Why We Need Our Dog

We were standing at the edge of the water, the sun splashing itself against the curling waves so that the water itself sparkled. My thirteen year old son, whose freckles reappeared after a few days on the beach and whose blue eyes match the turquoise sea, leaned into me. “I don’t want to leave.”

“Me neither,” I answered with my arm around him.

“It was an awesome week.”

And we took a few last moments watching the sea together.

Two hours later, having packed up and showered, our nine year old and I sat on the Harbour island dock with our bags while my husband went back to get the older boys and lock up the golf cart. Our son wore a Kansas City Chiefs baseball hat and a fluorescent green t-shirt from last summer’s swim team. His red fox neck pillow was wrapped around his neck.

“You guys are so much fun to travel with,” I told him and couldn’t help but kiss him on the nose.

He smiled, “You and Dad are fun to travel with too.”

And when we were all together, having made our connecting flight, but nostalgic for the day we arrived eight days ago, our fourteen year old reminded us that home is not so bad, because…

“I can’t wait to see the puppy.”

The puppy who is no longer a puppy. “Poor puppy,” the boys added and were suddenly ready for vacation’s end.

 

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Harbour Island, Bahamas: Day 6

Searching for Cannons

At the pediatrician’s office back home in Denver, the boys’ doctor, who had recently been to Harbour Island, said it would be fun for the kids to go on a scavenger hunt for the cannons.

Their grandmother sent us to the southern tip of the island, where she supported the rumors that such cannons exist. She said we would pass a guard house. “Just tell them you are going to see the cannons.” And there was a small park.

Their father nodded in agreement. He remembered them.

As we drove our golf cart south, we picked up a trail of pale yellow signs that picture a cannon pointing in their supposed direction. The road crossed through private property, marked by an unconvincing sign. Though a strict follower of the rules, the island’s relaxed way of life led me to ignore that sign, despite worried eyes and a few “we should go backs” from my equally rule-conscious sons.

Then, the road transitioned from a paved one to dirt and at a particularly rocky spot, I yelled for everyone to lean toward me, as the golf cart was tipping. No more tourists smiling at us from their golf cart. No more locals either. No guard house or park. Through the dense foliage – mostly palm fronds and huge round leaves with bright red veins – we could hear the crashing of waves on the rocky southern shore.

Clearly, Harbour Island’s wild side!

But no cannons.

We discovered a path above the coral reef-like beach, and I convinced the boys to explore.

No cannons.

We turned back when we reached its destination, the middle of nowhere.

Two trips to the elusive cannons later, the boys and I have still not discovered their location. We even tried assuming that the signs had been moved as part of some island prank and took alternate paths to no avail.

Having returned to the place the signs point to more than once, I realized while standing on this lonely, strange tip of the island, listening to the waves crashing on the reef-like shore, that one could assume the cannons you are searching for are not military weaponry at all. They are instead, I began to believe, the sound the waves make when they break here. Isolated and echoing.

We have asked two locals and an island regular who fishes off the southern shore every year. Two could not remember ever seeing the cannons, though they had noticed the signs. One claimed she saw them long ago, but even then, they were eroded and not worth the trip. She guessed they were now covered by vegetation.

Tomorrow is our last day on Harbour Island. Do we go in search of the cannons again? Or do we return home content that our search brought us unanticipated treasures – shells, a gorgeous piece of coral, a cool rock, waves that sound like cannons and an adventure together that sent us searching for cannons from a small island’s colonial history?

I know what the boys will choose – only if Dad comes! He’ll find them!

Harbour Island, Bahamas: Day 4

The Roosters

On your first night of sleep on Harbour Island, one of the myths learned as fact from your earliest children’s board books about “farm animals” is very rudely debunked. The rooster’s first crow is at dawn. As you probably read, the sun rises. The rooster crows to greet the day and wake up the farmer. Cockadoodle-doo.

On Harbour Island, the rooster first crows in the middle of the night. His friends call back to him. And then he doodle-doos even louder. The bragging, which sounds more like coyotes howling, goes on all night long. They seem to quiet a bit by mid-morning. They grow quieter, or you become numb to it…until the middle of the next night, when the first rooster crows again.

Why Do You Name Your House?

There are no address numbers on the houses of Harbour Island. Instead, wooden signs on the gates or front porches tell you the houses’ names: The Arches, The White Lodge, Coral Cay, Loyalist Lodge, Blessings, Briland Bliss. The names give you a glimpse into the personality of the family who owns it or a bit of the home’s history.

Ours is the Back Banyans, though there is no sign to identify it as such. So the islanders know it as “the wooden house across from Ma Ruby’s.” Most houses are made of plaster or colorfully painted, so the wooden cabin under the banyan trees is unique. Plus, Ma Ruby owns a small hotel and restaurant across the street that is a popular stopping place for locals and tourists alike. She is often sitting in the bar area, while her grown daughters run the place, and greets you with “Welcome Home!”

The Back Banyans, in the middle of the small island, is so named for the huge banyan trees in the yard and the fact that it is behind the bigger house on the adjacent estate. Many of the houses are owned by the world’s rich and famous. J. Crew photo shoots have been known to take place on the sands. Prince Harry beat us by a week this time. But no one bothers them here. They find tranquility, as we do.

The naming of houses seems consistent also with the numerous yachts that pull up to the island docks so that the seafarers may rest on the pink sand beaches and sample some of Harbour Island’s wonderful restaurants. For late afternoon entertainment, the kids like to wander the docks checking out the yachts and their names: Four Aces, Dragon, Dog Days, Emily E, and High Life to name a few we’ve noted this week. Dragon looked like a bigger, sleeker, updated James Bond boat. Another yacht brought along it’s own speed boat for water skiing, and of course, its own helicopter. That one had a crew of at least six, all wearing pale blue polo shirts and khakis as their uniform.

So I asked our boys what they would like to name our house back home in Denver. It is a gray house with a big red door. The unanimous vote: Red Against Blue.

Not exactly what I was thinking.

Harbour Island, Bahamas: Day 3

Water People

There are surely people whose souls are connected to water, or in more secular terms, who are more at peace when near the sea. There are others who crave the whispering of tree leaves in the wind and the way a golden afternoon sun splashes its way across the forest floor. Others look for drama, and you sense that their souls are like fire, constantly burning and looking for trouble, or at least, a way to explode onto the scene. And others still who are only home with the sounds of traffic and the smell of a soft pretzel truck on the street corner. Unfortunately, many of us spend our days far from the place that centers us, focuses our thoughts, inspires us, and gives us peace.

Today, on Harbour Island, I watched my nine-year-old son in his element – the water. It is the place where he is most comfortable in his own skin, where he is most willing to take risks, and where he seems happiest. He is this way in the pool or whenever we head to the beach. He spent five straight hours in the sea at the point where the waves break. He leapt into them, let them crash over him, dove under them. Even when he was not swimming, he was lying in the shallow low tide making mud pies, the water still washing over his tanned body.

You could stand next to him without being noticed for minutes at a time. And then suddenly, he would see you standing there, grin at you, and dive under another wave. He is perfectly content to battle the waves alone, rarely turning to look for the rest of us to join him in his play.

This is a boy who rarely pushes the envelope. He stays close to home. He follows the rules. He is quiet. He moves slowly. In the water, however, he is independent and confident and even daring.

Back at the house, I joked that he must have been a fish in a previous life, or will be in the next. He looked at me seriously, as if he had already considered it, “Then I hope I’m a whale shark. Nobody eats a whale shark.”

Harbour Island, Bahamas: Day 2

Pink Sand

Harbour Island has the best sand in which I’ve ever had the luxury of wiggling my toes. It is very pale pink, like the inside of a conch shell crushed into millions of pieces, and its color contrasts with the clear blue turquoise waters of the Caribbean. It feels like you’ve stepped into a bed of silk sheets — sand so soft, no grain distinguishable from another.

As you wade into the wild March surf,, your feet continue to be spoiled by a beach with no shells or rocks. Very few seagulls race the waves. And your spot in the sand is truly yours. Quiet except for the wind and waves. A few people walking down the sand, contemplating life or breathing in the fresh sea air.

Tonight we celebrated a late afternoon Happy Hour at the Blue Bar at the Pink Sands Resort. A Goombay Smash, a glass of wine, lemonades for the kids and a view of the beach, where the sand seems even more pink and the sea even bluer. The Resort is as high-class as they come, the restaurant and open-air lobby absolutely gorgeous. The staff always welcoming. But since we come to the island only for this very special beach, it doesn’t matter where you sleep or eat — only that you have the chance to wiggle your toes in soft, pink sand.

Harbour Island, Bahamas: Day 1

It seems odd that the first fruity rum drink many people have on a visit to islands like the Bahamas is handed to them in the airport. Now, Nassau Airport is a work in progress. It is small and dark, but a large glass wing is in the process of being built. Currently, to transfer from your U.S. flight to a “domestic” leg to one of the smaller Bahamas islands, you walk through a makeshift hallway through or around the hard hat zone. As you come through customs, you might be handed a rum drink in a plastic cup. When you get to the “domestic” waiting area, you can order a Kalik at a 4-person, indoor bar with no windows. Bad rum in the pit of an airport may calm your nerves while you wait impatiently for your bags, but why waste your first taste of island life on an airport drink in a dixie cup?!

You’ve been counting the days for months, if not years. You’ve been sitting at your cubicle at work anticipating drinking a Yellowbird or Pina Colada or Bahama Mama while watching the sun set on the beach. And you settle for cheap rum at the airport! You have, at most, an hour to go. Wait. Be patient. Enjoy the last bit of anticipation before your beach vacation really begins.

And then, when your toes are wiggling in the sand, the sea breeze is blowing gently at your back, and the sun approaches the horizon, igniting an explosion of pinks and purples in the sky….then, and only then, order your drink.

It will be well worth the wait.

Signing off from my beach vacation on Harbour Island….Yellowbird. Yellowbird.