Five months still qualifies one as a “newbie” on island; the word has been used to describe me four times in the last 48 hours. The first was when I was trying to ‘make nice’ while calling for last-minute, hard-to-get-in-high-season reservations at Havana Blue restaurant (absolutely stunning food from soup to nuts – or actually from lettuce wraps and lobster tacos to sorbet and crème brûlée – with more lobster in between, but I digress). I mentioned that I was a local as I always hope something magical will happen, like a 5% ‘local’ discount or jumping a line. She asked how long we had been here. ‘Five months,’ I answered somewhat proudly. ‘A newbie!’ she said kindly, not changing the reservation time.
Whenever people say, ‘how’s your vacation?’ or ‘where are you from?’ – polite high season banter – I always respond that we live on St. Thomas. It puts one in a special club: it sort of makes you one of the ‘cool kids’ (or not, depending on your opinion); you form an immediate bond with whomever you are talking as you both understand island life and all it entails; and it sometimes does actually get you the 5% discount. Our waitress at the Ocean Grill on St. John for lunch yesterday (we get around when family visit; we also eat out a lot – try the cheesecake there, the owner’s mom makes it) said I was a newbie. Then the woman running the Fabric Mill store (also at the Mongoose Junction shopping area) who was dressed in long sleeves and long pants, said that as a newbie, I wasn’t acclimated enough to feel the cold yet. It was 80 degrees. She said that next winter I would be dressed more warmly; I was wearing a light cotton dress and was very comfortable.
Then there is the whole, ‘only tourists swim in the dead of winter’ issue. I am originally from a state with an ocean – not a particularly warm one – but warm enough in July and August. The sea and unheated pool here are the same temperature as the ocean at home in July, which is hardly freezing. I am bound and determined that my children will not ‘soften up’ and refuse to go swimming when we go back to visit in the summer. They will not dip a toe in the ‘summer ocean’ and run away shrieking. They will not turn their noses up at an evening swim (or early morning swim) because the water does not feel like a bathtub. They will not get made fun of by tougher children playing happily in 76-degree water. As we wandered to the pool yesterday evening, my neighbors were slightly appalled that I was going in and taking my children. ‘You’re going swimming? It’s the middle of winter! Newbie!’ (They were laughing, though I felt a bit of ‘unfit mother’ implied there as well – I ignored it). Ok, it was chilly to begin with, but as BG said as she jumped right in, ‘It’s a little cool, but that’s okay Mommy. It will get better.’ I have been told that I will change my tune next year, but I hope not. Your swimming options narrow significantly when you only swim in 85-degree water. May I always remain a newbie!
Postscript: Water is back!