Thinking Back on The Cranberries

As I mentioned last week, I was really upset to hear the news of Dolores O'Riordan's passing. I hope that her family and loved ones were able to properly say goodbye during her services and that they will find slices of peace somehow amid this tragedy. Because what a tragedy. She was so young. 

I found myself, among many others I would imagine, listening to The Cranberries a lot after hearing the news last week. I found it amazing that I remembered and could sing along with almost all of the lyrics. What was also amazing was that, despite knowing them, I had never had fully paid attention to the lyrics. Not properly anyway. Many of The Cranberries' lyrics are so sad. So complicated. So grievous. Dolores O'Riordan clearly had a great capacity for vulnerability and experienced life's highs and lows with a great intensity. 

I didn't appreciate it at the time, but Dolores' lyrics and The Cranberries' music really buoyed me through my teenage angst years. I owe them so much gratitude. 

For example: 

Something has left my life, 
And I don't know where it went to
Somebody caused me strife, 
And it's not what I was seeking. 

Didn't you see me, didn't you hear me? 
Didn't you see me standing there? 
Why did you turn out the lights, 
Did you know that I was sleeping? 

Say a prayer for me, 
Help me to feel the strength, I did. 
My identity, has it been taken? 
Is my heart breaking? 

On me, all my plans fell through my hands, 
They fell through my hands.
On me, all my dreams,
It suddenly seems, it suddenly seems, 

I had never noticed that she was singing the word EMPTY in that song, which is of course the title of the track. That is at once embarrassing and somehow sweet and innocent. And it's also understandable because as a teenager, I listened to this album on a CD, so I didn't see the track title on the screen in my car or on the screen of my phone. It just said "05" on my Sony boombox. But as an adult, I'm surprised that Dolores O'Riordan could write those lyrics in her early 20s. I find myself in awe and appreciative of their poignancy. 

And then there's the Ireland factor. When we moved to Dublin when I was 7 years old, it was the first time I'd ever been on a plane. It was a year and a half after my dad died when my mom decided to move the family to Ireland! And as it turned out, all it took to be completely whole again was getting on a plane, flying up into the air and landing somewhere else. In Ireland, I was invincible. No one knew my dad had died of cancer a few years before. No one thought of me as that poor child who lost her father. There was no pity anywhere. And on top of it, I was the American girl. I had an accent (for a while anyway) and I was novel and exciting. It was heaven for a bereaved child. 

So when we left Ireland, following my First Holy Communion with my classmates from the Dominican Convent School in Dún Laoghaire; and riding the Dublin City bus home from school each day; and my best friend Sinead from school; and my First Holy Confession; and Christmas the Irish way (lots of nuts and mandarins); and pneumonia and house calls from the doctor; and watching I Dream of Jeannie after school; and going to the chipper; and hanging the laundry to dry on the radiators; and sleeping by the fire in the living room when the boiler was out; and watching my mom desperately try to light a coal fire with rings of newspaper like the neighbors; and playdates with Karen and Emma, neighbors down the street who were Catholics from The North and had moved to Dublin after their grandfather was shot point blank upon opening his front door one evening when the bell rang; and standing on an old coffee tin to watch the tinkers beyond the back garden wall; and sneaking past the bus driver to save my 25p to spend instead on candies at the little shop across the road from our house; and the brilliant, dazzling rays of sunlight streaming through the clouds when they parted long enough for the sun to break through; and the wonderfully heady smell of peat smoke; and the wet, grey almost-rain-drizzle that hung low over everything and made it all so green. When we left all of that and that life we had established, I was devastated. 

I remember sitting in the upstairs hallway of our house waiting for the taxi to come take us to the ferry and feeling a pain that could only be described as "a tiger inside my stomach." I remember so clearly saying "It feels like a tiger is in my stomach." If that pain could have made a noise, it would have been a primal, screeching, destructive roar. And it was inside me. I was 8 years old.

Less than a decade later, as a high schooler in Oregon listening to The Cranberries, Ireland seemed so far away as to not even be real. Ireland had been this huge, significant, shaping force in my childhood and yet it didn't feel like something I could claim as my own. Once I had regained my American accent and way of life, Ireland receded into the realm of distant memories and dreams and seemed as if it didn't exist at all. I clung to those dreamlike memories and I longed for that time and in some small way, Ireland always felt alive through The Cranberries' music and Dolores O'Riordan's lilting Celtic vocals. It was a quiet savoring. Like a link to something I had lost. All of this came rushing back to me while I was listening and singing along to The Cranberries last week. Music is mystical like that.

So I wish Dolores O'Riordan's children and family and mother great courage and strength as they navigate their grief. And I send so much love to them and to all of Ireland as they mourn the loss of a great.


  1. As a Dubliner (living in Switzerland), I loved reading about your memories of Ireland. I remember well that time when I dream of Jeannie was the US series on every day after school (we used to eat our dinner off our laps while watching!!). I think it was Sky who used to put on the entire run of old American shows in that slot every day. That's how I got to see The Flying Nun, Bewitched, Three's Company, Family Ties and loads more! Ha.

    I'm curious - is your mam Irish (I think you've written about this before, but I can't remember) and is that why she chose to move you all there? And where did you go after that?? You mentioned you lived in several countries as a kid. Fill us in!!

    1. Oh this completely made my day to read! I love that you remember watching I Dream of Jeannie, too!!! I also loved Bewitched, but I think after Jeannie finished up, they went on with the The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and I was not a fan. How hilarious! That was definitely a bright time in my life. I loved living in Ireland. So, no, my mom is not Irish. She just wanted to get away, I think. She did her Montessori course for 3-6 at Sion Hill which was the reason we went there. We were supposed to stay two years, but we left after one. My mom ended up finishing her Montessori 6-12 course in Toronto and Cleveland. So after Dublin, we went to Toronto. Then back to Spokane (with a couple summers in Cleveland) and then after a few years, Portland, Oregon, which I where I graduated from high school. That's so fun that you're in Switzerland now! Do you like it? ;) Maybe someday we'll have a chance to meet for a coffee or a pint in Switzerland or Dublin. xoxo

    2. Oh yeah, The Ghost and Mrs Muir! Ha, I'd forgotten about that one. I think that must have been about the only one of those shows that we also skipped. What a great experience that must have been for you all. And so brave of your mam! I guess all of those moves might also play a role in your current state of "fromlessness"...

      We have been in Geneva for 16 years now and are in the process of applying for citizenship (mainly for our kids who were both born here). We have a very good quality of life it has to be said (including garderobes everywhere we go!!) and it does now feel like home, but it can also sometimes feel a little erm stiff and it’s nice to go back to Ireland and loosen up every now and again!

    3. There is nothing like loosening up in Ireland! Really.....nothing. :) :) :) One of the loveliest places on earth for feeling like yourself and feeling free. I love it so. Can't say I know much about Geneva, but from what I've experienced, it's much wilder and freer than Zurich. HAHAHAHA! ;)

  2. I have never been to Ireland but will go one day. All the people in these mountains where I am from were once 90% Scot Irish. I'd love to see how it feels for me there.

    Your descriptions really created a feeling of being there. Interesting where everyone's childhoods have taken them.

  3. Aaahhhh! The Cranberries are what got me through 6th and 7th grades! I will have to do some next time I go out to karaoke ;) I loved reading about your time in Ireland, btw!!

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