Last Boat to the Future
The time for second thoughts, the time for mind-changing had come and gone. Behind, after one short boat ride, was a good life lived on Martha’s Vineyard, one of the most exquisite places on earth. And ahead? The unknown.
I loved my home, the island I was leaving; she had loved me too. She nurtured me when I was young, gave me reassurance on my paths to success, failures, and unproven incarnations. But when my days there became too familiar to hold my interest, she gave me permission to go.
But it was I who detached from this magnificent place, not she from me.
Soon I will look through the rearview mirror on this vehicle that will carry me, my dog, and my trusty mannequin, Agatha (yes, I said mannequin) to our new home. And I wonder what my island will say to me as her image fades from sight?
Don’t go? Go with my blessings? Come back soon?
Or, worse, nothing at all?
For comfort, I look to my right, where Pearl, my canine companion of twelve years, eagerly sits. I know then that our trip to this new place and the new chapter in our lives will be fine. She has no fears; she’s with me, and for her, it is just another fun ride in a big, new, traveling machine.
And what are this regal animal’s eyes eagerly focused on, down her long, beautiful white poodle snout? The clear, blue morning sky, of course, and nothing more.
This brilliant morning — the Universe’s encouraging nod to our send-off — is, for me, a welcoming omen for a safe, if very long road ahead. And so I go, without a cloud in the sky nor a worry in Pearl’s head as she turns to me and her warm eyes say, don’t worry, Mama, and oh, don’t forget the pee stops along the way. I laugh.
I so wish I could be her some days, especially today.
Yes, it’s a glorious day for goodbyes, certainly too glorious for tears, unless they are ones of relief. Relief that the arduous physical work of dismantling a home, an iconic business, and forty-one years of an incredible life on this island is done. But, most important, it was done well. Besides, if the tears begin to fall now, they may never end.
And the ocean, his waters are a calm, crystal, marine-blue today.
My dear blue companion, it seems I have known you forever. Will I miss you? Will I see you again? I may not, so I say my goodbye. I know where you live if ocean-lust becomes too great for me.
I look to my left. To my surprise, a few friends are here to say their farewells too. In just moments, this profound life change has become more real, but still, no fears or regrets have clawed their way into my determined, laser-focused consciousness.
I can do this.
The sky, the ocean, my friends, my island, the Universe, Pearl — and even Agatha, riding shotgun — tell me so.
The twenty-eight hundred miles ahead of us is my life now. And for eight days, this trusty rental truck, shared with my menagerie in front and prized possessions in the back, will be our home.
The entertainment for these road-trip days will be the show outside our windows. But, as I will soon find out, the real show will be a cornucopia of memories coupled with my mind’s imaginations. Luckily for me, the imagination show I’ve enjoyed for sixty-nine years is one not to be rivaled.
The boat is here, and the ferryman waves his hand and it is time for this twelve foot truck to a new life to board. I tearlessly nod farewell to my friends and begin the overland journey to our destination — a beautiful, old, charming town in Mexico.
I take my cue from Pearl when she suddenly stands and happily barks, “Let’s get going, and will there be chicken when we get there?” I laugh again, put our home in drive, and take my last boat ride, but this time, it is the ferry ride to my future.
The end of the last chapter ─ Chapter Twenty-five
I asked the realtor to just drop us off in front of the house; she need not come in. Not surprisingly, she understood — I wanted to be alone with Pearl as we walked together for the first time through the entrance to our new home.
And so, with great fanfare and a bit of struggle, I carried my canine companion over our Mexican casa’s threshold like a beautiful bride, dressed from nose to tail in pure white.
Once inside the house, I tenderly put Pearl down, got on my knees, held her face in my hands, looked in her eyes, and thanked her for being my wing-girl and loyal companion for the nearly three-thousand, sometimes nerve-racking miles we had traveled. It was her safety alone that kept my thoughts clear and focused on the task at hand, including the job of having enough chicken and treats for her wherever we stopped.
We went from room to room, me opening cabinets doors and closets and she sniffing and inspecting the nooks and crannies, hoping to discover uninvited critters she could chase away. Then out to the luscious, plant-filled courtyard, where Pearl, who had never encountered a pool before, promptly fell in.
Once she was rescued, we snuggled together on the outdoor chaise lounge. As we dried off in the warm Mexican sun, I took in our new home’s surroundings. The palm trees, birds of paradise, and bougainvillea were ours, really ours.
This awe-inspiring environment — chock-full of butterflies, hummingbirds, and exotic birds whose songs I had never heard — left me mesmerized and full of wonder. All I wanted to do, or really could do, was be still and observant.
While a tired, contented Pearl slept in my lap, I called upon the Universe for a favor — a grace period, a much-needed honeymoon from the crazy, complicated world outside the vine-covered courtyard walls we now called home.
I had long been a participant in the divided world of right and wrong, good versus evil, generosity overshadowed by greed, and intelligence insulted by ignorance.
My hard work and relatively benevolent footprint on this earth for nearly seventy years had earned me a respite from the day-to-day challenges, if only for a brief while.
In the cool, early evening, I leashed up Pearl the Magnificent and dauntlessly set out to discover this new world of ours. Its bright blue skies, bountiful beauty, potential friends and foes, its countless unknowns and infinite possibilities were all out there to become part of or, perhaps, not part of our lives.
And, as I would soon find out, paradise is a fragile, fleeting frame of mind, and staying positive in the face of profound human flaws, frailties, and negativities would take more strength and courage than I ever could have imagined.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
This Much I Do Know
It has been more than two years since Pearl and I arrived in San Miguel. And unbeknownst to us, the day we drove into town, the newest member of our family, Ruby, was being born. Making this coincidence even more remarkable, our little puppy came into the world only a few blocks from our new home. However, finding her before anyone else did (by pure chance, I found her online) was the real coup de chance.
While Pearl had never been fond of other dogs, except her uncle Rudy, she immediately became a doting mother to baby Ruby. And not only did this amazing canine become Ruby’s protector, she quickly grew into a dog who no longer perceived other dogs as a threat. She began to see them as possible friends, although, if they messed with her puppy, watch out! More than once, I saw firsthand the instantaneous transformation from congenial dog to ferocious mama. It was quite scary and, at the same time, an amazing thing to behold.
After a year and a half, Pearl, Ruby, and I adopted — our response to an unavoidable dilemma for dog lovers in San Miguel — two fabulous neighborhood street dogs, Mike and Molly. And since taking in these grateful critters, on many occasions, while writing at my desk, I’ve stopped, looked around, seen my loyal companions sprawled on the floor, and said, “Hey, Lorraine, what’s to complain about?”
Well, let me tell you!
The much-needed and well-earned grace period I requested from the Universe, that first day in our new house, when I cuddled with Pearl in the Mexican sun, came and went far too fast. The reprieve from conflict and the Universe’s blessing of the temporary serenity I had prayed for lasted a mere four months, then — wham, reality set in.
If I had consulted a bona-fide soothsayer in advance of my move and they had given me a preview of the first two years of my new life, it would have been difficult for me to have believed. And knowing myself for seventy plus years now, a clairvoyant’s vision in no way would have changed my decision to go forward with this transformative move.
I knew, from the moment I decided to uproot my long-established life and exchange it for a new one in a foreign land, that this new life and whatever idiosyncrasies and future relationships it held could not be preplanned or understood beforehand. Instead, it would have to be lived. Not guessed at or wished for, but lived.
And, if anything had ever given me pause, it was one big, troubling uncertainty — what if the unknown and all that it entailed were to become too much for me? My other concerns were just logistical questions, with answers out there somewhere. It was only a matter of me finding them.
Why Are We Like This?
I was grateful that my first couple of months in San Miguel were uneventful, but as more time passed, the unfolding of this new reality became something I had never experienced before.
I wish blossoming, not unfolding, was the more accurate word, and perhaps someday, when I look back at this time, it will be.
The simple truth is this: when I had made radical moves earlier in life, it was a kinder, gentler world, and I was a much younger woman. And, interestingly, my pragmatic mind never considered the way in which the pandemic has affected society, especially people’s behaviors toward one another.
This terrible fact in my opinion, is staggering, though none of us should be surprised by it in today’s world — saddened by it, yes, but not surprised.
Even now, as I write these words, there are very few weeks that go by when I am not taken aback by some unkind word I hear or rude manner I see or experience, and to be honest, it is rarely a Mexican I notice behaving badly.
I am convinced that the root cause of this awful, shameful behavior I have been exposed to is from an extreme level of unhappiness. And the fact is this delightful town of San Miguel did not make anyone this way. These unhappy people, who came from who knows where, are the same disgruntled humans they were before they arrived in Mexico.
I don’t get it.
There have been days when I’ve thought I was alone in living through this kind of hurt and confusion, and why not? I had never been seventy years old, living friendless in a foreign country. But as I unburdened my troubles with trusted friends from my past, I came to realize that I share this particular experience with millions of older, hardworking, often successful men and women.
People like me, who, at the appropriate time in their lives, give up their professional identities can and do experience years of sometimes profound personal crises. And it doesn’t make a difference if you stay where you are or if you move five hundred or five thousand miles away. Nor do the circumstances when you get there matter; surrendering a lifelong identity is traumatic, especially for those who loved their work and loved it passionately.
As I attempt to understand and survive this moment in life, I know the path to acceptance can sometimes be in how you frame a difficult situation. Explaining the traumas I’ve experienced so far as growing pains has put my mind into a more positive, progressive, and open place.
I remember when I stumbled on the practice of reframing. It was with my first poodles, Noli and Cleo, during one of our evening drives to the beach. In my beach-going days, those two clown dogs were always wild and out of control in the back seat of the vintage Volvo I drove in the summers. I would scream at them to knock it off and stop being so fucking obnoxious. Did they listen to me? Of course not, and as a result, the day came when I realized that it was going to be up to me to change, dog training be damned! So, from then on, I thought of their crazy behavior in the back seat as simply out-of-control enthusiasm, which it was, and nothing more.
And because of that day thirty years ago and the invaluable lesson from those two fabulous poodles, today I am able to interpret these trials and tribulations as unfortunate, but necessary growing pains.
My Charming Casa!
Many people in San Miguel choose to rent, even live in different neighborhoods for a while before making the commitment of buying a house. From the beginning, though, I wanted a home of my own, and so I bought one and have absolutely no regrets.
By owning a house, I have had the great privilege of getting to know Mexican laborers and their hardworking attitudes. If I had limitless funds, I would buy and rehab houses for the sheer joy of being surrounded by these joyful, playful men day after day.
It is not only the workmen I adore; it is equally the absolutely beautiful, mind-blowing stonework, tiles, and carved wooden objects they use in their work. I will be forever amazed and inspired by this beauty. I have never seen this kind of craftmanship in my life — it is truly astounding.
Watching the tradesmen construct houses, additions, and walls out of piles of concrete and sand, sometimes mixed on the cobblestone street in front of the building site, is a vision to behold. Observing their strong, suntanned hands taking earthen materials and turning them into amazing structures right before your eyes is an experience you cannot forget.
If there is anything I am sure of after these two years, it is this: I am, without a doubt, blessed to live among and become familiar with the Mexican people, their history, and their culture.
Have the disappointments and stresses that I have endured since my arrival here been worth it? Have they been outweighed by the intermittent joys, the power of the beauty that surrounds me, my home, and the companionship of my four amazing dogs?
For now, and possibly just for now, that is a question I cannot answer.
But this much I do know: I will happily live, though perhaps not forever, in this beautiful, charming town of San Miguel de Allende, unless, once again,
Adventure rears its beautiful head.
to buy my book www.amazon.com/Miles-San-Miguel-Lorraine-Parish/dp/B0CMS82559/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3N5LEITXR2GON&keywords=Miles+to+San+Miguel+paperback&qid=1699472799&sprefix=miles+to+san+miguel+paperback%2Caps%2C149&sr=8-1
Miles to San Miguel
Feeling restless at age sixty-nine, fashion designer Lorraine Parish
contemplates trading her comfortable life and successful career
on Martha’s Vineyard for a new chapter of adventure and uncertainty in
the charming Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende. On an exploratory trip to San Miguel in 2019, she meets Sharon, a younger kindred spirit who inspires her to take the chance. The 2020 pandemic suddenly but temporarily hampers the move. To cope with the world’s frightening new reality and to help calm their fears, the two exchange confessional, sometimes shocking life stories. When the pandemic begins to wane, Lorraine bravely takes the leap. On her long-awaited overland journey to Mexico, with Pearl the poodle and fashion mannequin Agatha by her side, she escapes worries about
the future with humorous road musings and bittersweet
memories of the past.
About the Author
Lorraine Parish has been a well-known East Coast fashion designer for forty-four years. In 1979, she relocated her downtown Manhattan business to the beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard.
In the summer of 1980, she opened her first Vineyard store in the rural town of Chilmark. There her designs caught the eye of the island’s celebrity crowd: Carly Simon, the Taylor clan, Rose Stryon, Mary Steenburgen, the Cronkite family, established political figures, and many summer Hollywood notables.
She began publishing national catalogs in 1986, which inspired the openings of Lorraine Parish stores in Aspen, Colorado, Boston, Massachusetts, and Nantucket,
Massachusetts. In 2001, she launched Lorraine Paris Home, her signature line of modern toile fabrics and home furnishings.
Feeling restless as she approached a major life milestone and sensing it was time for a new chapter in her life, she took a trip in 2019 to the celebrated Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende. In this charming locale she fell in love with the Mexican people, their country, and their culture.
As her love of writing grew and the pandemic began winding down in 2021, she gave up her fashion career, sold her Vineyard home, bought a casa in San Miguel, and began fulfilling her love of writing essays, screenplays, and now her first book, Miles to San Miguel.