Many years ago, my mother was inspired to take each of her seven children on an amazing trip in honor of their 40th birthday.
It all started when my oldest sister, Mary, turned 40 and to celebrate this momentous occasion, my mother took her on a trip to Ireland. For several days, the two of them spent time together exploring the Emerald Isle - and the land of our ancestors. Since then, whenever one of my other five siblings have turned 40, my mother has generously taken them, and their families (if they so opt), to a global destination of their choosing. Mom considers it a wonderful opportunity to spend one-on-one time with her child (and grandchildren) on an adventure they might not otherwise have experienced. And so it is, over the past 16 years, my mother and siblings (and nieces and nephews) have traveled to Europe, Canada, Walt Disney World, and throughout Central America. It's become an incredibly special tradition I hope to emulate with my own children (and their families).
My 40th birthday was a few years ago (3.5 to be exact), but I've delayed my "Birthday Trip" for a number of reasons. Most notably, Jim's health has been declining and I did not think that he could make the journey with us, nor would my mother feel comfortable leaving him alone for an extended period of time. Mom had suggested that I go on the trip with out her, but that was unfathomable. The whole purpose of the Birthday Trip was to spend time with my mother.
Way back when my older siblings turned 40, and I told Mom that when it was *my* turn, she and I would hike to Machu Picchu and explore the ancient Incan ruins, my mother warned me that it was unlikely she'd be up for traversing Peru by the time she was 77-years old. After Mom celebrated her 81st birthday this past year and I still hadn't made any Birthday Trip plans, she encouraged me that we needed to schedule something, soon.
Like, this year ... if possible.
And so after some discussion, we selected a cruise to the eastern caribbean over Thanksgiving. We would depart from Miami and our port of calls would include Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. From a proximity perspective, this was great because Mom is still living in Florida, while they rebuild her South Carolina home after the terrible fire earlier this year. And since neither Charlie nor I had ever been to the Virgin Islands (or on a cruise), and our children were begging to go somewhere "tropical" with their Noni, this was the perfect choice.
What made it all even more perfect is that my wonderful Aunt Grace would fly to Florida to stay with Jim for the week, so my mother could embark on our trip with a mind free from worry knowing Jim was in good hands.
Tonight, I uploaded photos to my computer and there are more than 400 that I snapped off over the past seven days. While I'm not going to post all of them, there are far too many for this one post, so I'll try and upload them throughout the week. For now, I'll leave you with this: Somewhere over the rainbow...
Is a cruise ship that has all-you-can-eat soft-serve strawberry frozen yogurt.
As far as Henry is concerned, it doesn't get any better than this.