Island Gyal Revisited

I’m an Island “Gyal” at heart. My dual personality is rarely seen or heard of. Drinking from the cistern, bathing outdoors, being bit by centipedes, living in a block made two room house with no air conditioning–been there done that and got the Tshirt.  I miss my roots and even now as I spend moments with family I have not seen in years, I’m catapulted back to a time in my life where things were humble and simple. 

To look at those of us who weathered the destructive 1980’s Hurricane David, wading in knee deep water, you would never know that words like “ayoo” (all of you) and “make haste” (hurry up) was part of our daily dialect. Our parents, immigrants to an island that many of their peers felt was just as backwards as the one they had just left, formed a small community of friends who then became family. It explains a lot about my views of family. Blood for me, was definitely thinner than water. It still is. 

My mother’s passing severed yet another connection to my life before the states. My god-mother’s recent passing has continued to do the same. My childhood memories are filled with “Nenen” feeding me, showing me how to wash with the old wash board, rolling clothes through this contraption to squeeze all the water out, showing me how to set a table. I mourn for the silent years of being too busy with my life to connect back with hers. When the disease that robs you of your loved ones before they die came to steal her mind away, I knew it was too late. She would never know who I was. 

But God has a way of making you make first what used to be last in your life. It cost me nothing but and a plane ticket, to sit and talk and talk and talk some more with loved ones who had also been just living life. Reconnecting and picking it up from 30 years of silence. Not interested in what you’re doing now but how life was back then. 

Our memories are all we have now. Of mothers who have gone on to be our angels. Of home makers who were hustlers living out a hard life to ensure their children would soon live out their own dreams. When my god-sister got on the plane to come to a foreign land to school, my god-mother cried incessantly. “Maman, I won’t go if you don’t want me to,” she said. In between the tears she said, “Oh but you must. It is what you have to do.”

It is that must do, can do spirit that they endowed us with. They left us no family trust, no fine china, no family jewels. What we have in the way of perseverance, grit, faith in Christ, and backbones made of steel; it is more than any riches they could ever leave. 


2 thoughts on “Island Gyal Revisited”

  1. Having lost my father recently, I can certainly connect to this post. My last trip to Haiti was when I was 6 years old. Old enough to have very faint memories but too young to really have a great sense of the island and it’s hard working people. My father passed in Haiti the place he loved the most and his request was to be buried there, my brothers and I begrudgingly took a trip to this place where we felt no connection and angered in the thought that it took our dad away but we left with much more than we could have ever imagined. A renewed connection, a sense of piece and newly created memories. My dad for sure is smiling.


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