the wall. I happened to turn around and noticed a very handsome man entering the pub. It was just like in a movie: He was tall and dark-haired with the golden light of the setting sun streaming in around him. He took my breath away; it was like being hit with a bolt of lightning.

Trying to shake it off, I turned back around to watch my friend being twirled around by an able Irishman. It wasn’t long before I felt a tap on my shoulder and came face-to-face with the man himself — Mike. He asked me to dance. Eventually, we ended up in the lobby of the adjoining hotel sitting on wicker furniture while a ginger cat slept lazily on one of the chairs across from us — oblivious, as we were, that we were at the beginning of our relationship.

Through the course of the conversation, we discovered that we had both been to the Cliffs of Moher and the tiny village of Doolin that day at the same time, but we hadn’t seen each other. Mike admitted that he had seen me in a restaurant earlier. Later, he saw me walking down the street and going into the pub, so he decided he was going to make my acquaintance. He was an Irishman who had spent many years living and working as a carpenter in New York City. I was from Buffalo, which is at the other end of New York State. He spoke of his love for America, and I told him about my love for Ireland.

I soon left, telling him that I was returning to the U.S. on the following Friday. He nodded in his quiet, thoughtful way and asked for my address and phone number. It had been a magical night. My friend and I left early the next morning for the next stop on our trip. The following day, as we made our way through the rain on the remote Aran Islands, we heard about the terrorist attacks on New York City. We were one of the first flights out of Shannon to Toronto on Friday the 14th. Despite our wonderful trip, we were anxious to get home.

On Sunday night, Mike rang my house. He said he was worried about me, and we talked for hours. We spoke on the phone every night thereafter and wrote letters until he decided to move back to New York City in October 2001. With only an hour plane ride between us, the relationship became more manageable. Unlike other guys I had dated, I knew he was the one. I couldn’t explain it, but I just knew there was no one else for me. We married in 2002.

We had two sons over the ensuing years. In January 2006, we made the decision to move to the southwest of Ireland where Mike still had his home. Things were a whirlwind after that, packing up and shipping things, and the time flew until the day we departed at the end of April. When the plane touched down, I was overcome with doubt. What had I just done? I had never lived away from my hometown, and here I was moving 3,000 miles away!

We arrived in Ireland and received a big welcome from Mike’s family. They had been anxious to meet me and our little sons. Mike’s sister took us over to the house. It was a typical Irish farmhouse, and it had been in Mike’s family for ten generations. He had lovingly maintained and updated it before he left, and his sister had kept on eye on it for him during the past five years.

When she opened up the house, we carried our children into the place that was going to be our home for the foreseeable future. As I stepped into the sunlit hallway, I was greeted by three bright blue butterflies fluttering around. Immediately, I was reminded of the vision board from so many years ago depicting my dream to live in Ireland and marry an Irishman — with the image of a butterfly in the middle. My fears dissipated, and I knew that everything was going to be all right. And that house has become the home of many happy memories.

~Michele Brouder

Reprinted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC 2023. In order to protect the rights of the copyright holder, no portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent. All rights reserved.

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