Where the Sun Shines, as Does a Son
The prow of the Blanca Beatriz plunged into another wave, and the strip of land I had been yearning for shot out of sight above the boat's battered canvas awning.Skip to next paragraph
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I had already been on this creaking Mexican launch for half an hour, squeezed on a bench next to an alarmingly pregnant woman, and the island was scarcely in sight.
What in the world was I doing here: a mom from suburbia, heading for Isla Mujeres, a Mexican island that few had ever heard of and fewer still had visited?
I looked down the length of the rolling deck to where my son Hugh was sitting. He sat quietly, for a tiny Mexican girl was sleeping against him, lulled by the heaving rhythm of the boat. I saw that he had put his arm around her protectively.
It had all started because Hugh wanted to spend every minute of his January college break in the sun, as far as possible from Boston's bleak winter. My husband had arranged the last part of the week to coincide with a business trip to Mexico City and a visit with old friends there; but the first half was open. "Why don't you two go to Mexico first?" he suggested. "Find a quiet beach where you can get some sun, and meet me later in Mexico City."
What a fine idea! Just our older son and me vacationing alone. I missed his good company and conversation now that he was away at college. It would be nice to have him all to myself for a few days and catch up.
We booked an economical tour package to Isla Mujeres, five miles off the coast of the Yucatn Peninsula. The name - "Island of Women" - added to its appeal for Hugh.
When our plane landed in Cancn, a full-blown "norther" was in progress. It was during just such a storm in 1517 that Isla Mujeres was discovered by Hernndez de Crdoba when his fleet blew up against the island.
We hailed a vintage taxi and rocketed down the highway toward Puerto Jurez, where we were to take the launch to Isla Mujeres. The stormy sea looked menacing, particularly when I saw the condition of the Blanca Beatriz, with her garishly striped awning and peeling paint.
As Hugh unloaded our bags, I started a futile debate with the taxi driver about accepting the tour company's voucher as payment.
The boat seemed ready to depart without us. Then, suddenly, Hugh produced a handful of pesos from his pocket and negotiated the taxi fare in Spanish. "Let's go!" he said, hoisting the bags and leading the way to the launch.
"No more room," a sailor signaled as we raced down the pier. Hugh swung one leg across the water to the boat and planted it firmly on the deck. He tossed his bags on board, reached for mine, and then pulled me up after him. Making sure I was securely wedged between the very pregnant woman and a bulkhead, Hugh then found his own cramped space across the deck and gave me a wave.
An hour later, the low coastline of Isla Mujeres, with its row of small pastel buildings, appeared above the choppy water.
In the confusion of disembarking I'd forgotten our family's cardinal rule to always count our bags, but Hugh remembered and hurried back to retrieve the one I'd left behind.