I am not going to take credit for this story at all. It has been very slightly edited but I wanted to share perhaps one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. The story is about a Single Parent Travel organized trip to Beaches Boscobel in August 2007. Originally there were to be close to 35 families traveling down, but Hurricane Dean had some other ideas and many canceled or postponed. There were six that braved the winds and what follows is the most touching story I have ever read. I am proud that I can say I had a small part in this. I thank Suzanne Podolski for sharing this.
August 18, 2007 Hurricane Dean, a category 4 hurricane, ripped and roared like a famished lion, it stormed its way to and through the lavish green land and aqua marine jeweled waters of Jamaica. Before Dean arrived, when the sun awoke the horizon that morning, the sounds of hammers pounding nails into boards across most doors and windows bounced through the air, silver duct tape was placed across the windows in an “X” shape along with some crosses, and a couple of Stars of David. I was in Jamaica at the Beaches Boscobel Resort. I felt good, safe, I had been looking forward to this vacation a long time. And, while only there for my first day, there was a change in the air and it nothing to do with Dean.
Most of the resort guests prepared for the storm either camping out in their rooms or in the lavish ballroom sized lobby. There was even a poster sized picture of Dean with violent red blob splattered across the entire island of Jamaica; but the music of the steel drums played on. A very red life sized Elmo and a blindingly bright blue colored Cookie monster danced the Cuban shuffle with the younger children as other guests found comfort on sofas and cushions scattered about making bracelets, playing board games. Others watched movies. Most of the people were at ease, they mirrored the nature of the people of the resort, of the island, removed from the fury of Mother Nature’s temper tantrum outside our safe haven.
Not far from the lobby a small group gathered inside room 1224. Six families came together to share a once in a lifetime experience–and a meeting with Dean. These guests were unfettered and unafraid of Dean and what he represented; they had already weathered many a storm.
The six parents mentioned above are all single parents. Some of these parents had been single since the birth of their child, some were divorced and there was one single parent that adopted her child as a single mom. The dynamics of these families may differ, yet they all share the difficultly delightful struggles of raising children alone. While on the yellow and green patio that overlooked the paradise colored flowers and enormous palm trees of the landscaped resort; room 1224 parents drank dirty bananas, toasted champagne, ate a rainbow assortment of fruit, laughed and bonded watching silver marble sized rain drops fall, watching the wind shake the trees and bushes as if to purposely shake the coconuts into the gothic gray sky. Nine children sat on one of three beds in the room some playing video games, some watching TV, eating “movie snacks” and goodies sent up along with a complete party package of food that covered the antique chestnut colored coffee table with early nineteenth century silver plated handles on the drawers.
When I got divorced many things changed. It took a long time for me to accept and love my new family; it was just me and my two children. I tried to take vacations, but single parent travel was impossible emotionally, physically, and financially. I researched for years trying to find resorts and hotels that accommodated single parents, I even sent letters to Disney, but for the longest time there were no vacation packages that didn’t require double occupancy. Plenty of hotels offer children stay free, but you still had to pay for two adults. It is as if single parents are being penalized for being single.
Luck changed, I found a four leaf clover about a year ago www.singleparenttravel.net. This web site is filled with a lot of helpful tips for traveling with your children and has various vacation packages that fit their special needs. I signed up for their newsletter; my fingers couldn’t type fast enough. It was in April of 2007 that I read of the fifth annual Single Parent Travel trip to Beaches Boscobel.
Together with Beaches Resorts, the single supplement was waived (of up to $190 per night) at Boscobel in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos. Even better, it was all inclusive. Drinks, food, entertainment for the kids, entertainment for the adults, cocktail parties, private boating, child care, water sports; it was all included. I called the owner of Single Parents Travel, John W. Frenaye, Jr to verify what I was reading (I thought for sure I needed a pair of stronger prescription glasses). I also asked about childcare for my autistic daughter. My daughter is a 130 pounds, five foot eight teenager with the loving sweet nature; but the compulsivity and demeanor of a three year old. My plate may be full; but it’s like Thanksgiving dinner full. Needless to say, what Beaches Resorts was offering was more than appealing me. When I was assured that the resort would accommodate any and all needs even if it meant cutting me a discount on the private nanny program, I said, “Sign me up!” What I found was gold, Caribbean Sea booty, a reasonably priced vacation, help when needed and best of all; I wouldn’t be traveling alone.
I booked my trip months in advance so when the Hurricane warnings started broadcasting five days before my departure I was concerned; would they still be providing us meals? Not having to cook for one day let alone a week is a vacation. I called John who is the best agent, courteous, attentive and genuinely concerned with your needs. He sent emails daily keeping everyone posted on Hurricane developments and spoke constantly with hotel managers and communicating all of the updates. According to John the resort would be providing food, drink, anything and everything needed. I later discovered that the Jamaican people just don’t say “No Worry”, they live it.
The people of Jamaica, the staff at the Resort, the overall experience exceeded my expectations. Bright white smiles of the people were contagious and the warm inviting demeanor of the staff, especially those that worked with the children brought a wave of relaxation; there were no worries.
The party in 1224 continued long after the storm passed and the Caribbean sun kissed our cheeks. While the adults danced in the Disco to Cisco and TLC sipping Coco Loco’s, the children in Room 1224 had a slumber party. It was 1AM in the morning, six parents crowed in the doorway of 1224 as my teenage son, the babysitter for the evening, placed his finger in front of his wide smiled mouth that sparkled from the light of the moon reflecting off his braces. One parent peered into the room where her three children slept in one bed. Two were asleep in the other and my daughter was asleep on the sofa couch next to the patio. Cute beyond words, kittens and puppies had nothing on our kids at that moment; our families were really coming together.
Our families ate almost every meal together, every day was Thanksgiving. We went out and watched our children participate in the many shows coordinated by the events coordinator. As our families bonded, taking pictures of each other kids, holding them, loving them, cheering for them; a rainbow came alive; my autistic daughter blossomed like a cherry blossom in Spring. After many of our children sang karaoke my daughter said she wanted to sing. Barely able to read, having never initiated such a desire to do something with or in front of other children; my daughter pointed to a song in the book and said “yes, me sing.” The song was, “I Think I Love You,” by the Partridge family. I stood with her wanting to help, but she pushed me away. The music played, flashes from the parents were like fireworks; my daughter read “I think I love you” at the right times! While it had always been a strong assumption that she could read, her language is so underdeveloped she could barely read aloud. It was truly a miracle and it didn’t stop there.
My daughter did more than see families come together, she experienced it. On the day before we left Jamaica she took my hand in hers for the first time in her 13 years of life. It was the first time she reached out for me intimately and said “ahh how cute, mommy and Michelle best friends forever;” my family came together. My family has already planned to return to another Beaches resort next year; my new-found extended family as well. Beaches and Sandals Resorts are truly like no other in so many ways. Every sense of your being is tantalized from the joyful sounds of a happy island to the fragrant smells of an abundance of flowers. From the way your taste buds dance in delight of exquisitely prepared food to the tranquilizing touch of a massage under illuminating stars. I can still see with my eyes closed, the experience of my single parent vacation at Beaches was wondrous.
Sense of spirit magnified tenfold while vacationing at the Beaches Resort. I share the feeling of having become a better friend, a person and parent with members of group 1224 on vacation that extends past the seven days we spent on the island. Group 1224 have emailed and phoned each other since touchdown back in America and there will be east and west coast gatherings prior to our Single Parent Vacation Reunion in 2008. We all, this includes the children, embrace single parent families as something special, marvelous and no different from any other family when it comes to how we love our family.