I gave the GPS in my car one more chance. I input the address of the nearest Tesco supermarket–a 30 minute drive. After almost an hour of backtracking, more swearing, and recalculating, I ended up in some sort of quasi-industrial park that had a small SPAR convenience store in it. I bought some raspberries and a sandwich just so I wouldn’t feel like the trip was a total waste of time. I pulled out my phone and got to the Tesco to purchase my travelling food staples: one roasted chicken, raw broccoli and cauliflower, hummus, a whole grain baguette, butter, and yogurt. I’m always especially excited about Irish yogurt. It is the best.
Back home at the cottage, I began to unload my groceries when behind me I heard, “Hiy they-ah.” My first roomie! This must be the roomie whose room, tacked with a nameplate bearing his South African surname, was across the hallway from mine.
Francois hung out and chatted with me while I unpacked my stuff. His ability to hang out is unparalleled. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more laid back.
Within a few hours, the rest of the tribe rolled in: Cian from Howth, a peninsula northeast of Dublin; Peter and Karen from Dundalk, just a hop south of the border with Northern Ireland on the east coast, and Andrew from Galway.
Andrew. Cian. Francois. Karen. Peter.
The fireplace in the living room was prepped for ignition and I asked who could start it up. Francois set it ablaze. Then we got to know each other a bit. Andrew, age 29, is an engineer and PhD opening up a gourmet artisan bacon bar. Cian, age 21 who talks so fast he is constantly being asked to repeat himself, intends to open a restaurant and wine bar in a historic building. Twenty-six year old Pete’s family owns a few pubs and a night club where Karen, age 23, works. Every single thing Pete says is laugh out loud funny, except to Karen, who is beyond it. They want to convert the night club into a late night eatery. Francois, age 27, will open a high end ceviche establishment in Mauritius.
And then there’s me. Beth, age 48, departing from her 20 years in tech to start a sustainable traiteur and grocery. Beth, who can easily be on her feet all day but, really needs to get her roots done, has arthritis in the pinky finger of her left hand, and crap knees.
The obligatory introductions completed, I exclaimed, “Hey! This is just like The Real World: Ballymaloe!”
Blank stares. The kind of wide-eyed blank stares you will see on the faces of baby owls.
Two pups and a little dog.
I don’t have kids (I have cats), and therefore not a lot of exposure to these kids who have come of age on, and possibly through, their phones. I spent the next two weeks like Jane Goodall, observing from a close yet scientifically detached distance this pod of Millennials. To me, a phone is a tool. To them, it’s part of their anatomy. They spend a lot of time bonding over watching viral videos on their phones. They look everything up on their phones. I can’t do that. The damn screen is too small.
But they possess the superpowers that are universal among all of their age bracket—they have invincible livers. When I was their age, Madonna’s “Vogue” was in vogue and for a while I had a day job, went to college, and a couple of times a week, waitressed at a club until about 3 a.m. I could do tequila shots, get three hours of sleep, and be absolutely functional the next day.
It was in this regard I realized that my 20s were a memory I am as detached from as any memory from my childhood. That portion of my life has been released and is floating around like so much observable space junk. So much time has passed, there is nothing about that time of my life that is relatable now, save for the name of my company. And to hammer it home, Karen made some disparaging comment about “old people,” then looked toward me and compassionately remarked, “with present company excluded.”
One finding during my observation did surprise me: their taste in music. There was a collective preference for ’90s hip hop and Karen, who has a lovely voice, could often be found humming a tune I was familiar with from my youth. Young Cian confessed to me that he prefers classic rock such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Nirvana. Yep.
At the end of our school days together, I would have to immediately retreat to my room to tend to the many Ozarka and personal tasks awaiting me; taxes, the pilot, the preparations for the sale of a townhouse. The kids would frequent the pub at the end of the street, always asking me through the closed door of my room if I was joining. I could not, due to these responsibilities, and am very grateful for the work I needed to do. These young people are good company and to try to keep up with them would have certainly resulted in my taking to my bed the following day.
On our one night off, the Saturday between our two weeks of study, my housemates made plans to go party in Cork and had reserved a cab to take them home at 2:30 in the morning. I couldn’t get to sleep while they were gone and I realized it was because I was…what was I? What was it I was feeling that was making me so restless? Oh my god. I was…worried…about them. I did finally fall asleep soundly enough I did not hear them come home. I would consider myself a nurturing person, but maternal, I am not. So I’m guessing that in this moment there was perhaps an undiscovered drop of instinct that was dispensed and spent while the kids were out. Glad that’s out of the way.
Blowing bubbles was surprisingly therapeutic. I tried not to hyperventilate.
Photo credits: Anne O’Sullivan