On Traveling to Ireland with your family:
~On United Flight 22 nonstop service to Dublin sit next to a cute boy around your age. Immediately get flustered; unprepared for this. Trip over your words. When he asks you what kind of music you listen to, you forget. Spit out, “you know, like The Rolling Stones.” Hate yourself. Both of your extended families will surround you on the plane complicating attempts at flirtation. Joke about the mysterious socks on the floor in front of your seat. About the turbulence and Tom Hanks in Cast Away. He’ll say he’s a nerd, you can’t see it, you think he’s perfect. He’ll tell you a little later he likes birds while he’s showing you photographs he’s taken. This is pretty nerdy but you find it endearing. Fall asleep and don’t pull away when his leg touches yours. Wonder what it’d be like joining the mile high club with him. Leaving the plane, he won’t ask for your number. Be too shy to give it to him so you can torture yourself for the rest of the vacation (/your life) about it.
~When you rent the car from Hertz, do NOT rely on the GPS. Driving overseas is backwards enough. Sit in the back, let the grown-ups drive, keep a map on your lap, and only speak when sure. Everyone over forty will be excessively irritable over the GPS debacle. Give the GPS a name for a more satisfying effect when cursing at it ie: Jill you dumb slut it was a left! Just follow the map and keep squinting to see signs. There are an abundance of cyclists in Ireland. There will be tapestries of profanity woven in honor of these cyclists. Go around them only not on a hill or a curve. Keep a bottle of water in the front seat and granola bars in the back. Don’t sleep. Stay awake and look out of the window at the fog rolling over everything, the gray consuming green.
When encountering tour busses coming down the other side of the road, do your best to mask your terror. The driver can see your face in the rearview and it doesn’t help.
~While heading south out of Dublin stop in Bray. The beach is more stone than sand. Stick your hands in the Irish Sea no matter how cold. Collect stones on the beach and put them in your pockets before spotting the sign that tells you specifically not to do so. Laugh about this with your family for the rest of the trip. Brand yourselves rebels. Throw a penny into the rising tide and make a wish. It’s stupid but that’s okay. Look for signs of it being granted.
In a church in Cork say a prayer. Start with something like, ah-ahem, “Dear God, lately I’ve been having my doubts, well actually, I don’t really know if I believe in you…” realize it’s not the best foot to start off on. Proceed regardless. End with, “I try so hard to be good but sometimes I just need help. I just need some help.” The prayers, the signs (which you always choose see when you’re looking for them), and the wishes…they all serve a sole purpose. To feel as though God, the Universe, whatever…that it’s out there listening…and that it’s on your side.
At dinner that night think of a Jesus joke and scribble it on a napkin. “I don’t know about Jesus, but I like any man who can turn water into wine.” Wonder if anyone’s ever thought of it before. Probably.
~Kiss the Blarney stone. Take picture pretending to jump off the Cliffs of Moher. Get a Claddaugh ring because you think the legend is sweet and wear it to show your heart is open. Stop on every winding road to take pictures of the views. Views that can never been done justice, not even by the human eye. Lose track of the days. Feel homesick for New York City and everything there but your life. Remind yourself to savor each and every moment. You’ll never get it back. You may never return to Ireland. Definitely not to the exact spot you’re in right this second. Not ever again. Realize that’s why people do it. That’s why they pair off, get married, all of it; to share the lonely truths of the temporary with someone they hope is permanent.
Promise yourself to accept the temporary. Learn to value it above all else. Because that is really only what is promised in life. That all is temporary. Have this epiphany while in line at the Shannon Airport, US customs.
~On the flight home, watch Casablanca. Just because.