Written by Eva Hodge
Someone once said of life that “it is not only to be lived but also to be celebrated.” I was never one to celebrate or make a big deal out of much in my life. Whether a great success or failure, anniversary, birthdays, you name it, they would all receive minimal reactions from me. This by no means implies that I am not thankful for life and all God has blessed me with thus far. On the contrary, I give thanks minutely for all he has done and continues to do for me. However, celebrating ‘me’ in any grand way was never really part of my vocabulary. Particularly when it came to birthdays. I would often have some grand plan way in advance of what I would like to do on my special day, then when the time came around it would be reduced to a quiet lunch, dinner or other outing with close friends. Just enough excitement to save the day, especially since the Summer Festival activities often intervened.
This year, for my 36th (which isn’t one of the big ages celebrated like 16, 21, 30, 40 0r 50) I was determined to make a big deal of it for once in my life. I set out to plan and entire day which I called “International Eva Day” and I even chose which day I was going to celebrate on. I was extremely excited by the mere thought of seeing it through. The idea was to do 36 things (one for each year of life) that included my favourite things, things I always wanted to do and things I feared doing all in one day. These activities would span the entire Island as on a great adventure, which is what life really should be like. Initially, as I toyed with the various activities, I had some reservations about my friends and their willingness to spend an entire day celebrating me. I must admit I felt a bit selfish and egotistical until I heard the excitement that emanated as I shared my plans. “Just tell me what time”, was one response. “I might only be able to do part of the day but I will definitely do something” was another, but everyone seemed just as excited as I was.
To ensure that I did not back out of my plan at the very last minute, I decided to print t-shirts that captioned the title of my day and hand deliver to each individual in advance along with a schedule of activities and a list of items that would be needed. There was certainly no way I could back out after that. Finally, the long anticipated day, Saturday July 30th arrived.
The day began with a prayer inviting God in our midst and asking for his guidance and protection through the day. Once covered, we started with an activity I had always wanted to do but had never quite gotten around to. Fishing at 4:30 am was the icebreaker. As the faithful four lead by captain Nodle treaded the treacherous cliff at Flat Caps, thoughts of a big catch were on all our minds.
As we waited, each person shared one fond memory of me, which brought back memories long forgotten. We fished on with high expectations. However, despite valiant attempts, the catch of the day was one yellow snapper by Shellecia Brooks-Johnson. Nonetheless, we caught many more valuable things that morning such as laughter, friendship and peace of mind as we sat and listened to the waves crash on the cliffside in the early morning breeze.
The next big challenge was one I had never dared to think about. That is to climb the rope down to Little Bay. Once again Captain Nodle championed on ahead and expertly transformed fear into fun as he managed to convince not one but three fearful females to climb the depths of the cliff.
Once there, we celebrated with our morning exercise which included 36 sets each of jumping jacks, pushups and sit ups. We captured this iconic moment on camera, complete with views of a hidden cave below and the looming hillside above.
Once our appetite was satiated it was then time for some real food. Breakfast was on the house prepped and packed by my best friend Janai and me. It was the least I could do to show my appreciation to my awesome friends. Red velvet, blueberry and plain pancakes, johnny cakes, sausage, eggs, fruits and juice were all consumed from the Lookout point amongst sparse shrubber, flying wasps and goat dung. But none of that mattered. For a moment the world stood still as each of us took in the beauty of little bay below where we had just been and the varying shades of blue so perfectly interwoven that nature itself must have been in awe. In the midst of it all we almost forgot we had a goal to meet, and that was to complete the other twenty nine activities on the list.
Onward we trod to our next adventure which was visits to the Old Court House and Prison at Crocus Hill then to Koal Keel restaurant where we took advantage of the photo opportunities, as well as the ripened guineps, a delicacy we could not pass up.
In the minutes to follow, our small entourage would become a bit larger as we moved along with our schedule. From here we stopped by the Pitch Apple Hole in Brimegin, The Fountain Cavern in Shoal Bay, Big Springs in Island Harbour, the abandoned house and well at Junks Hole then on to the Heritage Museum in East End. All the while I felt as if I had been transported to some alternate universe where life as I knew it had stopped and all that existed for the moment was fun and excitement.
Did someone say shopping? Soon it was time for the shopping challenge at Best Buy East. A text was sent to each person with a list of items to be purchased for no more than US $5. This was a hilarious undertaking and in the end amidst all the interpretations and misinterpretations of the shopping list, Captain Nodle emerged victorious.
Fruity Web was next on the schedule as a light refreshment before the next set of challenges was in order. We each chose our fruits, had them juiced then went on our merry way.
Thirty six things about me, a scavenger hunt and paint challenge were next on the list. By this time we were about an hour behind schedule and most exhausted, but the plan had to be fulfilled, so on we plodded. I must say, the paint challenge, where each friend was supposed to create a painting which characterized me best really filled my heart. Viewing my hopes and dreams, (some openly expressed others not) all laid out on a canvas was awe-inspiring. My friends represented me perfectly, each in his or her own way, but they were all right. Those images will be forever etched in the annals of my mind.
And so the adventures continued. From Kel’s Ice-cream to North Hill Point, to the ship wreck at Sandy Ground. Sadly, at this juncture, some of the morning crew had to leave because of other engagements.
However, the afternoon crew quickly filled in for the grand photoshoot at Cuisinart Spa and Resort, the view from ‘Church Point’ and the famous Boat race look out spot in the west. The day culminated at my favourite spot in the west, The Beach Shack Restaurant for some well needed nourishment.
Although we did not quite get to all 36 things (for those who may have been counting), the mere experience of the day was worth so much more. I can recall one friend saying, “Eva, I really thought you would cancel just like every other time, but I’m glad you didn’t.” This made me smile as I then realized a few things. Life is meant to be celebrated endlessly, it is not merely to be endured or tolerated. Also, this day was not just about me. Rather, everyone who participated benefited tremendously from the overall experience offered. Finally, it’s okay to take a day or two off and do everything that you’ve always wanted. Not when you find time, but when you make it. International Eva Day is definitely here to stay!
Written by Eva Hodge