I’ve saved the best for last. Shoal Bay East. On an island full of beautiful beaches, this one rises above the rest. With it’s impossibly white powdery sand, warm aquamarine water that gently kisses the shore, an absence of footsteps but our own, and a shallow area of reef for snorkeling, this beach has it all.
As I went through the images that we took there, I realize anew that photographs are the windows to which we can view our memories. A moment forever frozen in time. A tiny time machine that can transport us back to that place and be relived as often as we desire.
This is one of my happy places. This moment in time with my family on the most beautiful beach in the world. This window to a memory where I am always on vacation, my daughter is forever a child, and my husband wears a perpetual smile.
Along the 2 mile beach, there was a place we stopped to eat. A local man was there resting his freshly broken arm. He was very friendly and I found myself in conversation with him immediately. He asked me about LA and seemed to relish in my description of life in Southern California.
I asked him how he broke his arm. He told me another local had broken it the night before. I was more than a little taken aback. I couldn’t help but ask him why someone would do that. He simply replied, “because he doesn’t like me”.
He went on to write down his name and address on a little index card he pulled out of his pocket. When he handed it to me he said, “Please think of me now and then when you are in your Southern California paradise”.
I realized then that this man was desperate to get off of this island. This place that I had saved so long to come to, this place that I was trying acutely to drink in every minute, to remember every sound and sight of.
One man’s paradise is another man’s hell. How many of these cards had he handed out?
It had gotten awkward.
We politely moved on, but the man still haunts me from time to time.
We spent the rest of the day walking, laughing, swimming, snorkeling. I couldn’t bear to leave it. But we had to, so I thought of something I could do to help me remember this place.
It was just a simple thing. I just wanted to take a little of this powdery sand with me to have a tangible reminder of paradise. If anyone ever doubted how perfect this sand was, I could whip out my little sample and let them ooh and ahhh as they ran the tiny specks of heaven through their own hand.
So I took out the only thing I had on me to gather sand in, an empty Pringles container. I filled it half full and took my prize with me back to our room.
Early the next morning we left our perfect beach that I had come to know as my own. I was a little mad that it didn’t care that I was leaving. It would go on being indescribably beautiful to someone else. Or to nobody else. It didn’t matter. I wouldn’t be here ever again, which struck me sullen.
At least I was bringing a tiny piece of it back with me in the Pringles can that was carefully packed in my luggage along with a couple of shells. Such a small token of what loomed large in my memory…and still does.
We retraced our travel back the way we came. We didn’t have to fly with chickens or an overweight plane this time though. Thank goodness.
We arrived in Puerto Rico where we had to claim our luggage and go through customs, which was on the far side of the airport. The airport in Puerto Rico makes me feel a little like a zoo animal. It is floor to ceiling glass on a single level, with everyone outside pressing their faces to the glass to get a look inside.
We dutifully picked up said luggage, made the long walk to customs and took our place in the queue to be inspected. I looked behind me (as everyone Mom does to make sure we hadn’t dropped anything) and to my absolute horror noticed on the dark floor a powdery white line all the way across the airport to my suitcase.
Oh. My. Gosh.
I pulled my suitcase forward to try and distance myself from it, but since it was coming from my suitcase, it just continued to follow me.
My face went red hot. I broke out into an immediate sweat as if I had just run a marathon.
I felt like a very bad drug mule that was clumsily trying to smuggle cocaine into the US.
I don’t do well in these kind of situations, I immediately go to worse case scenario.
Locked Up Abroad.
I knew I looked guilty. I couldn’t help it. I don’t normally smuggle white powdery sand into the US, so how was I to know how unreliable my Pringles vessel would be at transporting my stash?
Damn that Shoal Bay sand for being so impossibly fine and white!
I tried to get my husband’s attention without drawing any to myself, but he was focused on placing his luggage on the conveyor. It was too late. All I could do at this point was hope he would get a good lawyer so I could come home again.
It was my daughters turn to put her little SpongeBob rolling case on the conveyor and they waved her through.
Good they were through…hopefully they could behave as though they didn’t know me when the customs person nodded to the policia and they took me down.
I set my suitcase on the conveyor and braced myself. No matter how I set it, the sand just kept coming. All the saliva had left my mouth. My face was tomato red and I could feel my heart beating out of my chest as I handed over my passport.
I stared at my husband and daughter waiting for me, memorizing their faces.
The attendant hands me my passport and tells me to pick up my suitcase.
Just like that I am through customs.
Thank you God! Thank you, thank you God!
When we finally got home and I opened that suitcase, let me just say I have never seen such a mess in my life. It’s like I threw a few cups of flour in with my clothes, not quite sure if I was baking or traveling.
It took me a week, but I managed to salvage some of that sand with a paint brush. It now resides safely in a bottle in a shadow box along with other little baubles I picked up, and a photo of my daughter and I walking along the beach in Anguilla.
As for my smuggling career? Well over my friend, well over.
Until next time dearest.