It is April 2006. Patrick, the kids, and I are staying at FDR Pebbles, a kid-friendly, all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. We're having a wonderful time.
Daniel is eating sand to his heart's content. Tess, in her Coast Guard-approved floating bathing suit, is in the huge pool with fabulous water slide for hours at a time. Hope is enjoying meeting new friends and tie-dyeing as many T-shirts as possible. The boys are thriving on their freedom to shuttle between the game room and the swim-up grill ("I'm eating a cheeseburger in the pool!" crows James). Patrick and I are sea kayaking and snorkeling whenever we're not napping or getting massages.
How is it possible that the seven of us are each doing exactly what we want at any given moment? The genius of FDR Pebbles is that it assigns each family a nanny for the entirety of its stay. Since we have five kids, we opt for paying an additional $100 for an extra nanny for the whole week. We meet Tina and Sonia within minutes of arriving and fall in love. Both are mothers themselves; are certified in first aid and CPR; and are kind, funny, and sensible.
The nannies are with us from 9 to 5, and we can pay them $3 per hour to stay longer. They very much want the extra work and are happy to stay as late as we'd like; we can't help but oblige. They trade off: one oversees Daniel, who still naps twice a day, while the other watches the girls. The boys are generally under the supervision of the older kids' Activities Coordinator, but know to check in with either the nannies or us when they want to do something new.
Complete freedom is a heady thing. We can take the older kids snorkeling. We can spend one-on-one time with any one of them, building sand castles or reading and chatting side by side in hammocks. There are many off-resort adventures available, but we find ourselves content with the myriad of activities we've already paid for right on-site.
There is one notable exception, which turns out to be the highlight of the entire trip for me: Ron, the snorkel boat driver, highly recommends a trip to the Luminous Lagoon, ten minutes away by car in Falmouth. Tina and Sonia agree: the lagoon is not to be missed. So one night, we leave Tess and Daniel with the nannies, and FDR's shuttle bus takes the rest of us off to adventure.
We are dropped off and wait at the Glistening Waters Marina until it's fully dark, sipping oversweetened fruit punch and admiring the mangroves while the rest of the tour group assembles. Finally, our captain arrives with his boat and introduces himself as Timothy. About 30 of us strap on life vests and clamber aboard; as Timothy hands me into the boat, I smell the unmistakable, cloying odor of ganja. This gives me pause for a moment, but I decide to be zen about it. Yeah, mon; this is Jamaica, after all. Once we're all aboard, Timothy heads out.
It's a beautiful, warm night; the stars hang low and the breeze is soft. As the boat picks up speed, Timothy starts to sing. What does he bawl to the moon, his dredlocked head thrown back, his gravelly voice carrying out over the dark water? None other than what seems like the entire oeuvre of Jamaica's own son, Bob Marley.
"Lively Up Yourself." "Three Little Birds." "Stir It Up" (for the first time, I realize that the lyrics to this one are emphatically rated-R). And of course, the peace anthem made cliché by Jamaica's Board of Tourism: "One Love."
What could be cheesy and annoying is instead magical. Sometimes Timothy's captive audience (most of the members of which have had several rum punches at this point) sings along, which he actively encourages as confidently as any arena rocker would, pumping one fist in the air as he steers the boat with the other.
Patrick, the kids, and I lean over the side of the boat to watch our progress; we are the first of the group to notice that the boat's wake has turned a phosphorescent green, and that we can see what look like glowing missiles darting to and fro in the water. "They're fish!" cries Hope, and our mouths fall open in astonishment. We have arrived at the Luminous Lagoon. It is only now we realize that the lagoon doesn't glow all the time; the water is as black as you would expect on a dark night--until something moves through it.
There are only a few places in the world where plankton called dinoflagellates glow, or 'bioluminesce,' when disturbed: Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico is probably the most famous, but the little lagoon in Falmouth amazes us. Timothy stops the boat and invites us all to get in and swim. We jump in right away; I am surprised at how many of the other passengers opt to stay on board. The very muddy bottom disconcerts us. The water is only about three feet deep, so we do our best to float or tread water shallowly as we enjoy the spectacle.
We wave our arms through the water and spin around, watching trails of bright green follow our every movement. Hope is the first to raise her arms out of the water; the glowing droplets running off her body transform her into a little goddess of light, like something out of an ancient myth. We all imitate her, mesmerized by our own glory. And all the while, Timothy sings, his lusty, gravelly renditions somehow the perfect accompaniment to our watery dance.
Like all magic, it's over all too soon; Timothy announces that our time is up, and we reluctantly climb back into the boat. As we glide slowly back to the marina, we all sing along with our blissed-out captain: "Don't worry about a thing/'Cause every little thing gonna be alright." Our arms around our children, Patrick and I look at each other and smile. This is a night we'll remember forever.
For more Music Monday, visit the glamorous, globe-trotting Soccer Mom in Denial.