I ordered another Sanctuary bus since the number of kids had grown. With Tony, Aaron, and utilizing Murray, I had enough drivers for four buses. The rest of the week was occupied with spending time with the kids, ordering shoes, shorts, t-shirts, hats, swim suits, and a nice change of clothes for the evening for our vacation. My mom came in with one of the seamstresses to measure the boys and check on their sizes. Some of the kids who have grown could pass their clothes down the line. I had Lester come and measure for sneakers. All of this going on, none of the kids asked why.
Tony had finally obtained a place where we could take the kids. What started as seven days ended up being ten days. The island had a large guest house surrounded by cabins that slept 4. It couldn’t have been better. We would fly to an airport close to the island and then take a boat to the island. I asked Murray and O’Shea if they would like to go as security. They asked if they could take their wives, which I agreed to as long, they wouldn’t mind helping Mario with the cooking. Abe said he would stay since there would be a lot of construction going on.
Mom ordered the new clothes; she coordinated with Lester and had new sneakers for each child. Based on the waist size, she had bought a bathing suit for them as well. She also bought each child a new suitcase for their clothes. I told her when the plane was leaving so she could meet us there with their luggage. All that was left was for Tony, Aaron, and me to pack. The night before we were to leave, I had our luggage put into the bus’s baggage carrier. Murray and O’Shea brought their luggage over as well. In the morning at breakfast, I told the kids we’re going on a trip, and I’d appreciate them dressing nicely and meet me at the buses in 30 minutes. I don’t think the dining hall emptied so fast. I already had spoken to Mrs. Jenkins and Mrs. Chester, giving everyone a paid vacation. I called my security company and arranged for 24-hour security while we were gone.
As soon as I saw the kids coming, I started my bus. Tony and Aaron followed suit. When Murray and O’Shea arrived, they introduced their wives to Tony, Aaron, and I. Murray started his bus, the kids boarded the buses in a very orderly manner. Of course, Bubba and Pat wanted to know where we were going. I just kept telling them it’s a surprise. It wasn’t long before we approached the airport entrance for private planes.
I looked into the mirror, and the expressions on the kid’s faces were priceless. An officer who was a friend of Murray’s directed us to a hangar where we would leave the buses. As I got off the bus, the Officer indicated where our plane was parked, and when I looked, I saw my mom with a dolly loaded with suitcases. As the kids got out of the buses, “I want you all to stay together. Follow me to where my mother is standing.”
They walked as if they were zombies. No emotions and what I suspect maybe a little scared. When we approached my mom, I called Beth to come forward. “Beth, we’re going on a 10-day vacation. I need you to call each kid, give them their suitcase, and tell them to board the plane. Tony and Aaron are there to help them.”
The boarding went very smoothly. The kids still looked at all of this as it was a dream. Once everyone was on board, “We’ll be going to an island where we’ll stay for ten days. You can swim, fish or just lay around in the sun. Now I’d like you to buckle your belt and get ready to fly away on holiday.”
It’s always interesting to watch the kids on their first plane ride. But the fun wasn’t over yet. They still had a boat ride coming up.
After we got at cruising altitude, the cabin crew offered milk, juice, and water, along with a snack box that contains a small sandwich, some cookies, and a small bag of peanuts. They turned down the lights and, dropping a screen, started a movie. I had preselected a funny movie to get them relaxed and in a happy mood. I could hear their laughter from where I sat. I looked at Tony and Aaron, and they were enjoying themselves as well. About an hour before landing, the kids were offered another snack pack, only this time there was a large sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a bag of peanuts. They gave the kids a choice of juice, milk, or water. This took their mind off of the landing process. There was a little gasp as we touched down, but there was a lot of laughter also. “Please stay in your seats till we turn off the seat belt sign.”
When the plane stopped, Tony went upfront. As soon as the buses were here, he told us we could deplane. The kids got their suitcases and walked down the flight stairs. Tony met them and guided them to the right bus. Once everyone was on the buses, Bubba and Pat made it so they would sit close to me. “Dad, where are we going?”
“For a boat ride”
I think not telling the kids would be a bigger surprise, and evidently, I thought correctly. If I told you that 253 kids could keep quiet and behave like little angels, you’d never believe it. But that’s exactly as it happened. When we got to the boat dock, Tony had arranged for three boats to take us to the island. In an orderly file, the kids boarded the boats. Murray, his wife, and Aaron went on the first boat. The second boat was O’Shea, and his wife and I went on the third boat along with Bubba and Pat. “Dad, where are we, and what’s this all about?”
“We’re going to an island for ten days. This is the promise vacation that I made a while back. You guys can swim, fish, explore, and have a good time. Forget about everything and be a kid again. I know that’s what I’m going to do.”
You could see the smiles on the kids’ faces as we neared the docks. One of the boats would stay here to give the older kids a chance to do some deep-sea fishing. The younger kids could fish off the dock, which I’d do. There were smiles in every direction we looked. Since Tony had made the arrangements, he had the layout of the island. He decided where the kids would stay. The main building would house the girls and Murray and O’Shea’s wives. The boys and the other men were assigned to the cottages. Once everyone was settled in, they all met at the beach in their swim gear. One of the boats came back with two swimming instructors and two more security personal. Tony met them and confirmed their names. Walking over to the other adults, Tony introduced them to us. “I’m glad to meet you, and I hope this becomes a vacation for you as well.”
I watched the kids play on the beach. Some of them ventured into the water, those that could swim did, the others just frolicked in the small waves as they hit the beach. It wasn’t too long before the excitement of the trip, the water, and the smell of the sea caught up to them. You could see that they were tired.
“I think we should go and take a nap before dinner. You’ll all need to take a shower to wash off the sand before lying down.We should walk around the island to ensure there’s no way for someone to land here without us knowing. Murray, you and O’Shea stay here, one of the security men will come with me, and the other will go with Tony. Will head in opposite directions, and let’s see what we’ll find.”
We left, and after walking about a mile, we met together at the exact opposite end of where we started. Noting that it’d be difficult for someone to sneak onto the island, particularly from this coast, we walked back toward the camping area.