As the train pulled into Plunkett Station, I sized up my situation.
I was traveling alone with three suitcases, two enormous and overstuffed duffle bags, and two smaller duffle bags packed with carpets Lief and I had purchased the week before during our honeymoon in Istanbul…
Plus I had my laptop, a backpack, and my purse.
There had been no porters in the station in Dublin where I’d boarded the train, so I wasn’t counting on porters here in Waterford. Fortunately, Plunkett was the end of the line, so I didn’t have to worry about getting all my paraphernalia off the train before it took off again.
Looking out the window I confirmed: No porters.
No waiting queue of taxis that I could see either.
I stood up and began pulling the duffle bags from the shelf where I’d stowed them for the two-and-a-half-hour trip.
“Are you on your own, luv?”
It was the Irishman who’d been sitting across the aisle from me.
“Yes, I am,” I replied.
“Where are you headed?” he asked.
“The Granville Hotel,” I told him. “Would you know where that is?” I asked. “Is it far from the train station?”
“It’s just across there on the quay,” the old Irishman told me. “Just over the bridge. We’ll take you, luv.”
“Oh, no, please, that’s not necessary. Thank you, but I’ll find a taxi outside.”
“No, luv,” the Irishman said. “You probably won’t. And if you do find one, it won’t be big enough to fit all your things. My wife and I have our van in the car park. Plenty of room. And we’re happy to do it.”
The Irishman, his wife, and I carried my bags across the parking lot and loaded them into the van. Then we drove out of the train station and across Rice Bridge, turning left onto the quay that runs riverside along the center of Waterford City.
Once upon a time, this was a bustling port town with ships lining the harbor importing and exporting to France, Spain, and beyond. When we arrived, in 1998, Waterford was forgotten and depressed.
That was the point. We were there on the direction of the Irish Development Agency, the government group trying to reinvigorate Ireland’s economy beyond its capital city. At this stage, the Celtic Tiger’s roar hadn’t been heard much outside Dublin.
Over the decades since, Waterford City, perhaps the most historic spot in Ireland, has repackaged itself to include what it refers to as its Viking Triangle (a tourist zone that incorporates Reginald’s Tower, a medieval museum, and the Bishop’s Palace Museum), plus many more restaurants and shops than existed when we called the city home.
When we lived there, Waterford was sad and gray and generally in need of a fresh coat of paint.
That night, though, crossing the Rice Bridge over the River Suir for the first time as an official Waterford resident, the lights from the Georgian town houses that line the quay twinkling in the harbor, Reginald’s Tower visible in the distance, standing guard over the city as it has since 1003, I could imagine the place as it once must have been.
That night, viewed from the bridge into town, Waterford appeared magical.
My new Irish friends delivered me to the Granville and helped me drag my bags inside. Checked into my room, with a view over the deserted quay and the empty harbor, I sat down in a chair by the window to regroup.
I had a new husband who I’d met less than six months earlier…
I had a very confused 8-year-old daughter who I was pulling away from everything she and I had known to this point—our family, our friends, our home, her school…
My new husband likewise had left his life, his professional situation. Here we were, the three of us, starting over as a new family in a new city in a foreign country, me looking to build a business while making a home.
In fact, here I was the one of me. My new husband Lief and my daughter Kaitlin were in the States, Lief wrapping up loose ends and Kaitlin getting to know her stepdad, while I’d come on ahead to create as comfortable a situation as I could to receive them in a week’s time.
I’d left a lot of loose ends myself.
I’m good at blocking out everything on the fringes and focusing on a single target. It’s a valuable trait when making a move like I was making, but it can create collateral damage.
I should call Lief to let him know I’ve arrived, I thought.
Then I called my dad.
“The man who bought your car came to collect it this afternoon,” he told me, “and everything is on track for the closing of your house sale.
“A girl from your work called to ask if I had any idea which files you wanted her to pack and which ones she could leave behind. I told her to pack everything in your office, especially everything from your bookcase. I thought that’d be safest. It’s all on its way to you now.”
“Thanks, Dad,” I said.
“So… how are you? How’s Ireland? What is Waterford like?” my dad asked from 3,000 miles away.
“How is everything there in Baltimore?” I countered, changing the subject.
“I took off in a rush and left a lot of pieces for you to pick up.”
“It’s all fine,” he said.
No, Dad, nothing’s fine, I thought. What am I doing? Kaitlin and I should come home…
I thought that but didn’t say it. My father had been the only one who’d not questioned my decision to make this move, the only one to support me.
My mother had sat crying with my daughter the morning we left Baltimore, holding Kaitlin’s hand, trying to convince me to stay.
My sister had rolled her eyes whenever I spoke about the plan for my move to Ireland with my new husband.
My dad only asked what he could do to help.
“Waterford seems nice,” I told him that night as I sat in a red damask armchair staring out the window of my Granville Hotel room at the city’s silent harbor.
“I met a nice Irish couple on the train down from Dublin. They drove me to my hotel. I’m checked in now.
“I have a beautiful view of the river. Hope you’ll come soon to see for yourself…”