Familiar Faces in Ireland

Posted on
Oct 10, 2012
Posted in: Random Musings

I realize that one of the most important parts of travel is embracing the unknown. We travel to strange lands and discover what is different and foreign to us, and our minds and hearts are opened.

I understand this, I really and truly do. And yet, there is something incredibly wonderful about finding the familiar in far-off lands. We encountered it during our Ireland trip, and it felt like we were somehow cheating – yes, we were traveling, but we were surrounded by friends.

Or maybe WE surrounded them.

We went to a wedding in a part of the world we’d never been to before, and sat at a table full of people we’ve known for years.

We planned it like that; it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. We would be flying in from Seattle, they were all based in London – we’d meet at Heathrow, and fly to Belfast together. There was an email thread of no less than 50 messages back and forth between the six of us, outlining the details.

And yet, seeing them all, sitting around a table at a cafe in Terminal 1, cheering at the sight of us (jet lagged, bedraggled, somewhat delirious us), was nothing short of surprising.

I’ve heard it said that flying first class is when you know you’ve made it in the world, but that’s a load of crap. You’ve made it in the world when you can travel halfway across it and immediately squish yourself into a restaurant booth full of people you know, love, and occasionally wish to strangle with whatever object you find handy. Trust me: nothing will make you feel more like a rock star.

From there we went to Belfast, the lot of us. We were those people you see on planes – the ones I usually roll my eyes at, because I am annoyed at their fortune, their downright cheeriness,  to not be entirely surrounded by strangers. They call to each other in a stage whisper across the rows, they carry one another’s bags, they engage in endless banter from their seats: What have you been up to? How are the kids? Since when did you start drinking diet Coke?

When I fly alone, I shake my head at group travelers, thinking there is nothing more pedestrian, more banal, more prosaic.

“To travel alone is to be fearless,” I mutter (or some such haughty-sounding quote that I’ve recently come up with and deemed brilliant), as I struggle to reclaim some of the real estate on my arm rest from the usurper sitting next to me.

But when was one of those people traveling in a group? It was simply delightful.

Together, we drove to the church where the ceremony took place, getting lost in the process.

On the steps out front, there was one more familiar face.

Except it was happier than I ever remembered seeing it before.

We took up one long pew, and having grown up Catholic, I was the only one in our little clique who knew precisely what was going on.

“Are you going up there to get one of those Jesus nachos?” Stephen asked me, when he saw the guests lining up for communion.

“No,” I hissed.

“Why not?”

I explained that I wasn’t all that good a Catholic, whispering so as not to disturb the Almighty in his own home.

With my lovely Jewish husband.

Unlike so many of my travels, which have me exploring a city on my own, these were shared memories: the bride passing by, lovely and smiling and twinkly-eyed …

And really, can you blame her?

The road to the reception, which was so winding and twisted that I had to ask Jon to stop so that I could deposit my breakfast on the pavement. Stephen consequently nick-naming me “Pukey” (and I, in reply, saying a bunch of unfavorable things about his close relations).

Later, he took this photo of himself on my camera.

– 

The cottage that we rented for the weekend, already stocked with tea and toast by the thoughtful new missus.

That sad realization that life was taking us in different directions, and we likely wouldn’t all be in the same place at the same time ever again.

The lot of us looking – if you’ll permit me to say this – pretty damn great. May we always remember how young and gorgeous we were that night, and not how tired and hungover we felt the next day.

Lisa named them “Team Handsome.” And yes, we all took the same photos.

I had the privilege of being sandwiched between two stunning blondes. This must be how Hugh Hefner feels on a slow night.

Whatever the hell is going on here:

And here:

We did it all together, until the jet lag caught up with us Americans. And like Fitzgerald, we left our napkins and empty glasses and a bit of the past on the table, and went into the night together, just Rand and I. Hand in hand, we walked the dark road to the cottage the six of us had rented for the weekend.

But only when I heard the rest come in, sometime around three a.m., clumsily bumping into things and yelling obscenities in hushed whispers, did I fall asleep. Only then was our evening truly done.

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