This morning I woke up in Galway, Ireland from a sad dream. An old friend of my Mum’s was showing me the hand bag she had that was ordered by my Mum before her death and she was bragging about how she had it and asking if I received the bill yet. I was incensed with why she thought that she should be benefiting in any way from the death of my Mum – I didn’t think they’d even been in contact for at least 15 years. So, I took the handbag and emptied her contents on the road – all the way down Mum’s street (which was the street they both used to live on). It was a sensless dream, so I thought, but it started my day thinking about gifts that I rightfully earned from my Mum, and in particular the memories I have of our trip to Ireland – the first time we had both been to the Emerald Isle, 21 years ago. I knew I had to write a blog to record them as well as to recall the experience and as many of the details as I could.
Mum spent the year of 1994 working as an exchange teacher in Seattle, Washington, USA. This was such an enormous thing for her to do, and for us as a family. She was away from her aging parents and her kids for so long, and having to live and work in a whole new world was exhausting, but exhiliarating for her. When I was recently cleaning out her house, I found many, many, many reminders of that year. Keepsakes she had kept for more than 20 years. Funny that I think of it now, that she died exactly 20 years after her year in the USA.
I saved my pennies and got a loan from my Uncle, and went to visit with a one way ticket, not knowing how long I would stay. I was 22 and in a serious relationship, which was heartbreaking to leave, for an unknown amount of time. I was there for a total of three months, if only I could go back and tell that 22 year old self of mine to hang in there and stay for the rest of the year. So many more precious memories and exeriences I would have to draw on now. But, it was not to be, I had a life to return to, and Mum always knew and encouraged us to lead our own lives, regardless of how selfishly she wanted to hang on to us to make things easier for her. I really appreciate how hard this must have been now I am the mother of a 10 year old boy.
A month or so in to my trip, we had visitors, which was great fun. Dianne (the friend referred to earlier in this post) and my friend Leanne and my older brother Cullen and his wife Sylvia. Great fun and laughter was had. I remember celebrating the 4th of July, and so it was definately around this time of the year.
Mum and Sylvia had a conference to attend in Dublin, Ireland, and lucky me got to go along. Mum and I made our way there and met Sylvia in Dublin. When we landed in Ireland we found the college we were staying at and decided to have a bit of a rest. We were exhausted travelling all the way across America, transferring at JFK Airport in New York and then flying to Dublin. Funny now I think of it compared to the 20 hours of flying to Inverness, Scotland from Adelaide. So our rest turned in to a full blown sleep with a sleep in and when we woke up, the sun was up and it was 10. Wow, we couldn’t believe we slept all night and then slept in so long in the morning, but we were tired!
So off we went exploring to find some breakfast as we were pretty hungry after missing dinner.
How odd it was here, every shop or cafe we found was shut, but every bar we found was open and full of revellers. What? At 10am?? Shouldn’t people (at least some of them) be at lectures/tutes (we were at a uni after all, and I knew first hand that the life of a uni student is not all about bars and partying).
It took half an hour or so of this before it dawned on us. It was twilight, and it was actually 10pm, which is why the shops were shut but the pubs were full. Alrighty then. So, it was a late night snack we were looking for, not breakfast.
Sylvia met us the next day and for the next few days they were conferening and I was plannning the rest of our trip during the day and we went exploring in the afternoons/evenings. We had a great time. We found some great pubs, some very funny signs, some great spots for shopping and immersed ourselves in the big city life of Dublin. Then the conference finished and Sylvia went home, leaving Mum and I to explore Ireland. We had decided on a three week vacation, so we had two and a half weeks left.
Twenty years is a long time ago. I am struggling to remember details (which is why I knew that I needed to start blogging to jot down memories as they came to me). What I do know without thinking too hard at all was that it was a time where there was no internet or mobile phones. No Google Maps, no Booking.com, no Trip Advisor. Planning a trip around Ireland was much more difficult and time consuming in those days than it is now. We had to visit Tourist Information Offices and trawl through pages and pages of information and maps to work out the best places to visit, to stay and to eat. I took most of this responsibiity on happily, being the born organiser that I am (not to mention somewhat of a control freak) it suited me. Mum was loving not having to think so hard and make every decision that she had grown used to doing, living in a foreign Country, so it suited her too. So, a great deal of the time was spent by me coming up with a plan for the next few days, which way we should head, what we wanted to see and how we could get there (did we catch a bus or train, get a ferry, a taxi or hire a car)? So many options.
I have lots of great photos, which I’ll need to add once I’m home that helps demonstrate our experience. I know Mum took a photo (at least one) of me looking through travel information and she wrote a caption “My little travel organiser”. Mum and I had been referring to me being the Mum in the relationship because I was doing the hard decision making and Mum being “baby” where she didn’t need to think about anything, just follow me. I clearly remember getting to a point of exhaustion though and asking Mum to help with some planning. Her response “but I want to be Baby” to which I responded louder “BUT I WANT TO BE BABY!!!”. She laughed raucously and duly handed over the mantle of Baby, just for a little while, and I revelled in not having to think. Ahhhhh.
We had a large suitcase each, which we had to lug on and off buses, trains and ferries and in and out of Hostels and B&B’s. We worked out pretty quickly that this “backpacking” with suitcases around Ireland was not the best idea, and we vowed we would actually have backpacks next time. We both lived up to this. Mum returned the next year in 1995 by herself and I have a precious diary she wrote and she refers to the backpack she was carrying. This trip that I am on currently I was adamant (even though every person I told tried to tell me I was crazy) that our bags needed to be carried on our backs and not dragged behind us. Boy was I right. I say each and every day what a great decision bringing backpacks was as we are walking along small, uneven or busy footpaths, on and off trains and buses and up flights of stairs. Bruce and Jay totally agree and laugh every time that I say it because I was so adamant having done it with Mum that we would not have suitcases this time. I doubted myself a few times when so many people were questioning our judgement, but thankfully I stuck to my guns and we are reaping the rewards now.
Of this trip so far, this town, being Galway is the first town that I have been to before. Mum and I loved Galway and we ended up staying for three nights, which was a lot on our trip as we had a lot that we wanted to do in the two and a half weeks.
Walking around Galway yesterday, it was vaguely familiar. I recognised the train station and I knew which way to walk to head in to the centre of town. I remembered though that Mum and I stayed out of town (a 20 minute or so walk), which I believe was at Salthill, and so most of our time was spent at the B&B and the pub next door and the cafe two doors down. I remember lots of relaxing and walking along Galway Bay and the wind coming across the bay being so cold it made my ears ache. I fondly remember the guy in the pub making fun of my accent when I ordered a “Baileys” as I knew that I wanted to drink something Irish but could not bring myself to join Mum in a Guiness (even though the signs around the streets kept telling me “Guiness is Good for you”.. I remember the people were very friendly, often they would stop when they heard our accents and asked us if we were enjoying our holiday and give us travel tips on where to go and how to best enjoy their Country that they were so proud of and wanted us to love as much as they did.
Today Bruce, Jay and I are off to explore Galway our way. Nothing we are doing today will be the same as what Mum and I did, but I’m sure I’ll feel her presence each time I see a familiar building or another memory comes to me.
I am pleased that mostly the memories bring me happiness for the fact that I have them and I shared such a wonderful experience with her, rather than being overwhelmed with the the sadness I feel about the fact that I can’t share this experience with her. She would be so happy to know that we are here. It feels like it was meant to be.
But jeez I miss her.