Island Idylls: Or, stories of growing up in the U. S. Virgin Islands.
***I'd say by the time I was six I was fishing off the rocks with a hand line, smashing whelks for bait. But it wasn't until about age eight that I learned to fish with a rod and reel. That's when we got our little boat, the F. D. O., which stood for Father's Day Off.
A Fishy Handshake
A Fishy Handshake
In 1958, Dad was working as head of maintenance at Caneel Bay, Laurance Rockefeller's private resort hotel. One of the benefits of working there was that housing was provided for the staff. We lived in a tiny house we called the Bee Hive, with the best view on the place. At least that's what Adlai Stevenson told my mother when he and his wife happened to wander through our yard.
Because the F. D. O. was small, neat, and clean, we were allowed to keep her pulled up on the main beach. She fit under a large Sea Grape tree where we could keep her tied up and out of the way and.
Picture, in your mind, the Caneel Bay of the 1950s. There was a concrete pier where guests and their luggage were loaded and unloaded from the resorts private ferry. The pier turned into a concrete walk-way which led right into the lobby. To the right of the lobby was a comfortable airy lounge with couches, chairs, and tables. To the left was the main dining room. Realize that all of this is open air, basically a roof, supported by pillars covering tile a floor. (All tastefully elegant) Just fifteen or twenty feet away from the lobby and dining room is the beach where guests can swim and sunbathe. No matter the time of day one could see guests walking around in anything from silk, linen, and mink to swim-suits and sandy bare feet.
So there we were. I had just gone on my first solo fishing trip. Just me and Dad. We had each caught a fish, but mine was bigger. He got a Blue Runner and I got a Bonito. While Dad got ready to transport the motor, gas can, fishing gear, and boat cushions, I had the fish, one in each hand, and carried them by their tails through the lobby to the parking lot where the jeep was parked. There I was to unload the fish and return to help Dad carry cushions and fishing gear.
As I passed by the reception and check-in desk a large man stopped me and introduced himself as Allston Boyer. He asked me about the fish. I explained I'd been out fishing with my father and that I'd caught the big one. He asked me several other questions before saying, "There's someone I'd like you to meet." He disappeared into a room and returned moments later with a tall handsome man.
"This is John Denham's daughter, Bish, " he said to the tall handsome man. "Bish, I'd like you to meet Laurance Rockefeller." Having been taught to be polite, I slapped the fish in my right hand into my left and stuck it out. Mr. Rockefeller, having been taught to be polite, shook my fishy hand.
It was just about then that Dad walked up. Further pleasantries were exchanged, employer to employee and vise versa. Then we went our separate ways.
At eight years old I didn't realize I'd just shaken hands with one of the wealthiest people in the world, the man who owned Caneel Bay, the man who had bought up three quarters of the island of St. John and donated it to the National Park.
As for Allston Boyer, he was a contract lawyer, for LR with a gift for remembering faces and names. Although he had never met me, he had met my father, and it didn't take him but a second or two to figure out who the little girl carrying the fish belonged to.
So it was that my fishy handshake became one of our favorite family stories.
I decided to join this monthly bloghop because answering thoughtful/challenging questions is one way to expand one's mind. Hosted by Michael D'Agostino at A Life Examined , the question this month is: What's the best job you've ever had?Hmmm, I've had a lot of jobs in my life, from pumping gas at my parent's gas station, to glazing ceramics. However, the absolute best job was working for 23 years with abused, neglected, and emotionally disturbed kids. Their resiliency and will to survive was/is humbling and awe inspiring.
And now, all these years later, many of those kids have made it a point to tell me that I made a difference in their lives. And my girl A. (the one who is dying and has guest posted here and here) gave me the greatest gift ever by saying, "Thank you for teaching me how to live before I die."
What could be better than that?
Today I'm thankful for the Texas spiny lizard.
Can you spot him/her?
What are you thankful for? What's the best job you ever had? Ever get to meet a "famous" person had shake his/her hand?