One year ago today I returned to the U.S. from a trip to Ireland. When we went there, we had no itinerary, no lodging lined up, and no plan at all. We had our luggage and a rental car and we just went wherever whimsy sent us…and that was mostly the west, Dublin, and the coast. It was a scary and amazing way to travel and we found many things we would have missed if we had scheduled things or tried to plan. Because it was December, I had a heavy coat. I also had a simple raincoat, with down lining and a hood. It came in very handy on the top of the Cliffs of Moher and when we decided to go to Achill in winter. (Here’s a tip: nothing is open in winter on Achill. Seriously.)
Here in the US, I don’t really use a heavy raincoat because I live in Oakland, CA. While it is not entirely the sunshine state, most of the time I can get away with a regular coat and an umbrella. I kept the raincoat as a reminder of my trip and whenever I saw it hanging in the closet it made me smile with nostalgia and long for another visit.
Oakland hasn’t really been the most peaceful place in the last few weeks. It is charged, angry, and tumultuous. There are daily marches and demonstrations rain or shine and the Oakland Police Department has met each with violence and overkill. I have learned to travel light. This morning activists held the Oakland Police Department Headquarters under siege for over 4 hours. It was amazing and peaceful, exciting and community based. It was also freezing cold and pouring down rain and the demonstration began at 07:30. I left the house shortly thereafter and I grabbed the raincoat because between my camera and my work bag, I knew I wouldn’t have a hand for an umbrella.
In the pockets I found some Euros, some Sterling and a matchbook from Madden’s in Belfast. My morning was full of memories while on my way to make more of a different kind. I wore that coat for most of the morning while in support of those who had chained themselves across entrances and streets. My Irish raincoat was the perfect thing and I was wearing it for the first time exactly one year after bringing it back home.
A few hours in, a group of children came to join the protest. They were loud, adorable, excited and rebellious but only a few of them had rain gear and it was not any warmer or less rainy. I looked at a little boy shivering in the rain who will one day be a part of our future and I began to empty my pockets. My special memory-filled coat that I would have kept forever even if I never wore it, was given to a feisty eleven year old little kid while he led the chants of 250 people against the police state on a rainy December morning in Oakland.
I feel like a little part of my trip to Ireland is gone – but I also feel like there was no better way to ever lose that coat. Besides, that kid has memories of his own to put in those pockets after today. I get to return to Ireland in a little over a year but I’m pretty sure that taking over OPDHQ will only happen the once.