For our first trip abroad, Mom and I took a Pub tour of Ireland in early June, 1997. Now, those that knew us at that time would not have taken us for pub goers, but we threw caution to the wind and went anyway. Early on in the week long journey, our bus barreled along on its merry way, bound for the Cliffs of Moher. I had unwittingly been mistakenly referring to the landmark as the Cliffs of Mohair, but as our guide schooled her captive audience in lore, I acquired the true pronunciation, which sounded the same as ‘more.’ Very glad for the correction without having publicly stumbled on such an obvious misinterpretation, I listened intently as the guide, Jennifer, went on to describe the naming of ‘Hag’s Head,’ largest of the outcroppings off the cliffs.
According to ancient local legend, the mythical superhero of Ireland, Cuchulain had battled and defeated his archrival here, known as ‘The Hag.’ The tour guide also included a disclaimer, explaining that unlike in the US, natural Irish monuments, even when preserved in national park form where not augmented with safety features such as railings. Evidently the Irish felt that it was for the most part obvious not to walk off a cliff, much less one looming hundreds of feet above waves as they crashed against the rocks. This was, of course, in contrast to the American sentiment of litigation, in the spirit of McDonald’s mandated ‘Caution: Coffee is Hot’ warning. As Jennifer foretold, no railings were in sight, and though she had warned that rock still broke off and fell into the sea below, many people walked up to the edge or lay down and crawled close enough to look over. This was not the case for Mom or me, we were busy walking up and down the stone walkways soaking in the views as much as possible. It began to sprinkle while we were looking off to the Aran Islands, one of which was an upcoming destination on our Pub Tour. The wind was strong, and Mom began to get chilled, though by the tour guides were trying to wrangle everybody up to get back on the bus anyway.
We all still had to bus back to Galway that afternoon to check into the hotel and make it to dinner.
As we drove along the scenic Atlantic coast, we segued through a strange land of rock, called the Burren, which looked quite like one might imagine the moon were one riding along the moonscape in a NASA dune buggy. Our crowd of tourists was mostly quiet, some snoozed, and Mom snuggled as deep into her winter coat as she could. At long last we arrived in Galway and checked into their accommodations, The Imperial Hotel on Eyre Square. “Just like Jane Eyre,” I thought to myself, too embarrassed at my own cliché to speak aloud, but enjoying it nonetheless.
“So, guys, once you’ve dropped your baggage off in your rooms, we’ll do a quick guided walking tour before coming back to the hotel so everyone can get ready for dinner. Meet back here in 15 if you want to do the walking tour with us, it’ll take about an hour.” Jennifer didn’t need to speak louder than usual, she had one of those authoritative, redhead voices that sort of commanded attention on its own.
As Mom and I rode the lift up to their assigned quarters, Mom was clearly downright cold. Mom has an epic history of falling ill at the drop of a hat, and she didn’t want to miss a moment of this trip of a lifetime, so she told me, “I’m going to stay in the room and try to warm up while you guys do the walking tour. You’ll catch me up on anything good that I miss, right? And there’s the city tour on the bus tomorrow…”
“Sure thing Mom, you put on some fresh dry clothes and warm up, then we’ll get some dinner later and you’ll be good as new.” In truth I was happy for a chance to have some time alone, even though I’d still be in the tour group. After all, Mom and I are great friends and got along surprisingly well for a mother daughter combo, almost Gilmore Girl level, but I need some time now and then, and probably so did Mom.
The walking tour was fun and witty, and before I knew it they were back at the hotel with instructions to be ready to leave for dinner in an hour. “Plan on staying out a little tonight, ‘cause there is great craic at the place we’re going,” Jennifer said and everyone looked at her like she was crazy. “No, not ‘crack,’ c-r-a-i-c, Gaelic for ‘fun,’ pronounced the same as crack but without the actual drug.” Jennifer clarified.
As I rode the elevator lost in thought, a mellow tone sounded my floor, and I hopped off still rummaging through my pockets for the room key. Apparently my approach had been on the quiet side, for as I ever so gracefully barged into the room, I found Mom, wrapped in not one but two hotel comforters, blasting herself with the hairdryer plugged into the bathroom outlet while she perched on the foot of the nearest bed. Upon further inspection, I noticed that my mother had unpacked her suitcase and donned nearly every warm garment she’d packed under the bed clothes she was wrapped in. And although I really didn’t mean to, I couldn’t help but crack up laughing. It really was the most ridiculous thing I could ever remember mother doing up to that point, and before I knew it, I was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down my cheeks.
Mom clicked off the hairdryer, and quickly stammered an explanation that she simply could not get warm enough, but soon she too was caught up in my laughter, as I gasped to describe the scene in between gales of giggles. And when our laughter would start to die down, one of the us would start to giggle again, and then we would both just crack up all over again. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to outright laugh at Mom, but it was just so funny. And, it seemed, the laughing and giggling and carrying on was having the biggest impact thus far on Mom’s quest to get warm, so I guess you could say, 'Mission Accomplished.'