Oh you can imagine my joy and Stéphane must’ve seen that all across my young brown face. He invited me to join him for some refreshments in the officer’s lounge and well I certainly was up for that; what a privilege this would be! I recall he spoke briefly into an intercom.
About 20 minutes had passed, I was completely relaxed and absorbed into my surroundings when a knock came upon the door. It was a steward. He wheeled in a cart laden with delicious looking cakes, sweet treats, sandwiches, fruits and soft drinks. Oh you know I was in heaven; what pure delight for this young man that I once was.
Stéphane and I spoke of many things. I asked him so many questions yet he remained patient with me, answering all that he could. A delightful friendship was indeed born and from then on whenever he returned on his ship to Suva, he brought gifts for me and occasionally for my family members as well.
He brought for me shirts, tins of nuts, a colorful beaded belt from Hawaii, tee shirts, socks, a few muumuus for my mother and my sister-in-law and a pair of American sandals I remember well. He treated me just like a little brother.
I brought Stéphane home a few times for visits and always a delicious meal with the family. When I first met him, he was single. He eventually married and permanently resided to Hawaii. He remained a family friend for years.
My nephew years later, would stay with Stéphane and his family many times whenever he went to Hawaii. Monsieur Vieuxmaire, a wonderful soul indeed! I had felt it before and it proved to be a good lesson in trusting my first instinct.
In the meantime my brother although employed full time at the local watchmaker and jeweler’s shop, would make Tortoise shell buttons, watch bands, cuff links and combs on his time off away from the shop. He had set up a specific crafting area for this in our home. He also made the most beautiful Conch shell lamps with shells he’d find along the shore.
I’d sell these by way of a mobile cart, which also housed a glass case, made particularly to display the jewelry and special items. At the end of each worked day I’d leave my cart inside my brother-in-law’s business garage, the one that’s near to the docks at the Port of Suva, remember I mentioned it earlier?
One Sunday morning as the day passengers disembarked from the ship to visit Suva, a nice couple approached my cart. This in of itself was nothing different than usual but they were taken in a good way, with all I had on display in my cart. After a few moments of eyeing the goods they told me they’d revisit me on the way back to the ship, later in the afternoon.
Thinking nothing different, I went about my vending. The day ships had a five o’clock evening sailing time. It was sometime after 3 in the afternoon when I spotted that same couple and I could see them heading in my direction. Along their stroll back to the ship they stopped to visit some of the other vendors.
At last they arrived at my cart. They looked over the remaining items in my case and then the gentleman asked me, how much did I want for everything on my cart. I opened my mouth to respond but no words fell out. To be honest, I had no idea what to say either. I finally managed a reply, ‘Everything?’
He responded, “Yes, how much for all of it?” Again not sure of exactly what I should say, out came $350.00 and that’s when he smiled, reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of American dollars. He began counting each bill into my hand; one, two, three, four and I’m thinking now, ‘what to do?!’
I realize I cannot break a one hundred dollar bill and as I looked into his eyes, I’m sure he saw my slight distress. After placing one more bill on the stack in my hand, he assured me that the $500 is the final price he’ll pay for the entire contents of my cart.
I know I don’t have to translate to you just how much money that was in those days! I happily wrapped all the goods in the newspaper that I kept just for this purpose -still a bit of disbelief going on here- and they lovingly placed the items into their bags. They even got the last Conch shell lamp and I have to say here, this was the best treasure of all the things that my brother crafted!
In parting the gentleman handed me his card and said, “Keep in touch ma’boy!” His voice was soothing, warm and sincere and I could feel it. They walked away towards the ship and of course I immediately closed up my mobile shop.
Even after the fact, I am still unbelieving the recent stroke of fortune! I wheel my cart over to the garage and was immediately questioned by my brother-in-law as to my completely empty cart.
I proudly told him that I sold everything today! He smiled, “Very good.” I then caught the bus to go home. Later that evening when I saw my brother, I gave him all the money. As I’m sure you can imagine, he was completely surprised. He then gave me some pocket money and well, it was a good day for us all!
I had kept a box; you know a safe place for my collectibles, personal treasures and whatever. Well in that box I had placed the card that gentleman gave me. It must’ve been about 1950 when I pulled that card out of this box and as I looked it over, I asked myself, ‘What is this J.C. Penny anyhow?’ It was near instant that I realized there was one person who would know for sure.
So the next time Stéphane was back in Suva I asked him about it. He informed me J.C. Penny is a chain of department stores in America. Wow! My mind was blown. I shared the story of that day with him. He said that person could have been any one of the store’s many corporate level employees by the sound of my description.
Stéphane also told me he loved knowing that he had a really wonderful friend and welcoming family to visit in the lovely Fiji Islands.
Hello. Thanks everyone for your patience this evening. It took a while to get this post up due to technically challenged equipment but next weekend’s timing should be back just fine. I hope everyone had a perfect Thanksgiving. Until next Sunday evening then, take care!
>Tortoise shell items: We want you to know as knowledge comes into daily practice and with age we can hope, wisdom comes along; neither of us support harming animals.