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When we arrived at the cave, they were amazed at our home and what we had done. "If you can do all this with no tools," Mr. Jennings gasped, "imagine what you could do with a good set of tools."
"I didn't have tools, Mr. Jennings. I had something better. I had God to guide me and teach me. We couldn't have survived a week without Him." I started to tell them our story, and how Sarah and I had been forced to grow up overnight, and make adult decisions, but Debbie interrupted me.
"Excuse me, Dad, I mean, Timmy. I hope you'll excuse the slip, Daddy." Her eyes filled with tears, and she gave her father a hug. "Timmy's been our dad for nine years, and we call him that sometimes. It's a habit. I don't mean any disrespect to you. We call Sarah 'Momma,' a lot too. Timmy, lets gather in a prayer circle, and give thanks for their safe arrival and our reunion."
"Of course, Debbie. Thanks for reminding me. Mr. Jennings, I hope you don't mind; I've turned your daughters into religious fanatics. Sarah almost strained her voice shouting it from the Top of the World, the night of her last birthday."
"Good for you!" Mrs. Jennings patted me on the back. "God has done a work in our lives too, but what's this, 'Top of the World'?"
"It's up on the mountain. We'll take you there. I hope you have a camera and lots of film."
"We do, lots of it. We're real camera buffs."
"When we get up by the Top of the World, that's when we'll tell you about the wedding." Jamie took Mother's and Dad's hands as the prayer circle assembled. "We couldn't even begin to do it justice anywhere else."
"And after you hear that story, Mr. Davis," Sarah took Dad's other hand. "We'd like you to marry us again. We won't be any more married, but we'll know we have your blessings and we'll have a piece of paper to prove it to the world. No one has ever been allowed on the Top of the World, but the three of us. Now I'm inviting you."
"Your dad is a minister now, maybe you'd rather he did it," Dad offered.
"Why don't the two of you officiate together?" I asked.
"We might be able to do that." Mr. Jennings reached up and grasped Deejay's arm, closing the final link in the prayer circle.
Debbie did not wait to be asked to lead out in prayer. "Lord God almighty, Ruler of the universe, our wonderful, loving, heavenly Father, you know how much we thank you for keeping our parents and our little brother's and sister safe through the years, and bringing them to us for this blessed reunion." She broke down and could not continue, but she had made known the greatest joy on every heart. Julie picked up the prayer with hardly a pause until she too began to sob. Jamie followed her; then Sarah and me. The little children and our parents followed. Many of us broke in for a second turn. After a full half hour of pure heart felt thanksgiving, Dad finished, "And most of all we thank you, Father, for caring for our children and raising them to be your servants. We are proud that they are 'Religious fanatics,' as Timmy jested. It is in the precious name of your blessed Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, we offer this praise and thanksgiving."
We spent another half hour weeping in each other's arms before I noticed the children, still in their swimsuits, standing in the hot sun. "Get the kids inside! They'll be blistered in this sun." They were already a bright red. I grabbed a machete, and ran to the Aloe plant for a leaf.
"Lord God, in The Name of Jesus, I ask you to heal these little bodies. Please don't let their visit on our beautiful island be spoiled for them by this sunburn; and forgive me, Lord, for not noticing it sooner." I rubbed pieces of aloe leaf over their burned bodies. "Now, you kids get your bodies covered, long pants and long sleeves if you have them, until about supper time, I'll tell you when; then we can go swimming."
The day was filled with questions and answers. One of the first things my mother wanted to know was, "You all seem so educated with such a wonderful vocabulary. How have you done it? and don't tell me God. I know he had a hand in it, but it took some work on your part too."
"We have school every day but Sundays, holidays, and once in a while we can talk Timmy into a few days vacation, but usually he's an old stick-in-the-mud." Julie poured some lemonade into bamboo cups.
"We all read well," I explained. "We don't have many books, but we've each read them all through several times. You can see how worn out the Bible is. We can multiply by all the numbers up to sixteen, and I think I figured out how to divide a little. We figured out how to do some of the common fractions. I am afraid we don't write well. We only had three pencils and a pen, but the pencils and ink have been gone for years. We get a red dye out of some berries. That's what I use to make the calendars on the wall. I didn't know just when to have leap year, but I knew it was every four years; so, I figured that if four times any number equaled the last two digits in the year, that would be a good time to have a leap year. We figure Debbie will be sixteen tomorrow."
"Tomorrow is Debbie's birthday!" Mrs. Jennings exclaimed. Now, tell us about your amazing vocabulary. You use words commonly that college students might not know.
"Let me show them," Debbie ran to the little book shelf, and picked up the ragged dictionary. "This is our second most sacred book. It was like new before five little kids got their hands on it. Here," she closed her eyes, let the book fall open and laid her finger on the open pages. "No, I know that one." She went through the process three times before she found a word she did not know. "Insidious; it's spelled, 'i-n-s-i-d-i-o-u-s.' It's an adjective. It means: 'lying in wait; treacherous; advancing imperceptibly;' add 'l-y' to make it an adverb, or 'n-e-s-s' to make it a noun. That's my word for today. Have you got that everybody? Now, we will all use it, and test each other as often as we think about it until it becomes a common word in our vocabulary. We each pick a word to share with the others every day. That way we have the same vocabulary, and learn five new words every school day."
"Amazing!" Mr. Jennings pulled his daughter onto his lap, "I hope you don't mind. It's been such a long time. I thought you were dead, until I saw your mother, twenty years younger, riding a dolphin to meet us this morning. I never believed we would find you alive. I am so very, very proud of you girls. My lap has been empty for so long." They squeezed each other and wept together for several minutes.
We told our story about being nearly beaten to death by the dolphins; how they had made us go in the right direction to find water; how Sarah and I became Momma and Daddy; how we found the cave, and the stuff left for us; about the man on the beach, and his calendar, which had reminded us we had to keep track of time. We told them about how valuable my ninth birthday present from Dad had been. He could not even remember giving me the compass with magnifying glass, that had saved our lives, or teaching us how to use it to start a fire. We told them about: the goats; the bats; the sugarcane syrup; the salt, the fruit; about the time we almost lost Sarah because we would not put her in the Lord's hands and let her go; about the miraculous healing of Jamie's foot, and the many other healings. We told them about our holidays, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving, and how Easter was the first Sunday in April because we did not know how to figure it. We did not talk about the places we wanted to show them.
When we were getting ready for lunch the dolphins had helped to provide, the men went with me to the den room to get the rest of the floppy handled skillets we had stored there for this occasion.
Dad laughed when he saw them. "I wondered about them when Sarah asked you to get them. Those are army mess kits. That's what soldiers carry to eat out of in the field of battle."
"Mess kits, huh? That's new to my vocabulary, that can be my word for today. We didn't know what they were. One part looks like a frying pan so we just called them floppy handled skillets." I was somewhat embarrassed.
"Well that about describes them." Mr. Jennings eased my discomfort.
As we returned through the bat room, Mr. Jennings scuffed his feet in the soft dirt on the floor. "You said there are bats, Are those bat sounds I hear?"
"There must be a fortune in bat guano." He scuffed a hole several inches deep with his foot. "I want to explore this cave with a good light. If we could mine it, and get it on a ship reasonably, you'd be set for life."
"I wouldn't want to do anything to spoil this island for any amount of money." I needed convincing. "I want this to be a place I can return to with my family, and not have its beauty and isolation destroyed. I love this place too much to destroy its ecology."
When we returned, Sarah and the mothers were coming out of the cool fruit cupboard. "Dave, they even have a walk-in refrigerator. Mrs. Jennings extended a flashlight. "Take this light and go in there, but look out for the milk."
"Oh those poor goats! excuse me!" I started to get the milk pail. "We've been so excited; we forgot to milk them."
"Julie and I'll get'em, Timmy." Jamie looked at the fish over the fire. "Have we got time before lunch, Sarah?"
"We'll make the time. Those poor nannies have to be relieved, I know what it feels like."
When the two had disappeared into the goat pen, Mrs. Jennings spoke quietly. "Debbie, do I understand correctly that you don't care much for Jamie?"
"Mother! What ever gave you that idea?" Debbie responded in shock.
"The way you reacted when it was suggested that he might consider himself married to one of you girls." Mrs. Jennings defended her assumption.
"Mother, I not only love Jamie from the heart of every cell of my body, he and Julie are the best friends I'll ever have in the whole world. It's going to kill us girls to have to be separated from him. I'll never love any man more than I do him, but he's my big brother. He would never touch me, nor would I allow him to, and it's the same way with Julie. I guarantee you, Mother, all three of us are still virgins, and so were Timmy and Sarah, until their wedding; even though, they consider themselves to have been married by God, the day He placed us on this island."
"I stand corrected. I misinterpreted your reaction, but he seems like such a nice young man. I think he would make a good husband and father."
"Probably the best in the world, and I envy the woman who gets him, but it can't be me or Julie. Not now anyway. If we have to be separated for several years, we might think differently."
After Jamie had put the milk in the cooler, Debbie said, "Jamie, we have to watch what we say. We gave our parents the wrong impression by our reaction when they suggested that you might be married to one of us. They thought we didn't like each other."
"You gotta be kiddin'! I'm sorry. I love my sisters, but we have grown up as brother and sisters, and nothing else. I'll remember not to react so strongly in the future."
"That's what I told them." Debbie hugged him.
"It's a pity," Mrs. Jennings pouted.
"Yeah," Mother concurred.
"I want to show you something." Julie picked up the old worn Bible from its stand. "Timmy wrote this two days after we arrived on the island."
Mrs. Jennings took the Bible. "'Father: Timothy Allen Davis, born November 13, 1941; Mother: Sarah Lee Jennings. Born, July 25, 1942; Married, December 13, 1950. That's when we started being Mom and Dad. Children: James Edward Davis, born, February 1, 1943; Deborah Sue Jennings, born, October 7, 1943; Julia Marie Jennings, born, January 20, 1945. Sarah Jennings and I adopted the above children, December 13, 1950, because we're all orphans, and Sarah and I are the oldest.' It's signed in a child's handwriting, 'Timothy Allen Davis,' and below that is 'Deborah Julia Davis, born May 6, 1958.'"
"See, it says in the Bible that they was married and became our mom and dad, and we were their kids the day we got to the island. That really truly makes Jamie our brother." Julie pointed to the Family Register in the Bible.
"He's the best brother two girls ever had. I don't know how we'll ever get along for even one day without him." Debbie's voice broke and she sobbed on Jamie's shoulder.
At lunch I asked, "How did you all survive the crash, especially, you, Mrs. Jennings."
"We were all saved. You and the pilot who was killed when the waves broke through the cockpit were the only ones lost."
"But that big wave? You were on the wing with us."
"The wave never touched me. I lost my balance and fell, but the life-raft had opened up right in front of me. I fell into it. More life-rafts were blown up and all the passengers got into them. We stayed where we could see each other, but everyone was looking for you. We called for you until we could hardly talk. The rescue ship came for us but the search for you went on for days, until they found your life-jackets. They found four of the five, and gave up. There were sharks in the area, but no blood was found on the lifejackets. They looked like they were unfastened and taken off, but there was no land for nearly a hundred miles."
"You were immediately declared dead, but in my heart I knew better." Mother continued. "The Lord clearly told me you were alive, and that we would find you when the time was right. This was for both our benefit and yours. I grieved for you in my heart, but I knew you were in the Lord's hands, and that he would take care of you. I was at perfect peace in my heart that I would see you again, and hold you in my arms, even when my own husband ridiculed me for what I knew to be true. We still wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for Dave and Linda. I have prayed for all of you children everyday, several times a day, but the Lord reminded me continuously through all these years, 'You gave them to me. They're mine. Leave them in my hands, and when the time comes, I will give them back to you. They will make you proud.' Oh, how proud I am of the way you have grown up, and for what you have done."
"That peace and contentment, and the hope your mother had, along with your father's devotion to his heavenly Father is what caused me to really give my life to Christ." Mrs. Jennings told her story. "I, like your father and Dave, believed you were dead, but I so admired your parents for their commitment to God."
"January 17, your mother broke through my bitter heart, and I found peace in Christ. She continued. The nineteenth I learned Bobby was coming, and on Julie's birthday, I did something I never do. About noon I suddenly became so exhausted; I lay down. The next thing I knew, I was in this cave. The bamboo rooms weren't here; there was a pile of trash in that corner; and there was a fire on that rock where it is now. I saw you older girls and you boys around the fire, naked except for brief blue shorts similar to what you have on now. Julie was lying on a blue U.S. Navy blanket just beyond those ashes in the cave, asleep. She got up and came to meet me. I tried to get to the rest of you, but a voice from somewhere said, 'No, this is only for Julie and you. She asked so tenderly for you to come to her today. It broke my heart so I brought you. You'll see them all again when the time is right.' She was so happy to see me; she had missed me so much. She giggled her little girl's giggle--it's haunted me ever since--when I tickled her. I asked her how she would like to have a baby brother or sister. She got so excited over that. Then, it was time. I had to leave. I said good-by, and she was so shocked that I couldn't take her with me. She cried her heart out. I told her to be a good girl, and mind you and Sarah; that you would take good care of her, and someone would find you some day, but she might be almost grown. I hugged her and kissed her twice, before I was taken to the top of the cave to watch. She begged me to take you girls with me, and it tore my heart out as I watched you others gather around her to comfort her as she wept in her sleep. The voice behind me said. 'This visit will help ease her pain and yours. You both know the others are alive and well.' I was on my bed again. Only minutes had passed, and I didn't feel like I had been asleep, but the exhaustion was gone. No one would believe me except Judy, but I have known since then that this day would come."
There was not a dry eye among us. Julie, who was sitting by her mother, cried, "See I told you she was here! I told you!" She threw her arms around her mother and wept uncontrollably. "They told me it was just a dream, but I knew you were here. I wouldn't listen to them. I've always believed in my heart that you were here."
"Have you ever been to the island, Mother?" I looked at her.
"Not that I know of. I have dreamed about you boys so many times. I always pictured a beautiful green grassy hillside with a big wide river, or maybe, terraces with ponds on them; with jungle all around it. I envisioned beautiful waterfalls, and hundreds of animals. I'm not sure what they were, maybe big dogs, but it seems like they had horns."
"Goats." I looked at Sarah. She smiled knowingly. "You have been here. You've just described the most beautiful part of our island, the view from Lake One. You'll definitely recognize it, when we take you there. "
"Lake One is where I dreamed a very realistic dream. All four of you came to get us the first year we were here, I can still see the pain in your eyes, when I refused to leave with you because I couldn't stand to have our little family torn apart and go back to being just a kid again. I'd grown up so fast with my all responsibilities, but I knew that to you I was still your little nine-year-old boy. I couldn't leave. You seemed to understand, but I've never been able to erase the pain that I saw in your eyes from my mind, or the guilt from my heart, that because of my selfishness, I might have delayed our rescue and kept the girls and Jamie from their parents." I was crying so hard, I couldn't continue; although, I had much more to say.
Debbie stepped up behind me, hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. "We love you, Daddy. We missed our parents, but we wanted them here on the island. We always dreaded the day they would come for us and take us away from you and Jamie. That's why we ganged up on you to get you to agree to marry Momma. We thought that way, at least you and she could stay together, and our families would be bonded so we could see each other. We really do love you, Timmy."
"I still feel the pain of that rejection," Mother said, "but you didn't delay your rescue. I knew then, and even more so now, that God had special training for you that we couldn't give you, and when the time was right we would be together again."
"We have other beautiful waterfalls on the island also," I said. "The most beautiful is hard to get to, and we can't see it from the best vantage point, but we'll show it to you. We'll show it all to you. I want pictures, hundreds of pictures of everything even if we have to come back to take them. Our problem is deciding where to go first."
"I'd like to see that--that--'Top of the World' you're were talking about." Mr. Jennings looked from Sarah to me. "I want to hear the story of your--wedding."
"Is that because you don't approve of our marriage, Daddy, and you are in a hurry to get it done right?" Sarah asked.
"I don't know. That might be part of it. I'm trying to be open minded about it. I know in your hearts you believe you are within your rights. I have never heard of people legally or morally marrying themselves, but I will reserve judgment until I have heard about the wedding that Jamie and the girls want to tell us about up there."
"Except for the experiences those two have had up there, Mr. Jennings, it's the dumbest place on the island." Jamie sucked on a mango pit.
"Jamie's right," I admitted. "When we came down the first time, I never intended to go back. I was almost angry when your oldest daughter dragged me up there again on her ninth birthday. Since then, we have been up there for all her birthdays, except one, when she was in the ravine. Then we went up there to celebrate as soon as she came back. The only other time we didn't spend the night up there was her sixteenth birthday when we went up to dedicate Deejay. We don't talk much about the experiences we have up there, even to each other, but that one night of the year we have slept together, innocently, wrapped in the arms of Jesus. Other than that, we seldom touched or spoke of our love until Memorial Day, 1956, when we decided to get married, and after that, didn't allow ourselves to get very close until after the wedding."
"Daddy, you won't believe it, but that rock is the softest bed I ever slept on. Timmy once described it as, 'a soft warm cloud.'"
"Why didn't you sleep up there when you dedicated Deejay?" Mother wanted to know. "You were married then."
"I thought it was too dangerous for the baby. I know now, she would have been all right. We learned that night we don't need to go there. Jesus will meet us anywhere we are."
"We'll leave early in the morning, so we can have plenty of time and get back down before dark. It's a good three hour hike, one way. And, Bobby, Brenda, Joey, I don't want any running and rough playing up there. There isn't room. On one side, it's a two or three-hundred-foot drop, straight down."
"What's the ravine?" Mrs. Jennings wondered. "I haven't heard of it before."
"It's a pretty little camp about a half hour hike from here," Debbie explained, "where we girls used to go during our embarrassing times until we learned how to hide it from the boys. We had it fixed up really comfortably until we brought the furniture up here to be ready for you."
"Good idea." Mother smiled approvingly.
Mrs. Jennings just nodded.
"Mrs. Davis," Sarah changed the subject. "May we see the clothes you brought for us." These things are terribly warm. They don't let any air pass through them."
"That's a good idea. I'm sure I have something that will fit you. I asked the Lord to guide me in selecting the sizes. Still, I brought a variety of sizes."
"Here is a box for you boys," she indicated rather small box compared to the girls', when we had moved into the cave. You should find some things to fit, and that's the shoe box." She pointed to a larger box.
The Girls nearly went crazy. They, each, must have made a dozen trips to the girls' room and come out modeling something different. Some were too large, some too small. Some looked nice. Some were hideous, but they had fun. There were skirts that came nearly to the floor. There were blouses, shorts, underwear, and socks. Mother had thought of everything.
Julie picked up a garment. "What's this stupid looking thing."
"That's a brassiere." Her mother laughed. "Come on I'll show you. It looks like it might fit."
A moment later Julie burst out of the room displaying the garment. "Don't this look stupid. I don't think I like it. It feels terrible."
Her mother followed her out, trying to stop her. "That's an undergarment, Julie. Men aren't supposed to see that. Get back in here." She tried to be serious, but couldn't help laughing with everyone else.
"Well, what's the sense in wearing it, if nobody's s'posed to see it." Julie started back toward the room.
"They hold you in place."
"What's the matter? Are you afraid they're gonna fall off?"
Everyone roared, as embarrassed Mrs. Jennings got her daughter into the room, out of sight.
"Swimming suits." Sarah squealed as they approached the bottom of the box. "We were afraid you wouldn't bring any."
"Timmy should have known better than that," Mom said. "He knows we always have swimming suits with us."
"Would you mind if we wear these all the time until we leave?" Sarah came out of the changing room in the swim wear. "It the first thing I've found that's even a little comfortable."
The parents all agreed. "There are several, so you can have a change." Mother picked up several more suits.
Jamie and I each found a couple changes of clothes that would fit us, but we, like the girls elected to wear swimming trunks and tee-shirts.
"I'm sorry we didn't bring anything for Deejay," Mother apologized, "but we didn't even consider the possibility that we might have a grandchild. I have a sewing kit with me. I can make her something to wear until we get to a store."
"She wouldn't wear them anyway. Sarah pointed at the naked baby, who had just come with a dog from her nap in the west room. You saw what happened to her clothes, when we put her down this morning. We have never had any clothes for her. Today is the first time she ever had anything on."
"What?" gasped Mrs. Jennings. "What did you do about the messes?"
"We had moss and leaves. They helped a little." Sarah smiled. "Mostly, we just took a lot of baths. Why do you think she started swimming when she was four or five days old?"
"It's a good thing you had plenty of water." Dad picked up the little girl, and nuzzled her. "You must have been a mess."
When it came to the shoes, none of us wanted anything to do with any of them. We finally each found a pair that was less uncomfortable than the others, and agreed to put them on just before the boat docked in the Philippines. I laughed when, reminiscing, I told them how painful it had been walking in the rocky stream, and through the jungle that first day, and how we had missed our shoes.
The conversations wore on through the afternoon. The kids began to show their boredom. When the sun was about halfway to the western horizon, Deejay patted me on the leg. "Daddy, sim."
I suggested we all take a dip in the lake. When they came out of the cave after changing, Julie was laughing; telling the kids that when she was six, she thought she was big; too big to be scared to jump off the cliff. Bobby, without asking anyone, followed Debbie and Julie off the cliff, and started to tease Brenda and Joey about being scaredy cats.
"Bobby, we've always had a rule on this island. We never, ever, tease anybody about being scared. Everybody is scared of something, and can't help it. I was thirteen when we stopped sleeping in one big bed, and for months after that, I was really scared when I woke up at night, and couldn't touch Julie or Jamie. I sure didn't want to be teased about that. This is our home, and when you're in our home you live by our rules."
"Okay, but you spoil all the fun."
"I know how you feel," Jamie remembered. "I used to feel like that too, until I thought Debbie was going to tease me about being scared of a few little old bees. After that, I knew why Timmy and Sarah made the rule."
They were amazed to watch Deejay swim and jump off the diving rock, and shocked when we told them why we built the fence across the patio, and that she loves to have one of us jump off the cliff with her in our arms.
"I don't think I would want to jump from up there." Mrs. Jennings shuddered.
"And can you imagine Julie pulling such a trick on her sixth birthday?" Mother had overheard Julie's story.
"That's why Bobby did it. He couldn't be outdone by a six-year-old girl." Mrs. Jennings apparently knew her son.
As darkness settled we moved the lounges and rockers to the patio, and let the fire burn low, while we watched the bats and the stars fill the sky, as we had done so often.
Copyright © 1995
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.
Copyright © 2000-2023 All Rights Reserved.
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