My daughter’s husband, friends and I punked my daughter. We went out to breakfast Thursday morning and then were “going to the airport,” but we had to go back to the house because I had left my wallet. This is actually what her then-fiancee had done on the way to the airport to Maui, where they were married. She was so worried they weren’t going to make it and she wouldn’t be married. So, we walk in to my house to get my wallet, which I had left on purpose, a friend is videotaping and I hand Rama a card that says I’m not leaving that day, I’m leaving Sunday. I had changed my flight. She doesn’t understand and thinks I bought her a ticket to Ireland. It was ridiculous and funny. Thank goodness she has this sense of humor as she said she hadn’t slept at all Wed. night because I was leaving.
It turned out to be a very good thing that I changed my flight because where the packing and stuff had seemed to be under control by all accounts all of a sudden was now overwhelming. It was like the Tribbles on Star Trek. Every time we packed a box; somehow there were four more boxes of stuff to be packed. It was an “all hands on deck” situation and everybody pitched in to get her done and get me on that plane. I was pretty determined to get to Dublin after all of this.
Saturday, Kyle, Rama’s husband, and I pulled one more surprise on her. I had a gift certificate to Bonneville spa and had made appts for her and me to go out there for a couple of spa services. She thought she was going to chaperone a prom with Kyle. He had packed a bag for her and put it into my car. I went walking with her and Jaden and played with Jaden in the afternoon and then when she thought she needed to get ready for the prom, we surprised her, put her in the car and she and I road-tripped it out to the spa, stopping at Trader Joe’s for some snacks. Then we came back to her house and watched 500 Days of Summer. I went home to sleep for the last time in my comfy bed in my house.
So, Sunday morning comes and I’m starting out from Portland to San Francisco; this flight was a separate ticket from my San Francisco to Dublin flight. We were delayed an hour in Portland. When I walked up to the Virgin Atlantic flight to check in at San Francisco they said the flight was closed. I asked them if they would please try to get me on the plane and they said they didn’t think they could do that, but they called the gate. I waited 15 minutes and began to accept whatever outcome, and then I heard the woman say to her colleague, “Open the flight.” I felt like it was a Julie Andrew’s Sound of Music moment but restrained myself from breaking into song. The woman informed me that my bags wouldn’t make it on the plane. I was relieved to be on the flight no matter. I still needed to get through the security check and even though they put me in the priority security line, it had a long line of people in it. It turned out that the woman in front of me worked for Virgin Unite—the nonprofit foundation of the Virgin Group—and she was on my flight, so I relaxed.
My flight was nonstop to London (10 hours) and that was pretty uneventful but I didn’t sleep at all, not for lack of trying. I watched The Blind Side and a new television show, The Modern Family (worth it). I got to Heathrow airport in London at about 11 am Monday, London time, and had a 4 1/2 hour layover before boarding to Dublin. I had to go through UK customs (the British folks were incredibly helpful) to go down and check baggage and see if any bags made it after all. One did! I couldn’t remember which bag had what in it as my friend, Karen, had helped me pack them (and had made sure that most everything was split between both bags, thankfully) so it was like opening Christmas presents and being delighted (and disappointed when I realized that my camera and video cam wires were in the other bag).
Having several hours in Heathrow was a nice change of pace after rushing around and flying for a day. When I made my way over to the smaller terminal with the airline flying to Dublin, I felt excitement for the first time. I was finally close to the end of the “getting there” part. I had been awake for 33 hours… not too bad. When I got through security and found the one remaining seat at the gate for the Dublin flight, I relaxed for the first time because I realized I was really going to make it all the way through to Ireland that night. The sounds around me began to lull me to sleep. It is beautiful… the Irish accent. Like music to my U.S. ears. I fell asleep for the first time since Saturday night for about 10 minutes and again on the plane for a few minutes. It was a short 50 minutes to Dublin from London and I was at Ireland customs before I knew it.
The agent didn’t believe my passport was real. He grilled me. My passport had almost no stamps on it and I was staying for 3 months and I was 45. He couldn’t believe that I had come to Ireland first and also didn’t know what my plans were. I really didn’t know if he was going to stamp me through. Everyone else had flown through in less than a minute. I was still there 10 minutes later. He asked me so many questions. When he finally stamped it, I thought could this have been more dramatic? I suppose so if they’d carted me off to be questioned some more.
I was glad that I had only one large bag and my backpack and small gym bag because it was easily manageable on the city bus, which I took from the airport to my hostel in city center Dublin. I met a delightful Irish woman named Vivian on the bus, who has a daughter in southern France whom she feels I need to meet as we share interests. Her daughter lives precisely in the area that I was originally headed to before changing to Ireland, and now was hoping to go next so it may work out to meet her. After about 40 minutes, the bus pulled up in front of my hostel. When the man behind the desk checked me in, he repeated my name to me. It was gorgeous to hear my name spoken with an Irish accent. And I thought, yes, Charlena Miller is in Ireland. The years to get to this point flashed through my mind and now it was real. A rush of gratitude flooded me, making me feel warm and giddy but I kept my composure. I settled into my room with 4 roommates and then left the hostel in search of dinner and some groceries. Next time… my first 24 hours of adventure in Dublin.