I have a box marked “Secret Stuff”. It is from a time before digital images and documents floating in the cloud. It doesn’t really contain secrets but rather memories of a trip to Barbados in 2001. I won the trip on Valentine’s Day the year before from a classical music station. At the time, my husband David and I had been together 15 years, married 10 years, had 3 children, 2 dogs and very little money. David was a stay-at-home dad and I was working in a low-level administrative job.
The trip included airfare and accommodation in Hastings on the south shore of the island but not food. The island relies on imports, so prices are high. I almost cancelled based just on the cost of food for the week and our family income.
A few months before the trip, I was using our second-hand shared computer in the basement when I discovered other reasons I might cancel. David was no longer happy being a stay-at-home Dad. He wanted to work but his income prior to leaving work was less than that of day care costs. Worse, he was struggling with personal issues and not always making the best choices. Once that kind of box is opened, it often can’t be closed.
The vacation that loomed was looking looking less and less like a happy couple’s getaway. The following months involved a lot of talking, self-reflection and a general re-examination of life. I documented information and kept it locked away in a drawer.
After much soul searching and saving, we decided to go on the trip. Our hotel room had a basic kitchen, so we walked to a local market and prepared most of our own meals.
We saw the house where George Washington vacationed on his only trip outside of the U.S. on our way to The Barbados Museum. We saw palm and frangipani trees for the first time. I went swimming out by the corral reef in front of the beach hotel. We embarked on a Cool Runnings catamaran lunch cruise and I swam with sea turtles. We walked along the beach, watched sunsets and relaxed. The Barbados Tourism Authority that had sponsored the trip arranged for a wonderful guide to take us on a day tour of the island which included visits to Harrison’s Cave, the Sunbury Plantation House and the high surf dangerous shores at Bathsheba.
After the trip, the photos I had developed, notes and brochures were safely stored in my box of Secret Stuff.
Unlike the fairy tale ending of a Hallmark movie, that trip didn’t change our lives instantaneously. In reality, rebuilding a relationship can take a lot of time, patience and effort. Soon I was in a better paying job and focusing more on things that made me happy. Eventually David went back to work, finished a College certificate and started a career in a field he loves. As our children grew up, the challenges of parenting eased.
Last week, I pulled out the real secret papers I had filed away almost 20 years ago. I asked David to shred them. We are done with those. That chapter is long past and we are fully focused on the good times that are now and the memories ahead.
Today as I navigate social media, I am careful when considering all the happy images floating about. I recall that smiles photographed in a beautiful locale may mask deeper life stories. It is what is unseen that may be the most pressing issue in someone’s life.
While the secrets are gone, my box of not-so Secret Stuff has grown. David and I enjoyed wonderful return visits to Barbados in 2018 and 2019. I have stacked new brochures and souvenirs on top and carefully catalogued the digital images we collected. I will be sharing some happy travel memories of a deeply in love middle-aged couple visiting Barbados over the next couple of weeks. Both visits included some beautiful, blooming mature gardens. Can’t wait to share those even lovelier images with you.