Jody and I were sitting in a breezy beach restaurant in St. Lucia in 1995, sipping our tropical creations. Such fun. The bikinis were scenic and colours were everywhere. I glanced over at a black woman on the far side of the room. She was wearing a classy black dress, and was sitting alone. She was also looking at me.
We had just got off the sand after a major tanning and reading session, and were garbed in t-shirts and shorts, me with a “London Road Race” logo on display. Whatever that cream drink I ordered was, it was yummy. And everything just seemed so … slow. Perfect. Sometimes Jody and I talked but much of the time we were silent.
I looked up again to see the elegant woman walking towards our table. She smiled and said, “Excuse me. Are you folks from London, Ontario, Canada?”
“Why, yes we are.”
“Did you graduate from UWO [our local university]?”
“No, but Jody did.”
“So did I. You must come to dinner.”
We talked for a few minutes, with smiles all around. The woman’s daughter would pick us up at our hotel at 5:00. Fine with us. I had a twinge of fear, but it floated away into the brilliant blue sky.
Five o’clock it was, and we were being whisked along the byways in a fancy Mitsubishi sedan. Very talkative and friendly, the young lady. Mom and daughter’s home was laden with art and soft leather. Dinner was exceptional and our hostess offered us a fine red wine, vinted many years before. The best though, was the talk. Old friends reminiscing about London landmarks, party times and the rigours of study. Turns out that our hostess was from a wealthy family and came to Canada to get an education. We also learned that she was currently a member of the St. Lucia Senate. Certainly a powerful woman but far more importantly a nice person.
Over dessert, there was a knock at the door, and in walked a tall, elegant black gentleman, dressed in a white suit. (I sure wish I could remember these people’s names, but they’re not coming to me. Oh well.) He was a most gracious fellow, gentle and soft of conversation, and he clearly was good friends with the senator. Eventually, he got up to leave, and actually bowed to us as he bid us adieu. “So I’ll be seeing you later.” And he was gone.
What did that mean? “It means that he’s invited us to his place for drinks,” smiled our new friend. An hour later, we were back in that Misubishi, wafting our way to an unknown residence. Miss Senator told us on the way that the man was the only importer of cars in St. Lucia, and as a result was extremely wealthy. Okay.
Along the nighttime roads we rolled, finally making a turn onto a steeply uphill dirt track. And up we went, seemingly on a spiral around a high hill, till we reached the top … manicured lawns, tropical trees and the white glow of a home that seemed to have no exterior walls. After we had stopped, the woman told us not to get out of the car. Soon there were three really big dogs right up against the doors. Mr. Mitsubishi, still in white like his house, was strolling towards us. With a snap of his fingers, the dogs were gone. More smiles.
There were indeed no exterior walls, and filmy curtains floated within the sweetest breeze. I remember a huge living room, vibrant with the white and the tropical colours. This can’t be real, my brain poked at me. Except it was. More soft couches, more fascinating talk and mellow drinks. Just little old me and little old Jody from Canada being welcomed to the Caribbean.
I kept looking at the grand piano in the centre of the room. Our male friend noticed, and asked “Would you like to play?”
“Yes, I would.”
So the curtains stirred, the candles glowed and I got to tickle the ivories. Simple stuff, but it made everyone happy.
That evening was nearly twenty years ago, but it remains vivid for me. We never saw those fine people again. And that’s okay. A gift they had given.