Back in the 90′s when daughter #1 turned 16, I thought it was time for us to take a trip together. Around the same time a colleague and her husband had been transferred by his company to Port of Spain, Trinidad. We corresponded the year she was away, and she invited us to visit. She didn’t know anyone there. Trinidad sounded lovely. It was a place we had never been. What an opportunity I thought, so I took her up on her invitation. It had been a hard year, our daughter’s sophomore year…as a high school teacher I had anticipated that…sophomore year is tough. My good friend, a former teacher and counselor understood and welcomed us with loving arms.
My passport was in order, but daughter #1′s had to be renewed quickly. We waited in line at a government building in Houston one morning, and we secured it the very next day! I couldn’t believe it…yes, our government is at work. This trip was in the making. I had only decided on it in May and by the first week of June we were there!
It all happened “lickety-split”.
At the airport my daughter was excited to notice that Hakeem Olajuwon, a Houston Rockets basketball player was boarding the plane with us. He went to first class, we took our seats in coach. As we took our seats, she reached for a little book she had brought to read on the plane. Her school had created a small book of quotable quotes that each teacher had contributed. The very first quote she found was “The baskets you don’t score, are the ones you don’t shoot.” “You’ve got to get Hakeem’s autograph on that page,” I encouraged. She got out of her seat, went up the aisle into first class and did just that before the plane took off.
So far so good. That was a good sign.
“Mom, now where are we going?” Everything had happened so fast. All I had told her was we were visiting Mrs. R and her husband in the Caribbean, but exactly where, I didn’t know. It had been the end of the school year for her and for me too, and I hadn’t even given that a thought. I knew it was tropical. I was certain we would have adventures…why, she had already gotten Hakeem’s autograph! The prospect of visiting my friend and a chance to get away with my daughter were the only things I had considered.
So I reached for the airline magazine looking for a map. “Oh my goodness,” I gasped. We’re practically going to South America! I knew Trinidad was a Caribbean Island, but I didn’t know it was just a few miles off the coast of Venezuela!
Our adventure continued on the plane. There was another celebrity! Miss Trinidad-Tobago was also, on the flight and she had just won the Miss Universe pageant the month before! I was so grateful, this impromptu trip was turning out better than anything I could have planned.
Hours into our flight, flying over the islands below us, the captain pointed out Guadeloupe, Martinique and Barbados. Inside the plane, a colorful figure went to the front of our cabin and began entertaining us with songs and his portable tin-pan. The adventure continued!
When we landed, it was great to see the familiar face of my friend and her husband. We made our way to the car, and her husband suggested that my friend and I sit in the back seat, and my daughter sit in the front seat. She immediately went to the front right door upon which Mr. R handed her the car keys. “What?” She was clearly confused. “Well, if you take that seat you’ll be driving,” he laughed. This island followed the protocol of driving on the left side of the road and their car was English. He drove.
The days went by quickly. We went into Port of Spain and visited the Queen’s Park Oval, the National Museum, Fort George, the Gingerbread House, walked past the President’s House, the Queen’s Park Savannah and of course, we went shopping! We spent a day at Macaras Beach on the north end of the island. My daughter’s souvenirs for her friends were photographs of their names written in the sands of the beach.
Our final day of touristing, my friend took us to the art studio of Llanos and Maigot. Llanos created charming sculptures of rural life in Trinidad. I picked up two small ones for us and managed to secretly purchase a grand piece, “The Hibiscus House” for our friends as a thank you for hosting us. Right before we left for the airport for our return flight, I left it upstairs on our bed rather than present it to her…I didn’t want to run the risk of her insisting that we keep it. And so we left for the airport without a hitch saying good-bye to the memories that were meant to be.