A Walk Down Memory Lane

I’m holding the journal I took with me to Ireland 20 years ago.

The cover is coral, with a piece of art showing a smiling ladybug sitting on a sunflower.

Inside the cover is an inscription requesting the journal be given to my mother in the event of my untimely demise, along with her address. (It was a more innocent time?)

The title page says ‘There and Back Again’ in large, lazy but legible handwriting. Underneath it’s subtitled ‘A Tourist Story’ in print.

One of my children must have gotten their hands on my journal years ago. The inside cover and the title page, both sides, are covered in wild scribbles, some in red crayon and some in pencil. Fortunately they stopped before they reached the actual first entry.

On the other side of the title page, before the journal’s narrative officially begins are a couple of notes:

The following has been dramatized, or traumatized, whichever you prefer.

Underneath that:

I know I’ve made horrendous spelling mistakes, but there’s no spell check or dictionary handy so you’ll have to excuse me.

The pages that follow are ruled and have a light blue watermark of the cover art. My handwriting is legible but definitely not a thing of beauty.

May –, 1999

Well, here it is, May — and we are sitting in the Heathrow airport in London. I’m sitting on a vivid lime-green chair and J is off sitting on a toilet somewhere.
I have made a discovery; travel is not as glamorous as Hollywood would have you think it is. (Duh!)
First we spent 8 hours packed like sardines with our fellow flight travelers. I got to stare at a bald, age-spotted and wrinkled head, lucky me, while J sat sandwiched between myself and a middle-aged man.
I was extremely grateful to get off that plane.
Next, we were again squeezed into tight quarters, this time on the bus between Gatwick and Heathrow airports. This really wasn’t too bad, though, since I had a window seat and England proved to be as lovely as the pictures I’ve seen.
J and I spent a little while pointing things out to each other, saying ‘oohh!’ and ‘aahh!’ and wearing dopey grins on our faces.
The gentle rocking of the bus quickly put me to sleep, at which point J rudely elbowed me awake.
Apparently you aren’t supposed to do napping because it increases jet-lag.
“Jet-lag, shmet-lag,” I said, when J elbowed me yet again.
This went on for the remainder of the bus ride. I now lack the use of my right arm.
“How am I managing to write this then?” you ask…
Easy. I’m writing with the pen in my mouth.

-I will now fight my way back from the land of exaggeration, and attempt to carry on with my narrative-

We got off the bus and entered the airport, which proved even more confusing than the last one.
People are everywhere! And all chattering away in every language but English it seems, making me feel like an ignorant American. I had no idea travel would make me feel so insignificant. Of course, the fact that I feel dowdy, greasy and tired doesn’t help. I can’t wait to take a shower!
I’ve also discovered that going 30 hours with very little sleep takes its toll on your attitude. Right now I couldn’t give a crap about travel, I just want to take a long hot shower & then go to bed, in my own bed, with my own pillow, and sleep for ages.
Therefore I have to think about more cheerful things; like how I could sell the movie rights to this journal when I get back.
I can see the title of it now: “Two American Hicks in Belfast”
Guaranteed to be scarier than both “An American Werewolf in London” & “Ditto in Paris”
Right now no Irish potatoes would come within squeezing distance if they were paid.*
I think I’ll sign off for now, my doldrums are increasing rapidly. And now J can’t find the deck of cards, which means we’re reduced to entertaining ourselves with the puzzle book or Glamour, the magazine we got to read on the plane. Its name should actually be ‘Getting Laid’ since it seems that’s the only thing they’re interested in. Which leads me to believe the editor probably isn’t getting any.

(If only I’d remembered how much sleep deprivation could strip the joy out of life for me, I might have done something about it before I ended up sleep deprived for 16 fucking years.)

*So, my stepfather told us, with a wink and a nudge, that we should “squeeze some Irish potatoes” while in Ireland, because he knew we’d get the innuendo and instantly turn red, which he thought was hilarious (which – yes, I’m sure it was). I’ll admit it’s one of my regrets that I was far too shy and too morally uptight at the time to have indulged in any such thing! It did become a running gag and lead to a funny story towards the end of our trip, though, which I’ll have to share here at some point.

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