It’s been a little over a year ago since Lynn came down to Tarpum Bay and helped Kervin initiate construction on our wonderful Culmer Cottage. Purchasing the land and shepherding the transaction through to closing an permitting had taken another year—really a short amount of time when you think about it—the Bahamas government is not exactly ‘user friendly’, not to mention the fact that everyone down here works on ‘island time’.
During the Year of the Transaction (taking a lesson from the Chinese, 2007 was “The Year of the Slug”), Lynn opened a Bahamas checking account which included two criminal checks in Michigan, we got our self-financing together, and initiated the permitting process. Together we obtained the required architect drawings made from our rough sketches and hired a builder (who later defaulted on the process). Then, while I was languishing in Orchard Creek and Munson medical center, Lynn came back and hired Kervin, bought some furnishings, initiated the permits, and Culmer House was under way!–the Year of the Jaguar!
Now in March 2009, we are both here in our wonderful cottage which sits pink and gleaming above the turquoise blue water of Tarpum Bay. Time to thank our friends!
We chose Monday, March 2 as a day for a party—one which would not interfere with the activities of the Methodist Church next door. It’s tough to find a night in our town where you don’t conflict with some church-related activity, and on the first Monday of the month, we unknowingly scheduled over the other crucial community event—the meeting of the Rock Sound Planning Commission. But because our party started at 6, we were still visited by several on their way to the planning commission meeting.
We planned a dessert party—cake, soft drinks, snacks, and sodas, and we invited all our friends, especially those who had been so helpful in the process of building our house. We were a little worried about whether Kervin would make it: “MizLynn!”, he said. “I gotta be in Nassau. You want me to come back here just for a PARTY?”. He looked aggrieved.
“Yes, Kervin, we do. This party is all about you and the wonderful house you built.”
“MIZLYNN! Listen to me! I got work to do! Fish to sell! I can’t be comin’ back here for no party!” But there is a pleased twinkle in his eye, and he arrives only a little late, resplendent in his new Nassau-purchased jeans and t-shirt and a clean, red ball cap.
Almost everyone else we invited arrived as well. Our neighbor on the other side, the elegant Miss Nottage (or “Miss Reen”, as she is called in Tarpum Bay) stopped by around noon to offer us a housewarming gift (guessing correctly, I think) that others would not bring gifts and would be embarrassed by the omission if she brought one. She offered us our choice: a lovely table runner she had purchased in Nassau, a case of soda for the party, or Tarpum Bay Homecoming t-shirts from her store, the Hi-Way Department Store. We accepted the table runner, and bought t-shirts later as gifts for folks back home.
Promptly at 6 PM our effusive neighbor Matt arrived, decked out in black pants and an oversize Obama t-shirt. Matt does not have the conventional Bahamian metabolism, operating at warp speed most of the time, as evidenced by his constant flow of words—we were exhausted by the time his mother, Miss Sheila, climbed our front steps. She was followed by Miss Barbie (of Barbie’s Restaurant, home of the guava duff and other delicacies we love),Miss Nottage, Godfrey and his family, Papa George the pizza man, Kervin and Brenda, Mr. Kinky of the Shell station on Queen’s Highway, LeShan (daughter of the first builder we hired), and our three friends from Bert’s for the Best Grocery.
Others came and went throughout the evening, and it was all quite wonderful!
When the majority of the guest were there it was time to bless our house. All of our guests joined hands in a circle, and the venerable Miss Sheila offered up a long and extensive invocation. In it she blessed the house, the builder, our families, the families who went before us (Miss Sheila’s husband was born on our piece of land), and a wide variety of others who deserved recognition in the eyes of God.
As I listened to Miss Sheila, I was reminded of another more secular occasion when I was in the Republic of Georgia at a dinner following a three-day class I taught. The dinner seemed to last almost a long as the class, and was punctuated at increasingly frequent intervals by high-octane toasts honoring every relative any of us ever had or will have.
It seemed to me that both occasions were a reminder of the present moment, an honoring of that moment and all that has gone before it or will come after.
After Miss Sheila, doyen of Tarpum Bay, finished her rich catalog of praise, Mr. Kinky (also a minister) added his words, and the entire group broke into a hymn which unfamiliar to Lynn and I but one which our guests knew well. After a series of ‘amens’ and applause, we were hugged and welcomed and in a little while our guests began to leave, off to late night prayer meetings and Planning Commission hearings. Left behind: Miss Sheila’s gift of homemade dinner rolls and guava jam, a plastic bag filled with crumpled paper plates, and Miss Brenda who was busily washing the dishes and wiping of the tile counter tops.
“How did you like the party, Miss Brenda?” I asked.
“Fine,” she said. “But you shoulda asked me about the peanuts. You shoulda sprinkled ’em with salt and toasted ’em in the oven. They much better that way.”
“And, I forgot the red ribbon. You needs a red ribbon to put over the doorway so Kervin can cut it with scissors and let you in the house. We forgets that part.”
“Well,” I said, “That calls for another party. You bring the ribbon, and I’ll toast the peanuts.”