“Busted in Ballyvaughn”
Eleven years ago, I started to turn my life around economically. However, my romantic life was still facing the wrong direction. It took another year for the About Face of the Heart to take place, for me to realize that I’d spent the bulk of my twenties in a relationship that, while fine and good on many fronts, would never fully satisfy. It was too full of emotional landmines (whoops! Triggered another one!) and divergent goals. Even though Boyfriend Of My Twenties had moved to Minnesota with me, and I appreciated that act of solidarity, things had to change.
Thus, one decade ago this summer, I was mourning the demise of my six-year-relationship. And the break-up? It had been long and exhausting and had pretty much cut me off at the knees.
At any rate, after wading through a fair amount of extended emotional upheaval, there I was. Thirty years old. Overweight. A mixture of really sad and strangely buoyant simultaneously–certain I’d never find genuine, healthy love at the same time I was glad that new, better, love was a possibility.
So I started exercising; lost a little weight; realized the beauty of feeling free.
And in response to all this? Deeply and profoundly, I knew it was time to start making my credit cards flex their personal-debt-inducing muscles. It was time to get my wounded soul a passport, mix it up with The Ladies, and take a trip.
And so I did, mixin’ it up, generationally, too. That summer, I spent three weeks scooting around Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man with my mom, her cousin, and one of my treasured girlfriends. Ranging in age from 30 to 61, we were dope, jiggy, and phat–ready to get down with the scones and the clotted cream. It wasn’t exactly dropping acid at Ozfest, but it would suffice as a heartmender.
We giddy four hit the 40 Shades of Green that make up the Irish landscape with all the enthusiasm and eagerness of, well, a leprechaun on acid at Ozfest. We saw castles. We listened to music. We got a puncture in our tyre, fixed by a lovely man named Michael (Honest to St. Patrick, his pre-adolescent daughter put on her saucy skirt and amused us with step-dancing while we waited).
We saw theatre. We ducked into Stone Age tombs.
We enjoyed an entire 15 minutes on the Isle of Skye (last ferry of the day arrived and soon after was departing). We stayed with my excellent Manx friend on the Isle of Man. We applauded a sheepherder and his border collies.
We spent some days in Edinburgh during the yearly Fringe Festival, marveling at the talent unleashed. We, my friends, had our scones.
In sum, we rocked it–me and my companions, The Mothers, in their modest, knee-length skirts, with their sensible walking shoes, tittering at the hint of a brogue.
Sure, we had our moments of stress. One morning I hopped on a train easily, wearing my backpack, and then turned to watch my mother and friend try to board, only to see their big suitcases get hung up on a stack of bikes just inside the train’s doors. As they futzed with their cases, trying to get through, the doors slid closed, and the train took off, leaving them standing, with very big eyes, on the platform. Ah, well, I mused. I guessed they’d catch up to me at the next stop. If not, I’d get back on a train heading the other direction and find them still standing there, trying to get their rolling suitcases to budge over a 100-year-old crack in the pavement. And traveling with a diabetic (my mom’s cousin) who used denial instead of insulin was stressful, as well. Every night, after dithering about being unable to check her blood sugar levels, she would order a huge dessert and then start holding forth at the dinner table in fairly mendacious fashion, telling stories that, if not completely untrue, were unfair and mind-boggling. It was only after we put her on a plane home–and she had a stroke within the next week–that we realized she may have been having a series of mini-strokes as we traveled.
But overall, the trip rejuvenated my dented self. In particular, one night in a little village named Ballyvaughn did this girl some good. We checked in to the hotel there and then headed down to have dinner in the pub. Soon after we started eating, a charming lad–that evening’s entertainment, in more ways than one–started setting up his microphone and guitar, chatting us up a bit as he worked. Amazingly, my mother and her cousin lasted through his first set or two before complaining of the ringing in their ears. Shortly thereafter, when Pub Stud took a break, he came over and suddenly transformed me into the star of my very own one-hour-television-drama by whispering to me, “Don’t go anywhere, now.”
Rooted to my bench, I sipped my pints until the last note died away. And only then did I go somewhere, in his car, to the beach, where I was reminded that there was life outside of that newly-departed six-year relationship, that I could still glimmer and shine, even at 30.
Naturally, while I was on the beach, doing my best impression of Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity at four in the morning, the fire alarm went off back at the hotel. Everyone scurried outside in their nighties and waited for the all-clear. And when my mom couldn’t find me, she started to fret. Luckily, before she could rouse the garda to start a search for my corpse, even though there was no fire at all, my galpal jumped in with a suitably-vague excuse: “Oh, I think she left the pub with some young people. I think they were going somewhere together.”
With that, me mum relaxed.
And out on the beach, with the crashing of the waves around me,
so did I.