Friday, April 27, 2012

Caribbean Adventures: Bandaids, Bikinis, Barbados, a Burial, and My Best Friend

I can scarcely imagine life without Bandaids.  I have walked through all 50 US states and 21 countries and territories in my travels to date.  Never have I done so without getting blisters on my feet.  It’s not the shoes or sandals.  It’s my tender feet.  My friend Michele once told me Virgos have a secret obsession with their feet and appreciate when a man pays homage by rubbing and tending to their feet.  Oh so true.  I am so obsessed with making my feet happy that I import my socks from Germany because they’re the only socks I have found that are soft enough.

In the space of twelve hours, I went from early spring clog-wearing weather in Utah to balmy, sandal weather in San Juan, where we boarded a cruise ship.  My feet didn’t have time to adjust, and I got blisters in a hurry.  Each day of my vacay, I slathered my feet with a couple Bandaids to defend against the sand rubbing in between my sandals and feet, and to address the blisters that were showing up anyway.   

I became Mormon at age 19 and as part of my religious devotion, I swore off bikinis … til this year, over a decade after I abandoned my adopted faith.  After going on beach vacay after vacay and seeing women of all shapes and sizes in bikinis, I was determined to sport one on this trip.  I found the perfect bikini but not in my size at Ross Dress For Less (I skipped my favorite DI store for this purchase). One Saturday morning, my daughter and I were at the ice rink in Provo, and fortuitously, on our way back home, I found my size at a Ross store in Orem just before we got on I-15.  Gotta love Utah County.  It’s the best place in Utah to buy immodest clothes.  On sale.

I’m sure my parents thought it was a little crazy that I was pulling my prize bikini out of my suitcase to show them in the Phoenix airport where we stopped for two hours on our haphazard journey to Puerto Rico via Philly, but they are getting used to my surprises.  At least it was purple, my mom’s favorite color.

The first bikini re-wearing was on day one of the cruise, at Magen’s Bay in St. Thomas.  I took off my cover up.  I looked down at my belly button.  Then I looked around.  No one was even looking.  I’m not sure what I expected would happen.  Lightning didn’t strike.  And I didn’t blind anyone with my fluorescent white abs.

Before the trip, I also bought a new one-piece: a royal blue tank with shirred waist.  It’s pretty and flattering, but I loved wearing my bikini, and I saved the one-piece for hot tubbing on the cruise ship.  

Soon I realized it will be kicking and screaming that I go back to a one-piece.  Maybe when I’m really old I’ll wear one of those bathing suits with a skirt to cover up my drooping body.  Ummm maybe not.

We spent day three of the cruise in Barbados.  I won’t pretend to be knowledgeable about this delightful tropical island.  It seems like there was reggae music playing from the moment we walked off the ship, and I drove my daughter crazy singing “we’ll be jammin’” over and again.  No doubt it was a big improvement over “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” which I hummed on the flight from Philadelphia to San Juan. 

We were in Bridgeport but nine hours, all of which was spent on a beach, the name of which I don’t even remember.  We went to an establishment called “The Boardwalk.”  The only reason I remember the name of the place is that I looked at my credit card statement this week.  We paid The Boardwalk $12 each for the privilege of being on the beach, laying on their well padded chairs, accessing wi-fi, and otherwise enjoying all the creature comforts we’re used to at home.  Actually, I’m not used to that much sea and the softest sand I’ve ever felt, but I could get used to it stat.  My daughter had been to Barbados on her honeymoon and was secretly hoping we could revisit all her travels, or at least some of them, but our adventures took other directions.

My best friend Michele died in late 2008, and we’re just now getting around to spreading her ashes.  The day before I left for the cruise, her widowed husband Corey came to a restaurant near my office and brought me an aspirin bottle filled with some of her remains.  It was a touching and comical lunch hour.  I was preparing to take my best friend to the Caribbean, in an aspirin bottle.

I’d done all the leg work on how to get through airport security without delays and I packed some of what was left of Michele into my main suitcase.  (If you have ever had a loved one cremated, you know that the box of ashes is maybe 6”x6”x6”, so a more considerable volume than an aspirin bottle holds.  This is good as Corey still has ashes to spread in other places, most notably her beloved San Francisco.)

Michele’s daughter Celeste works on the cruise ship we took.  This wasn’t just an “ohmygosh!” coincidence that my daughter and I ended up on her ship.  We didn’t even consider any of the other options.  I knew by the Facebook posts of the last couple of months that Celeste needed a visit from someone back home.  And I was itching for the beach.  And my daughter had vacation time that had to be used or forfeited.  So we made reservations and three weeks later, we were off on our little adventure.  A win-win-win.

When we boarded the ship, Celeste and I discussed possible locations for the spreading of her mom’s ashes.  She only had portions of two days off while we were on the cruise (don’t get me started on the LONG hours for cruise ship employees, it’s completely unjust): a day in Barbardos and one in St. Maarten. 

Celeste decided to rent a jet ski in Barbados.  She drove and I held on as we sped along the turquoise waves to a spot reasonably far away from the shore with Michele’s ashes.  All of the sudden, Celeste stopped the jet ski and cried as she talked to her mom.  One last and final goodbye and “I love you,” and about half the ashes were spread into the warm waves.   We decided to save the rest for another beach.

My Best Friend
In her last few years of life, Michele craved physical warmth and was so at peace when she was near the ocean.  To her, being in Utah was like a prison because the weather was cold and the nearest ocean was hundreds of miles away.  That day we took her to a tropical place of rest that was as balmy as it was beautiful.  As we scattered the ashes, the clouds gave way to a bright and sunny sky.  Michele would have been pleased that we were together and that we buried her in such unconventional fashion, wearing bikinis and life jackets.  Since her death, she has been our angel on the other side and while we have missed her tremendously, we’ve welcomed her influence at the most unexpected of moments.

Michele hoped Celeste would have an education, an illustrious career, and the chance to travel the world.  I have oft said to Celeste that her mama would have screamed with all of her accomplishments, especially the opportunity to work on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.  Celeste has handled herself well, and she seems very confident in her work and demeanor despite the long hours and other challenges of living full-time on a boat.  She always looks so beautiful and has such an engaging smile.  Her attitude so reminds me of Michele.

Michele wanted me to have more men and love in my life.  She was a woman who made love to many men.  73, she had proudly told me many times.  I, in contrast, well, my confessions on this post aren’t going to mimic “Eat, Pray, Love.”  I was married a long time ago.  And I had a boyfriend who wanted to marry me.  Also a long time ago.  And then came a seemingly endless dating dry spell, broken every so often by a gentleman who couldn’t decide what he wanted.  I distracted myself with motherhood and my career.  I couldn’t kiss and tell if I wanted to because I never got too involved.  Sheer insanity.  

Only last year, I finally figured out how to make men smile.  Then I kissed four men in a single week.  That is probably something I should’ve accomplished in high school, but I’m a young soul.  I can see the text coming onto my phone now.  Was his kiss the best?  Yes.  Of course.  That for which you have to wait longest is sweetest.  As to the others, shrug.  And this year?   The love gods are sending someone my way in 2012.  He’s kind, honest, and intelligent.  A decent guy who can make me laugh.  And someone who yearns for adventure, because I don’t seem to be able to escape it, even if I might try.

PS: One Beach Removed From Bikini Beach aka “Bare Nekked”
I know.  This post is too long.  Tough darts.  I have a lot to say.  The French side is better in St. Maarten.  Should that be any surprise?  We took a tour of the entire island and ended up at Bikini Beach.  If you have not been there, go.  Besides soft sand that melts into your feet, the water was translucent aqua, and the cheeseburgers were divine.  Considering that I’m a vegetarian five days a week, that’s quite a compliment.

As my daughter and I were strolling after lunch, the sand, surf, and sea lured us across the informal rock-line boundary which delineated the beginning of the nude beach.  Well, that’s the official excuse, not that we needed one.

No, no, a thousand times no, I didn’t bare all.  As you read above, moving back to bikinis from one-piece tank suits was the feat of the trip. 

About midway, there was a huge handmade sign: “No Photos.”  Like we would have wanted to.  I have one piece of advice based on my nude beach experience: if complete buff (or for the ladies even topless) at the feet of the ocean is on your bucket list, please do the world a favor and check this off when you are still squarely in your prime.  Waiting til you are a sagging mass of cellulite held together by wrinkled epidermis is … well of questionable taste.  Just sayin’ …

1 comment:

  1. Amazing adventures, Miss Susi! How come you didn't tell me you posted this? Wish the pic of the bikini was a teeny bit bigger. Almost as good as being on your vacation though ;). LOL.