Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Monday, December 20, 2010


This is an updated/edited post from 2007.

December 20th, 1955, marks the day we arrived in the Virgin Islands. I was five years old. We had journeyed all the way from California on a freighter called the Pasadena. (Pictured here.) The three week trip took us down the West Coast, through the Panama Canal and into the Caribbean.

It was growing dark as we came into the harbor of Charlotte Amalia. Christmas lights twinkled around the harbor and hills. They were colored jewels reflected in the calm waters of the bay.

At the dock we were met by uncle Ralf, my mother’s younger brother. As we waited for our personal luggage to be unloaded, we went to a small palm thatched bar at Yacht Haven. I had my first Virgin Island coke (there used to be a bottling plant on St. Thomas) but it was too sweet for my liking and I think that’s why I have never been much of a soda drinker.

When we finally got our luggage we piled into a Willy’s station wagon and drove over dark, steep, winding roads from Charlotte Amalia to Red Hook on the far east end of the island.

From there we got onto a 20 foot launch and traveled three miles across Pillsbury sound to the island of St. John.The night was clear and dark. The Milky Way was a silver sash across the sky. My father directed my attention to the wake of the boat. There, to my amazement and delight, were more stars! Dad explained about phosphorescence. But I knew better. I knew the lights in the water were shooting stars that had fallen into the sea. I couldn’t decide which was more beautiful, the diamond studded sky or an ocean full of stars.
At the Creek, in Cruz Bay, we got into a jeep and drove over steep, rough, dirt roads. In some places four wheel drive was needed to traverse the rutted trail.

By the time we got at Trunk Bay it was close to mid-night. Grammy, my mother's mother, had left instructions that she be awakened when we arrived.We waited in the foyer at the bottom of the stairs. A single kerosene lamp pushed back the darkness. Outside coquis, geckos and crickets sang. Palm trees rustled in the breeze. And behind it all was the low ever-present melody of the ocean.

I had never been to Trunk Bay, never met my grandmother, yet everything seemed very familiar. I had seen, heard and smelled it all before. I recognized the small table in the corner, knew where the door on my left went. I had a wonderful feeling of coming home. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was my first deja vu.
Then, from the top of the darkened stairs, Grammy appeared. She carried a glass lamp in her left hand. Her right hand rested on the banister. She was wearing a long white night gown. Her waist-length silver-white hair lay in a long braid over her left shoulder.

The soft light from the lamp she carried enveloped her like a halo. As I watched her come down the stairs I knew I was seeing an angel descending from heaven.

“Is this my grandmother?” I thought. “Do I have an angel for a grandmother?”

Suddenly she was among us, turned into a human being. She showed us to our rooms and put us to bed.

In the morning I awoke to the sounds of thrushies whistling, banaquits chirping and mourning doves cooing. And there behind it all was the low ever-present melody of the ocean.

I got up and went outside. Out of the darkness a miraculous view had appeared. An ocean was spread at my feet containing more colors of blue than I knew possible. Islands of different sizes and shades of green floated on the waves. Above me great towering clouds of white and gray and lavender hung in a azure sky.

I knew in that moment I belonged, that I was home.

All my life I have remembered that night and the following morning as clearly as is if happened yesterday. My grandmother turned out to be a wonderfully warm and loving human being. But in my little girl’s heart she remains my fairy god-mother, my guarding angel, a star come down to earth to help light my way.

The 20th of December was a gift. It became a family anniversary of our homecoming. It became the day we put up our Christmas tree and marked the beginning of our Christmas holidays.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope you make many wonderful Christmas memories.

And here's one way to make a memory. Between 11:55 PM tonight and 2:53 AM (CST) we have the opportunity of seeing a winter solstice total lunar eclipse. The last time this happened was like 400 years ago. Get your kids up, make hot chocolate and go watch it. I hope it's clear where you are.


  1. Bish, I love the way you describe your grammy. Beautiful memories. And your first deja vu. So SWEET. I love it when you write about your life back in the day. You really bring me to the Virgin Islands. Thanks Bish. Merry Christmas, girlfriend.

  2. What a beautifully amazing story! Thank you for sharing. It really was beautiful.
    Merry Christmas!

  3. Oh, Bish, I love these memories of your grandmother. So lovely. We bundled up our kids for the meteor shower when they were little and counted shooting stars ... I hope it won't be too cloudy up here for the eclipse. Plus, we're on holiday. Merry Christmas, dear friend.

  4. Wow, what a lovely story of your arrival and your grandmother. I'm so happy you have such rich memories of your childhood, and thankful you share them.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  5. An angel for a grandmother. What a marvel. This is such a moving and beautiful story. Thank you, and I wish you all that wonder again this year.

  6. What a lovely story - thanks for sharing it with us!

    Have a very blessed Christmas!

  7. Beautiful post, Bish! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  8. Thank you, thank you for such a beautiful capturing of those moments. "...Milky way was a silver sash across the sky..." so perfect. And your grammie with the lamp light, making a halo. So lovely.


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