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Jude McLean Author

You're One of Us!

00:00 / 05:36

I’ve been asked several times if Escape is based on my life. The answer is no. I always say, “Yes, Darcie and I are both ‘gingers’, but that is where our similarities end.” But that isn’t entirely true. Darcie goes to Ireland and immediately is mistaken to be a local. That happened to me. 


Picture it: Ireland 2019. It was six o’clock in the morning and still dark. I had just exited the Shannon airport after calling my rental car service to pick me up. I stood alone, in the dark on the sidewalk, enjoying the crisp fresh air. After being stuck on an airplane, the breeze was absolute heaven. I didn’t care that it carried a cold bite. 


My car arrived, and the driver got out and walked around looking for someone.


“Hello, I think you are looking for me?” I said.

“Am I?” he shook his head, looking confused. “No, I’m picking up an American.”

“Yes, I’m Jude. I called you only a few minutes ago.”


He stepped closer to get a good look at me in the lamplight and asked me to speak again. All I could do was laugh and swear to God that I was American. When he got a good listen to my voice, he heard that it was true. But he still shook his head. “You look like one of us!” he said. 


I arrived at my hotel and approached the front desk. I said my name, and the man gave me the same confused expression as the driver. I was beginning to get sleepy and gave him a weak smile. He apologized for holding me up and checked me in. “You look like one of us!” he said, with a bright smile.


Later that same day, a taxi pulled up beside me while I was walking through town, and the driver asked me for directions. Now, I am terrible with directions, but I knew where he needed to go for once in my life. So I gave him the directions he needed, and his jaw dropped open. He sat there with his hand on the steering wheel, just staring at me, gaping. I smiled with a laugh, and he shook his head. “You look like one of us! Cheers!” 


I walked into a shop, and the shopkeeper gave me the exact same astonished face, and she said to me, you guessed it, “You look like one of us!”


I was beginning to see a pattern. I was jetlagged, so it took a while. Cut me a little slack. 


The rest of my trip was more of the same. Everywhere I went, I was mistaken to be a local Irish. I was constantly beaming with pride. I hadn’t changed my look or my attitude. I was just me. And “just me” had just found her people. 


That trip changed my life forever. I hadn’t gone there looking for anything except a delightful vacation. It didn’t disappoint. I had been in Ireland for a few weeks and was only two days from leaving for America. I was out for a walk on Lahinch beach, regretting that I had made my visit so short. I wasn’t ready to go.


There I was in my rolled up jeans and my wellies watching out for the slippery sea kelp that was littered across the sand when a man’s voice called out to me, “There’s no gold here!” 


I laughed and looked up to see a man and woman of around sixty walking hand in hand towards me. I explained that I had slipped on the kelp further up the beach and was now more careful of my steps. They both dropped their mouths open and gasped. “You’re American!” the woman said.


I laughed. Here we go again. “Yep, that’s right.”

“And where would you be from then, lass?” the man asked. 


I went on to tell them where I live and a little about my life. They told me a few stories of local history - it turns out the sea kelp is not just for slipping on - and some about their own family. It turned out that his mother had emigrated to a city not too far away from me. We chatted happily while the salty breeze danced around us. Joe and Mary were lovely, and I didn’t mind talking with them one bit. 


“So when are you moving back?” Joe asked.

“Back? No, you don’t understand, I've never lived here in Ireland.”

Mary stepped closer and raised her hand to my cheek. She brushed her thumb across my skin and smiled as she studied my face. “There’s no doubt that you’re one of us. Ireland knows its own. Sure, you may live in America, but this is your home, and we are all your family - always.”


I couldn’t stop the tear that ran down my cheek. Mary wiped it away. Joe smiled and nodded his head in agreement. 


After leaving them, I walked for a bit longer and watched the sunset. It couldn’t have been more radiant.  In my head I heard all the voices of my family I had met over the past weeks. I smiled at the memories I had made. How many people embark on an innocent vacation only to have their life turned inside out in the most surprising, extraordinary way? I had been handed a blessing. I took a deep, cleansing breath of briny Celtic air. Finally, I was ready to return to America. 


Sure, I may live here, but my soul lives in my home, Ireland. 

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