essays by shé


Mimi and Pappap took us to Ireland when I was eleven. Great-Aunt Maude had died — one of my favorite relatives of all time — and left enough for the five of us to tour the island. It was fabulous. There was an Irish wolfhound at a castle that allowed my five-year-old brother to ride. My grandparents took me through the Waterford glass-blowing works — Pappap lied to the ticket seller, telling her I was twelve, what a thrill! And Mom and I bought Connemara marble earrings, and danced to bagpipes.

Best of all, my mother rented a horse-drawn caravan after her parents left. I was horse-mad then, still am, and begged her to let me drive. Not happening, said my physical therapist mom. She took one look at those massive muscles, knew what they were capable of, and gripped the reins herself. I was supported by the locals though, who could tell she was terrified. “Ach, Mary P, let the child drive.” Still not happening.

We made it unscathed, and probably very slowly, to the Philbin’s farm. There we stayed for two solid weeks. Darkie was all mine to feed and groom! She ate most of her food the first night, tucking into the bin at the back. Luckily, we were parked in a big grazing pasture: she wouldn’t starve, and other caravaners shared their vittles.

What is a caravan? A tiny wooden house on wheels, like a gypsy wagon. Unlike my current tiny house, there was ample head room. But just like my T@B, the kitchen was indoors and the dinette converted to beds. It was perfect. There was a fire ring outside, and I was in charge of it every night. Twilights were long; it was light until 11 pm at the end of May, and Mom read Irish writers aloud. I still remember impish Brogeen and scary fairytales.

We were good there, our family, maybe the best ever. During the days we usually went our separate ways. I hung out with the horses, my brother hung out with Farmer Philbin (“all this could be yours, son”), and Mom found adults to play with. We were happy, content, satisfied with our lives. We had space. We had stars. We had a tide pool to swim in. We were home.

Shé on Darkie, John holds the lead line, Ireland 1974
Shé on Darkie, John holding the lead line, Ireland 1974





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