Travel is a balm for my soul. I think I must get easily bored and just need the stimulation of it all; even the getting to and around in the airport feels exciting to me when there is the possibility of visiting someplace new (or heck, not so new. Sometimes I just. Need. To. Go.)
But last June, I did get to go someplace new. I’ve been to the Caribbean many times; my husband used to fly out of St. Croix during hurricane season back when he was flying for the Hurricane Hunters, and I went with him a few times, riding down to the islands on a C-130 and then hanging out on the beach while he worked. Also, years ago when the kids were little, we took them to St. John. It was one of the first trips we took after my husband left the Air Force and went to work for Delta, and we were so excited to go somewhere! We had absolutely no money, so we stayed in a place that, from afar, sounded like a cool adventure. It had even been on the travel channel! It was called an ecovillage! But what that meant, in reality, was hard sided tents in the jungle and bathrooms a long walk through the mosquito-filled jungle, and showers operated by a rope that you pulled. My husband and the kids thought it was great. Me, not so much. Especially when an iguana-sized lizard decided that he would share our tent for the night. So yes, I’ve visited the Caribbean before. However, the island of St. Martin was a new place for me, and I was thrilled to be going.
As is often the case, my husband had a trip to St. Martin and I sort of tagged along. I say sort of because I actually went out a day ahead of him with my daughter. We found a place to stay on the French side of the island; St. Martin has two sides, one Dutch and one French. As an unabashed, unapologetic francophile, of course I chose the French side.
We arrived in country after an easy flight and found a taxi to take us to our hotel. We were staying at a wonderful little place called the Love Residences, which are attached to the Love Hotel, on the beach in Grand Case. Right away, we were charmed; it was exactly how I envision that a place on the beach should be. Simple, but spacious and spotlessly clean, and best of all, we could step right out the door and onto the sand- in short, exactly what I needed. We put our luggage in our room, changed into bathing suits, and were on the beach as quickly as possible, where we stayed for the rest of the afternoon.
I was told that being in St. Martin was a lot like being in France, complete with wonderful restaurants and bakeries and of course people speaking French, and I found this indeed to be true. France, only with sparkling blue water and white sand and heat. One benefit of being at a French beach is that they will bring you a glass of wine, if you wish, right to your chair under the umbrella. Thus, I spent my afternoon chatting with met daughter, sipping red wine, and intermittently dipping into the ocean. I watched the sun go down thus, while also enjoying observing families with children playing in the water and sand as well.
I learned something on this sparkling, blue afternoon: the ocean holds grief well. You can float around out in the waves and cry as much as you need to, and nobody will even notice. The water is salty, just like tears, and you are wet anyway, and the sound of the waves covers any sound of quiet sobbing. For me, of course, it was month 4 past mom’s death, and it felt wonderful to let go in a place where nobody knew me (my daughter had gone inside the room hours before, probably to text friends) and nobody could hear me even if they did know me. Or who knows, maybe they did and they’re still talking about the crazy lady in the navy blue bathing suit who spoke strangely accented French- “Did you hear her out there crying like a little baby?” – but I don’t care. Grief does odd things to you, I’m also learning. Sometimes you need to get it out and that is just how it is. Better for that to happen in St. Martin than at my kids’ school. Or at least that’s how I see it.
And then, once I had cried myself out while floating on my back in the clear, blue Caribbean, my daughter and I went to dinner together at a restaurant across the street from our hotel.
The chef was from Bordeaux. How could it possibly be any better than that: a day on the beach with my girl, glass of red wine, and then a lovely French meal? If only mom could have been there too. She would have loved it!
But then again, I kind of think she was there. After all, she is the one who instilled in me a sense of wonder at this world, a sense of adventure… along with the ability to cry when I need to and then pick myself up, dust myself off, and get on with living.