Wednesday, May 25, 2016



We were a whole family, you might say a tribe, headed for The British Virgin Islands . . . twenty-four adults and eleven children—with only three left at home.  When four generations with that many people depart for a foreign country, it’s like the Brits setting out on The Mayflower.  Whatever the original purpose, it becomes an expedition.    

Our goal was a resort on Virgin Gorda called Aquamare, altogether three villas, which heretofore we’d viewed only on the Internet. Between the pictures and the price, however, the Deciders among us figured it must be pretty nice. 

Turned out it was more than “nice” -- which will be discussed in a moment.  In the meanwhile there was a significant hurdle . . . namely, the distance between Us and Them.   

Remember those faraway days when Getting There Was Half the Fun?  As a group we’re here to attest this is now fiction. With ten different households departing from eight cities--some in California, others in Virginia and Florida—we experienced at least four major airline screw-ups. (Though none rated as disasters).   Let me count the ways:

A. Lauren and Dan--plus two children under five--arrived at their six a.m. Reno departure a tad late—made later when an American Airlines employee told Lauren, “You’re in the wrong line. What makes you think you’re first class?”

“Because I bought first class tickets.”

“Show them to me.”  The woman remained un-convinceable. However, she added enough delay so that Lauren’s group missed the plane, had to spend the night in Dallas, and arrived a day late. 
B. Kelly and Matt, plus two kids nearing ten, drove an hour to LAX, only to learn their midnight flight was cancelled. No pilot. Home again, with their house occupied by house-sitters, they borrowed Betty-Jo’s home and next day started over. Eventually they arrived, but a day late.

C. Christy and Mike, plus two kids also nearing ten, spent nearly three hours sitting on the tarmac in Miami—the first half with no air-conditioning and no water. For that interval, the passengers were in a virtual torture chamber.

D. Madeline’s intermediate plane left so late she missed her last mini-flight on Seaborne Airlines. Stubbornly refusing to compromise, Seaborne doubled its fares for all delayed passengers. For a twenty-minute flight they demanded an extra $400. 

On a better note: Rob and I traveled with Brandon and Rachel and two kids under seven. Though none of us got much sleep on our three flights coming and going, those two kids—often food-deprived, always sleep-deprived—never complained and never stopped smiling.

Once at Aquamare, we were suddenly and completely enveloped in luxury. Our private chef prepared three meals a day for thirty-five eaters, ranging in age from 88 years to 8 months. To our surprise, some of the most gifted eaters sat in high chairs. Our chef beguiled us with sautéed shrimp, grilled tuna and juicy steaks, salads filled with fruits and artichoke hearts, desserts like brownies a-la-mode and key lime pie.

To top off the amazing food, it was served on special plates, individualized with each of our names and a hand-drawn picture—created back home by Christy and her daughters, Marley and Malena, as a way to memorialize the trip. We were all surprised and pleased by the artistry. 

At different times, different members played games—Sequence, Boggle, and the card game Golf. Rob and I devised two quizzes, one personal, one informational, and the allure of monetary prizes assured us of the group’s rapt attention.

Almost everyone, even those nearing ten, did their share of Caribbean snorkeling, while the daring few rented a boat and scuba dived. But the boat also served other purposes: as a water ferry to and from town and other islands, and even as a water-ski boat for kayaks.  

Because Rob was days short of turning 89, our kids and grand kids surprised him with a steel drum band (an old favorite, Morris Marks), and almost everyone, including us, danced in the sand. Using a prop, Rob called his version “cane dancing.” 

Early in our stay, we began noticing a form of covert thievery. No cash ever disappeared, but rum, beer, wine, and chocolates were considered fair game.  

Among notable achievements—Spencer, nearing five, learned to swim. Several ten-year-olds, already swimmers, became competitive at parlor games, and when Ella, also nearing five, was asked why she wasn’t turned loose in the pool, like her aunt, she said, “You’re 24. You can swim.” 

With our resort a short air flight from Puerto Rico, we heard all the cautionary tales about mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus. No visible mosquitoes were ever seen by us.  

But other critters, permanently invisible, immediately began feasting on our 140 arms and legs, covering all of them in multiple, itchy welts--inspiring a run on anti-itch creams and the repellent DEET. But DEET only worked when you remembered to re-apply.

Constantly trying to figure out which chemical was currently missing, among the adults our five days of luxury had its lesser side--a subliminal tussle between Sun Sprays and Bug Sprays.

The second resort challenge were the beautiful tile floors in every room—but only when they were wet. Since areas of “wet” were a more-or-less permanent condition, we found ourselves walking with measured steps, like penguins in the arctic. For Rob and me, it was like trying to remain upright while crossing an ice-skating rink.

A tile-puddle did eventually “do-in” our granddaughter, Christy, who went down hard on the side of her foot. But like all the good sports—meaning everyone—she only complained briefly.

Among us, two people were notable for adoring babies. And we had plenty of youngsters to adore. Grandmother Betty-Jo seldom had a baby-free lap, and father Matt spent numerous intervals tossing one or another child into the air.

With 35 people you’d expect an equal number of differing personalities, from crabby to disinterested to sweet. But in those five days, “crabby” and “disinterested” never appeared. Sure, a baby occasionally cried, but only briefly.

If I had to name the personality trait that seemed to define everyone from three on up, it was Geniality. For that, Rob and I are taking some credit.  After all, didn’t the two of us begin creating this mini-nation . . . cheerfully . . . sixty-six years ago?      


Yesterday I finally saw the Amazon version of my two books:  "Higher Than Eagles"  and "Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead."  Amazon did a great job. Both look attractive, but more important, they stay open--easily.     

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