In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Places.” Beach, mountain, forest, or somewhere else entirely?
When Americans talk about paradise they often mention Hawaii or Bali or some other place in the Pacific ocean. They mention the beautiful beaches, the lush landscape and scenic views that delight the eye. They mention the exotic fruits and fish and other foods that excite the palate. All those things are available without a long and expensive plane trip. They can be found south of the Florida Keys, south of Cuba, Jamaica and Barbados in the islands of the Grenadines.
I didn’t live all my life in the Grenadines. My parents moved around a lot. Our moves often followed the trajectory of my father’s career with Barclay’s Bank. But my early years and the years just before my immigration to the United States were spent in the paradise of the Grenadines.
Those early years were spent on the beach at Port Elizabeth, shirtless and shoeless, playing with my brothers or any other boy I could find. We spent a lot of our time mostly on the beach or in a tree of some sort. I fondly remember moments, early in the morning, trying to catch the tiny fish that swam along the shore. They were easy to catch if you had the right tools ( a piece of a branch from a coconut tree) and some patience. The branch was held just beneath the water, horizontally and about a foot from the sand. You had to hold still until the fish swam near. Then quick as he could, one of us would swerve one end of the branch toward the shore. If we were quick enough we could get the fish to jump out of the water and onto the sand. We would catch them in our hands, observing the fish, gasping for breath, before popping them into some sort of container full of seawater. I think we killed most of our catch from ignorance.
If we had the morning we would put together a beach game of tennis ball cricket. The wide end of the dried branch of a coconut tree served as a bat, once the dried leaves had been stripped. Depending on the size of the “team”, a conch shell or two served as markers for the wickets. Or we would get creative and build wickets from large pieces of dead coral that had washed up on shore, having been ripped by a storm from the nearby seabed.
In the afternoon we might go visit my grandparents in La Pompe. The drive itself was a real treat. It was still early in my father’s career but the bank has given him a stipend for a car. I don’t know if it was the fashion at the time or because my Dad was being frugal but he had bought a Mini Cooper. Not the large modern BMW engineered thing that you see on some of the roads today. The Mini back then was a cramped vehicle with just a radio. I don’t think it had air conditioning. But it was the perfect car for the narrow and mostly unpaved roads. It felt like we were in a rally race with my Dad scooting around tight corners barely staying to one side of the road. It was fun. And scary. Becky is beautiful but its roads are carved out of the side of island with many steep drops along the road. Sometimes if I looked out the window of the car it would seem that we were flying; flying in a car that looked out onto the beautiful blue-green waters of the Caribbean Sea.
It’s incredible how my sense of time changed when I got older. The drive to Papa and Mama’s house — that’s what we called my grandparents — seemed long, both in distance and time. Perhaps it was the friends and family we slowed down to wave hello to along the way. The people of Bequia are curious and friendly people. I took my wife for a visit in 1998. One of my mother’s cousins gave us a ride to our restaurant but after dinner, we walked home as the sun was setting. My wife was amazed at the many peaceful and friendly people who called out “Good night” as we walked along in the moonlight.
Sometimes my parents would let us run down to the pebbly shore of the beach near my grandparent’s house. I could easily spend three hours riding the surf in the shallow shore. If we were lucky we might get to see the local fishermen bring in a catch. My grandfather would amble his way downhill to the beach and bargain for the price of dinner. My grandmother cleaned the fish and cook it into a stew with some green plantains, carrots and potatoes. Oh, life was simple and grand at the same time.