Four-year-old Asher Davis is at home among the trees at Maho Bay Camps.
My husband and I first came to St. John as volunteers at Maho. We had never felt more comfortable and at home than we did in that screened tent with lizards, frogs and spiders as roommates. I still remember the day we left six weeks later. Sitting on the bench outside the store waiting for the taxi was the most conflicted we have ever been. We knew we were supposed to stay. We were both as sure about that as we had been of anything in 10 years together. We didn’t speak more than a few words the entire trip home.
The next year we were back to stay. Friends and family thought we were kidding; my husband’s former boss gave it six months tops. Eight years later, it feels more like home than ever. We now have friends from around the country and around the world. Fellow staff are more like family and we have a love for a place we thought could only be real in a dream.
Our son is the luckiest of all. Tree frogs and full moons lulled him to sleep. He took his first steps in a tree house. He shared play dates and took naps on the beach. He knows more about ocean life than any kid we know. Being around guests and staff since birth, he has never met a stranger and can talk to anyone. Best of all, he doesn’t know any different. This is his life, not something he saw on vacation or read in a book. Tree houses, hermit crabs, lizards, hundreds of stairs leading to another adventure — he thinks all children grow up this way.
We know our time here is a gift for us and him, but now we have to tell him we are leaving and can’t come back. He won’t wake up to 60-plus staff to say good morning to. He won’t greet guests and ask them what they saw today. He won’t watch glass blowing right before bed, then walk home. We have tried to figure out how to tell him for the last six months. Then, we realized we did not know how to tell him because we did not want to admit it to ourselves.
It does not seem real that the time is near. That it is true. Maho Bay Camps will officially close on May 16, 2013.
Our hearts are broken for many reasons, but mostly because we always thought that if we left, our son could come back. We never thought Maho would really close.
We have not spoken about the new owners publicly, mostly because we do not know much about them. Rumors have swirled, names thrown out there, plans talked about. The truth is, we don’t know what the plans are or when anyone will know what Maho’s future entails. If we could speak to the new owners, we would want them to know they did not just buy a piece of land and some shacks. They bought a place of healing, of imagination, of new friends made and precious memories created. A place we all thought was only real in a dream. Please honor this place, the only home my son has known. And when he does want to visit whatever is left of Maho one day, we hope you will let him.
Editor’s Note: CiCi Davis is the wife of Maho Bay Campground’s General Manager/VP, Adrian Davis. Asher, their son, is four years old.