At first I was pissed.
I trailed my friend into the cabin of the Happy Hooker, but only one seat was left. She made herself comfortable. Turning around, my fourteen year old son and I found an empty bench on the open deck of the boat and settled in for the long ride. It was a cold and cloudy day in August, unbelievable to me, having left behind 100 degree temperatures in Arkansas. But we were in Ireland and things were different here. The wind kicked up, and the boat cut through the waves. Circling seagulls cried good-bye.
Leaving Doolin, we were headed for Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands. Promises lay ahead: windswept cliffs, an Iron Age fortress, a little ride on a trap pulled by a pony whose name had to be Patrick. Then later, we’d have something served steaming hot in a china cup in a hotel overlooking the sea. It was still hard to believe we were in Ireland. As a girl, I had longed to escape my home and my parents, people for whom the American Dream was a cruel joke. The major dramatic question of my life had always been: how the hell do I get out of here? I escaped with a small measure of financial freedom that allowed a trip to Ireland and other places that only seemed to exist in the pages of books.
The rain, gentle at first, beat a staccato all around us. My son crawled under my big yellow poncho. Pulling him close, I covered us as much as possible. The boat dipped so low in the waves that water ran over the deck. A little boy next to us howled with delight. I laughed, too. I was on a boat in the rough Atlantic. My lovely son was next to me. The boat dipped again. More howls of delight. They were coming from me. The salty sea air stung my face but just as quickly the rain washed the salt away.
My friend appeared.
“I fell asleep,” she said mournfully. “When I woke up, everyone around me was vomiting.”
That made me laugh even more. I made room for her on the bench. Poor woman. She was cold or wet or had a toothache the entire trip. She could afford these things. She had taken many trips and would purchase many more. All I could afford was this moment.
As the boat rose and fell and rose again, I thought about throwing my arms in the air like people do on a roller coaster. Should I be scared? A sailor stood in the doorway of the cabin looking out at nothing. He nonchalantly swayed to and fro as though his wellies were nailed to the floor. Meanwhile, the boat dipped, the wind blew, the rain stormed. Water ran over the deck, and my feet got fiendishly wet.
It may have been the best day of my life.
Causes Sherry Clements Supports
Natural Resources Defense Council, American Civil Liberties Union, Kiva.org, Nature Conservancy, Families Intl. USA, The Innocence Project