Months of anticipation and longing were brought to an end over a period of ten days. Ten wonderful days that I was careful to savour because of, and despite, the swiftness of their passing. And there was truly much to relish on my recent trip to Trinidad: family, food, music, friends, warmth, and, of course, memories. Because there are, after all, memories that lie dormant until triggered by a particular shade of bougainvillea, or the view of the setting sun from a favourite, quiet spot.
The night we arrived, I sighed and smiled as my mother drove us towards the house. The lights were on, warm and welcoming, a visual parallel to the feelings of tenderness that I always experience upon ‘coming home’. My eyes still sought the pine tree that had, for most of my life, stood towering in a corner of the front yard, an easy landmark, but which had begun to lean precariously and was cut down a few years ago. There were other, more recent changes as well, updates that my mother has enjoyed making over time, but the spirit of the place – its soul that consistently elicits a sigh and smile – remained unaltered.
This spirit was evident, for example, in the ease with which Littler B expertly navigated his new surroundings. He had an air of belonging, of feeling right at home almost immediately, and his effortless comfort turned to bliss when he confirmed that there was no such thing as a child-proof cupboard in Grandmummy’s kitchen. The spirit was also there when Little L, upon tasting the cerise fruit for the first time, excitedly insisted that we pick all the ripe ones within reach (three days in a row), bringing back memories of my childhood zeal for plucking the little tangy-sweet morsels, Governor plums, oranges and Julie mangoes that grew in our yard. But perhaps it was most apparent to others on the Sunday before we left, when the house was brimming with cousins, aunts, uncles and friends – the joyous sounds of music and laughter flowing in and out of the breeze blocks, around the yard where children romped, and over the green galvanized roof. Yes, the spirit of home was indeed alive and well.
I felt it in the kitchen, where my father used to sit on a stool and peel his morning grapefruit. I felt it when I looked at the white wrought iron chairs on the porch, to which he would usher those persons who came seeking his legal counsel; and, naturally, at the dining table where he, my mother, brother and I would chat and enjoy each others’ company on a Sunday – with the sliding doors open, curtains tied back, and the Commodores’ ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning’ playing in the background. The spirit was still there, everywhere, although he no longer physically was. A spirit of love, encouragement, patience … and peace.
I therefore understood Little L’s tears on the eleventh morning – the morning of our departure. I quietly shared them. Holding her tightly, I absorbed her inconsolable distress and added it to my own heaviness of heart. I knew exactly what she was feeling. She had been to the beach and other exciting places, tasted different foods, helped her grandmummy water the plants, become reacquainted with cousins, and made new friends. I, in turn, had visited sites on the island for the first time; enjoyed a night out with some of my oldest and dearest friends; danced with abandon to soca; indulged in Trinbagonian Christmas cuisine in the middle of March; feasted on bake and buljol, crab and callalloo, curry duck, roti, doubles, corn soup… and the list went on. I had seen, tasted and lived everything with an appreciation that was sharpened by my awareness of the ever-approaching eleventh day. The eleventh day that had inevitably arrived.
But although delightful moments and days may pass, imprints of them do remain with us, joining the store of memories inextricably linked to the spirit of a place that makes us sigh and smile. So, on that eleventh morning, with tears dried and suitcases closed, we put the previous ten days in our cache of treasures and began to shift our focus to the long day of travel ahead. We passed under the plaque that hangs above the door to the car port, and the spirit of home whispered its familiar words to my heart: ‘Peace to all who leave here’.