There are simple questions in life: What’s your name? How old are you? Where do you live? Where are you from? However for me, these questions aren’t as simple as they appear at first glance, and I often find myself answering with hesitation.
Person 1: How old are you?
Me: You’re only as old as you feel.
Person 1: No really…
Me: Oh, I’d rather not discuss that. (I’ve said it a million times, I’m not the aging gracefully type)
Person 1: Where do you live?
Person 2: At the moment I’m between residences, homeless actually.
Person 1: Oh.
Person 1: Where are you from?
Me: I’m Jamaican.
Person 1: Where in Jamaica were you born? You don’t sound Jamaican… (and my favorite) You don’t look Jamaican (um, what does that even mean?)
Me: I was born in NY, but moved to JA as a toddler…. my parents are Jamaican; I was raised “Jamaican.” I’ve lived in the U.S for a long time.
Person 1: You’re Jamerican then.
Me: No, I’m Jamaican.
I arrived in Kingston almost a week ago for *Marsha’s (aka Sacha) wedding this upcoming Saturday, and to spend time in the land not of my birth but of my being before I head to Europe. I haven’t been to Jamaica for many months, and the moment I stepped out of the airport I wondered, “Why has it been so long?”
In Jamaica it’s possible to:
1) Be selective about mangos, whereas in NY one just eats the $3 mango that’s almost ripe. Here it’s “Hm, should I have the Julie, the Blackie, the Bombay, the East Indian?” The trees in the backyard are laden.
2) Be overwhelmed with fruity goodness everywhere. The men at the stop lights selling fruits in season: yellow-coated plums, guineps, mangos, sugarcane in plastic bags. Be overwhelmed with sweetness and abundance.
3) Eat home-cooked ackee and saltfish with green bananas for breakfast, on the patio with the company of a humming bird flittering by, and a green lizard on the grill. The company of nature in the city greets, abounds and surrounds.
4) Start speaking a forgotten language. “Don’t lay lay.” “Jeezum pees.” “A wah do yuh?” Start saying things I didn’t know were still in me, albeit in an accent and voice that my best friends mock.
5) Relax at Prendys on South Avenue while listening to “soul” music and sighing from pleasure between bites of steamed Parrot fish, steamed bammy, and an arctic Red Stripe.
6) Go to Fort Clarence beach and stare up at the sky for a long while, then have the sky stare down on one’s back for another long while….. the sea rocks steady, shade from an almond tree, a sound system plays in the background, small slumber…. is that the vibration of the sun, of contentment, of the unburied dream?
7) Be with kindred spirits. It’s nice to reminisce, to be with people who can remind you of what you once saw, dreamed, wished, desired, loved. It’s nice to be a grown woman and still a child in the eyes of some, and just a girl with your girlfriends, and an “Auntie” to a child. Is that the trinity?
It’s amazing here. The rain falls while the sun is shining, and we continue to “live, laugh, love,” and remember that:
brown mothers on green green grass,
give children permission
to fly. (Excerpted from In Jamaica: http://thingsjamaicanslove.com/reasonings)