We celebrated Addie’s second birthday yesterday. While I can’t say this with certainty, I think she managed in two years to have a birthday that tops both Nancy and my combined 70+ years.
It started a month ago when we asked Addie what she wanted for her birthday. She said she wanted a cake. We reassured her we would get her a cake, and asked her what kind of present she wanted. She said, “cake.” (Funny thing is she had the same reaction to the news of another sibbling - she said, “no…I want a cake.”) Harry asked if she wanted a “Thomas” train or “Percy” train. Addie reiterated “I want a cake, a blue one, with sprinkles.”
In addition to a cake (yes, with blue icing and sprinkles), mom and dad wanted to do something special. We decided to take her on a boat ride to Gibbs Cay. Gibbs Cay is a small uninhabited island to the east of Grand Turk (see Google Earth map link on sidebar).
The day started with dad trying to tire-out Addie so she could catch an early nap and not have a melt-down during our birthday excursion. We went to the historic lighthouse on the north point of Grand Turk. It was buit in the 1850s to warn trading ships of the dangerous reef. Occasionally, the light would go out and ships would wreck. Human casualties from these lapses of light were minimal, but the economic losses were substantial. It just so happened that when the light went out, men were waiting on shore with boats to “help liberate” the valuables from the sinking ships.
Well, we drove to the lighthouse, even walked a trail to the beach below. Despite Dad calling it a race back to the car, Addie had too much energy. No nap. A second desperate attempt was made to encourage the nap with a car ride. It resulted in an all-too-short ten-minute nap. Still, Nancy was confident all would be ok in the end despite the lack of a nap.
We met our guests, the Johnsons (Joel, Stephanie, and daughters Kaya and Marin) , and our captain, Mr. Mackey, across the street from Oasis Divers on Duke Street. The kids were cackling on the boat as we bounced in the waves. I bounced Addie on my knee to exaggerate the motion, prompting her to exclaim, “Yeehaw cowboy!”
Half way between Grand Turk and Gibbs Cay, we stopped to dive for some conch. Mackey and Joel were pros at this, having done it numerous times. I decided to join them in the water with my mask, snorkel and fins. I didn’t expect much success on my part. I swam a bit and then saw some conch. My first reaction was to try to call Joel or Mackey over so they could get it. I looked around, but could not see them. I decided to dive down to see how close I could get. Turns-out it wasn’t too deep, and I made it to the surface with my first conch. While Nancy acknowledged my accomplishment, and Joel brought in three conch himself, the kids only cheer was “Go Mackey, Go Mackey!” We had seven conch in all. We were sure to be a bountiful conch salad.
A few minutes later, we arrived at our destination. It was unreal. Although topographically, it was not too dissimilar from Grand Turk, it was much more pristine. Besides, there is something neat about having an entire island to ourselves. For the three hours, the island belonged to the Eichlers, the Johnsons, and Captain Mackey. The kids had fun running around and exploring the shore.
For years, visitors have been feeding stingrays on the shore of Gibbs Cay. Today, the sound of our outboard motor was sufficient to trigger the Pavlovian response. Mackey began feeding the stingrays that greeted us, and soon we had five of these gentle creatures swimming around us in ankle-deep water. They bumped into out legs with their soft slippery wings. Touching their flesh felt like holding a juicy slice of mango. The name “Stingray” seems a bit too menacing for these animals. Apparently, the only way they can sting a person is if you bother them after they’ve burried themselves in the sand focusing on digesting the fish in their bellies.
[Watch a short VIDEO CLIP of the kids and rays]
The stingrays were soon joined by a couple of colorful trunkfish, a quick baracuda, and even a baby lemon shark. The kids were fascinated by the activity, seeing these animals up close, and touching the friendly stingrays.
The next order of business was preparing the conch we caught. Mackey got down to business “knocking” the conch. This process starts with breaking a grape-sized hole in the shell using a small hammer. Then, he inserted a knife into the hole to cut the tendon connecting the animal to its shell. A quick pull, and the bare naked conch was in the bucket. He cleaned them up, cut them up, and added the lime, tomato, onion and pepper we brought, and voila - fresh conch salad (ceviche). I’ve never tasted anything finer or fresher. Delicious!
Fun was had by all. We ate, we drank, we were merry. On the way back, Nancy and I agreed it was a near-perfect day. We wondered how different a birthday Addie would have had back in Virginia.
I know there will be moments when I will get too frustrated with Grand Turk. I fear there will be mishaps where I will question if we made a bad decision coming here in the first place. It’s important to remember days like this because it exemplifies so many aspects as to why coming to Grand Turk was a great idea. And, while it will never be all good or all bad, I want to hang on to this memory to balance-out potential negative expeirences down the road.
As for our little girl… she struggled to stay awake on the boatride home. Her eyes grew too heavy. Mackey enjoyed watching her fight her sleep to the bitter end. She finally hit the recline button right back into mom’s arms. We smiled over our little girl and her big day that finally wore her out. The rest of us were satisifed we had a complete and wonderful day. But Addie still had something left on her list.
Happy second birthday, Addie.