This morning I made a shopping list. It was for more than just a trip to Bert’s for the Best: I had a few things I wanted, like a comfortable bed pillow, and a sheer curtain for the front door, and some small wastebaskets for the bathrooms. Nothing I couldn’t live without, but I thought maybe I’d rent a car from Godfrey and head for Rock Sound for the day tomorrow.
Then, at noon, Miss Brenda stopped by. She had Little Thing and we chatted for a while. I showed her my list. “Ready to go now?” she asked?
“I’m gonna show you how to shop, Miss Judy,” she said. Off we went to Rock Sound: past the Tarpum Bay ‘Shopping Center’, past the Rock Sound Airport, past the Rock Sound Shoppers Paradise and the Scotia Bank. We pull up to a small strip mall of three stores. Three Bahamian twenty-something women were sitting on the front steps of the building, sipping sodas and laughing.
“Morning, Miss Brenda,” one said.
“Are you OK?”, Miss Brenda’s usual greeting.
We go in the middle store, a gift shop and Christian bookstore, and one of the young women follows us in. Mostly, the store has gift items: bowls, statues, picture frames, candles. And, in the back, inspirational books. We ooh and ah a little, as gift shop visitors do, but everything is pretty expensive and more fit for a wedding present. Brenda likes one leather picture frame with gold leaf vines and flowers, but it’s $60, far too much money.
So, we go to the next store, a clothing shop, and one of the other front step-sitters follows us. She’s very chatty, and it turns out she’s Kervin’s second cousin (“Kervin’s daddy and her daddy were brothers”). She shows us some clothes—again, Miss Brenda finds a sleeveless knit dress she likes and thinks that, with a jacket, it would do for church. But it’s $25, and we aren’t shopping for clothes. This store does have a sheer window panel, which is what we are shopping for, but it is a pale beige color with metallic threads woven through it—a little too fancy for our place.
The last store in the shopping trio is an art and handicraft store—lots of African and Island wood carvings of animals, fish and birds, and some craft supplies. I also notice a pretty good supply of handmade sandals: that store has some possibilities for some other day.
All three women follow us back to the car, where we have left Little Thing asleep in the car seat. She doesn’t waken as we stand around her and comment on what a beautiful baby she is, and Kervin’s second cousin sees her new relative for the first time and remarks that she has the Culmer chin. Once again I notice how warmly babies are regarded in this society: they are admired and hugged and bounced and patted by everyone from the smallest toddler to the oldest grandpa, and Little Thing is no exception.
We turn off Queen’s Highway, which is Rock Sound’s main road—and in fact, the main road for the hundred miles between the north and south tips of this island. Brenda pulls the car up to the curb in front of what looks like an abandoned house, and we enter through an open door. There’s a small counter and cash register on our left and sitting there is a small, very dark man. There are no lights on and he’s fairly well hidden in the shadows, but he turns on a dim light and greets Miss Brenda who says, “Are you all right?” and without waiting for his answer, “You got any sheers?”
The room we are in is stacked floor to ceiling with things: toys, clothes, household goods, cosmetics. Plastic bags containing large sized, shiny brassieres dangle from the ceiling,and stacks of pillow are squashed into a bin. We move toward the back down a narrow aisle between piles of merchandise and come to more stacks, this time plastic envelopes filled with bed linens, towels, and curtains. He does have some ‘sheers’ in his inventory and he pulls them out: they are a dark burgundy, embroidered busily with flower patterns in darker thread, and ruffled at the hemline. Brenda likes them, I can tell, but I quickly say, “No. I think I want something in white. And plain.”
“No,” he says. “No white ones.”
We look at some other items, and Brenda discovers a hat in a small alcove filled with clothing. The hat is large brimmed, a pale beige straw affair enhanced with matching netting and large silk flowers. It’s quite lovely, really, and Brenda is breathless. “Oh, Miss Judy, a church hat.”
“How much?” I ask.
“It’s sixty dollars,” she says. “Too much.” Catching the look in my eye, she says, “And I ain’t got nothin’ in these colors. Really.”
“That can be fixed,” I say.
“No,” she says firmly, “No, it can’t!”
We move on back to the car where Little Thing is still sleeping, and the proprietor turns out the lights as we leave.
Our last Rock Sound venture is to a store which I think at first is a grocery store. Well, it is a grocery store, with quite a lot of inventory as compared to Bert’s Best, but at the end of the aisles of food products is an addition, a room filled with household items. We immediately discover bed pillows, pillow cases, and a beige rug which is would work to protect my feet from the cold tiles in my bedroom. No sheer curtains, though, and no rods to hang them on. The prices are high, of course: I’d pay less at a big box store in the US, but these will do nicely.
We head home, making only one drive by detour: a small store at the corner of the Cotton Bay road. Brenda drives up to the open front door and yells out to the shadowy figure in the darkened interior, “You got any sheers?” The shape of a woman clad in jeans and a man’s wool sport coat emerges. “Sheers? You mean them curtain thingums? No.” Brenda thanks her and we drive on.
Our last stop is at the Tarpum Bay Shopping Center, a two story hardware and home furnishings store. Brenda is reluctant to go in. “Miss Judith,” she says, “I don’t never shop here. They got high prices, yesum, but they don’t do anything to help the community. They is all about themselves!”
But we are on a hunt for sheers, and the hunt wins out: we go in and find one pair of plain white sheers. We also find a curtain rod and I make my purchases.
Back in the car, we are only a couple of miles from home. Little Thing still sleeps soundly, although the ripe smell in the car tells us she’s been busy during her long nap. Clearly it’s time to end our trip.