It was barely dawn, but Essie couldn’t wait a moment longer. “Wake up, wake up! It’s Easter Sunday. Everybody get your bathing suits and bathing trunks.”
The closest they came to a family trip was when Essie took them to the beach on Easter.
Bunny jumped up and down, clapping his hands. “Great! We’re going to the beach.”
Myrtle frowned. “I don’t have a bathing suit.”
“What happened to the one Gena sent you not so long ago?”
“It’s too tight now, and it’s ripped on both sides.”
“Let me see it. Maybe Gena—no, Betty—can fix it on her sewing machine.”
“Do we have to come, too, Miss Essie?” asked the twin.
“Yes, I want everybody to come. Is that too much to ask? I know I didn’t tell you about it, but I’ve been planning this for a long time. I want to enjoy this Easter Sunday with my family, and you’re part of my family now. I’ve already bought lots of spice buns and cheeses for the picnic. On our way, we’ll stop by the shop to get one or two crates of sodas to drink.”
“We should be going to church to celebrate Easter Sunday, not going to the beach,” said Karl. “I’m not going with you. I’m going to church instead.”
“Junior—I mean, Karl—you don’t want to join us at the beach?” Essie said. “It’s going to be fun. Everybody will be there except you.” There was deep regret in her voice.
“I don’t care about everybody. I’m going to church. Easter is a church day, and that’s what I feel like doing.”
“Okay, you can stay here and go to church if that’s what you want.”
Essie gave in to his request because she knew how much he resented her for having sent him to live in the severely underdeveloped countryside with his dad. She tried hard to make him happy and comfortable now, but Karl openly swore that he would never forgive her until the day he died. He showed his resentment of her every chance he got.
What Karl didn’t understand was that when he treated her badly and with deliberate disrespect, it didn’t matter, because nothing he could ever say would make her feel worse than she already did. If only she’d known that he had the same strong anti-country gene as she did, she wouldn’t have sent him to live with his father. She shared his pain. She knew what it felt like to be a big-city-minded person trapped in a small country town.
Laden with lots of spice buns and cheeses, as well as a large delicious fruitcake that Essie had made and a crate of sodas, the rest of the family headed off to Doctor’s Cave Beach. They laid out their blankets and towels and placed all their picnic items under the shade of a great almond tree just to the right-hand side of the beach. Like the great Christopher Columbus, they declared this area to be their family picnic spot for the day.
They jumped, splashed, dove, and swam in the ocean until their weary souls filled with satisfaction. They spanned, rolled, and played on the beach, and their bodies glowed with the blazing island heat. They had a wonderful picnic lunch and a happy afternoon. They roasted in the tropical inferno and worshiped the mean island sun for a day as they frolicked around each other.
Essie’s family was filled with the resurrection spirit as they amused themselves on that Easter Sunday. Essie was right: they were all having a wonderful time, and it brought the family a little closer together.
While everyone was having fun, Essie went for a walk alongside the crystal-clear ocean. As she strolled along the tropical playland, the warm ocean water reached for her feet on the sun-heated beach, and the sand tickled her toes. She watched as the gentle tides curled and rolled in toward the shoreline. The waves rocked and changed direction ever so slightly with the wind. Kids and adults alike fulfilled their aquatic hearts’ desires as they swam in the warm, soothing water.
Essie stared in front of her at the long stretch of pure white sand. Sun-thirsty bodies were laid out in long rows of white plastic reclining chairs, soaking up the healing rays of the island sun. Near the chairs stood large green-and-yellow or red-and-white umbrellas, in case the sunbathers wanted some shade.
Livelier sun worshipers in barely-there bikinis and bathing trunks rocked to the rhythm of the reggae music beat playing at the tiki bar farther away from the shore. A dance instructor taught the island enthusiasts reggae and soca dance moves while the staff made sure their glasses were never empty. Others sat around small, round white plastic tables watching the sunset as it painted new colors across the sky and sea. Some were enjoying mouthwatering island foods: spicy beef patties, jerk chicken, jerk pork, and deep-fried chicken wings with golden fries. Some simply settled for a snack and a Red Stripe beer.
Doctor’s Cave was certainly a picnic and sunbathers’ paradise in Montego Bay. Essie gazed out at the spectacular panoramic view of the coastline and the white sailboats and tiny glass-bottom boats floating in the bay. The latter were mostly fishermen searching for their evening meal.
She looked behind her and observed the offshore reefs and warm, shallow waters, ideal for snorkeling and for underwater enthusiasts.
Essie quietly observed everything around her. She smiled at the sheer beauty and serenity of her environment, the uniqueness of the people, and of course, the natural attributes of the tropical island of Jamaica.
“Momma, we should do this more often,” Betty said when Essie returned from her stroll on the beach. “I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve been to the beach. It’s rejuvenated my body and my mind.”
“Yes, it’s true,” Junior said. “We should do this more often. I also need to teach the boys how to swim.”
“I can swim,” Bunny said.
“I can swim, too,” Leonard said, indignant.
“Well, yes, you both can swim,” Junior said, “but Don, Andre, and Breath don’t know the first thing about swimming. I need to take them to the beach every Sunday to teach them.”
“I can swim a little, but not that well,” said Don, Gena’s oldest son.
“I almost drowned today, trying to swim,” Andre said.
“Me too,” Breath agreed.
“No!” Essie said. “That’s not true, guys. Don’t say that, because if your mom hears it, she’ll die.”
“They’re both exaggerating,” Junior said. “Nothing happened to them, Momma. I was with them all day, playing with a beach ball at the edge of the water.”
Essie summed up the festive day, happily reminiscing about her childhood. “All in all, this has been a great day. It was always my dream to see the whole family come out to have fun at this beach. I used to come here quite often as a young girl. I love this beach so much, it makes my heart glad to spend this day with my family.” She reached for Don, Breath, Andre, and whoever else she could grab and gave them all a big hug.