Once we reached our destination, in St Thomas, I came out of the car and looked around, It felt strange being back in Jamaica and I didn’t recognise anywhere. It had started to get dark now , but there was reggae music blasting out the sound systems along the road. How different this was to the UK, I felt myself nodding to the reggae sounds, remember by now I had learnt these music in my effort to rid myself of christianity.
My aunt greeted me while my uncle stayed inside they had immigrated to Jamaica and had a nice modern house in the country. In the same village as my father. My heart was beating like a drum, one could almost see it through my clothes. My aunt knew I wanted to see my father and as we walked up the path, she informed me that it had rained the night before and as my father lived close to the shore it wasn’t possible to visit him that night, they believed it would be “dangerous”. I didn’t actually care, if my father was living there then it would be ok for me. But I kept that thought to myself. D walked on ahead to greet my uncle.
Naturally I still asked my Aunty to take me to see my father, but she insisted it was too dark in that part of the country and she would need to check if it was safe for me for the following day. I hated the idea that I was relying on someone else to take me to see my father, but I had no choice. Well, I may have been crazy but I asked her if she could give me directions so I could go by myself. I thought the idea that where he was living, would be dangerous for me absolute nonsense. If my father was there I couldn’t waste another night I needed to be with him. I was being selfish I know but although I begged as much as I could the answer was still no.
We were shown our room and shower facilities
I remember whilst using the shower the water being ice cold which was quite natural for a hot country like Jamaica, it took some getting use to and as I looked at the water beating on my skin, I smiled to myself. I was very close to seeing my father.
D was surprisingly quite sympathetic at the time I went to bed but didn’t sleep, naturally D did his business as there was no way he could have travelled to Jamaica without christening the country but I would make sure it was he last time.
It was a holiday for us, but for me it was for me to see my father
Next morning I was up as soon as the rooster crowed I couldnt eat as I couldn’t contain my excitement. I would see my father today, no matter what anyone said.
I believe my aunt knew that too, as she wasn’t surprised I was already dressed when she woke up.
My aunt had arranged for her son Sam who lived in the area to follow me to a place called Dalvey where I was born and where my “Papa” still reside. I was now referring to him as “Papa” automatically, it came natural as that was what I used to call him when I was young.
My aunt Son, he arrived on time. He was a Rastafarian, with dreadlocks reaching pass his knee, dressed in the red gold and green Rastafarian colours. He had a really kind face and I loved the way he spoke with the Jamaican brawl. I liked him immediately. We greeted each other and D and I and my aunt set out on our journey by foot.
Sam well he rode slowly beside us on his bicycle.
We started to walk towards the area. Although it was early morning, I could feel the heatwave. During the journey Sam also tried to prepare me for what I was about to see, but I didn’t care, although once Sam mentioned it, I was a little wary. But hey, this was the reason I was in Jamaica who cares where he lives.
We journeyed on and I took in all the sights, We arrived to a place called top house, and I remembered.
I remember the shops and my school (below)
I looked to the right and took in the children playing with stones, and tyre wheels and I thought of all the children back in UK with so much playthings.
At this point my aunt said goodbye and branched off leaving the three of us to continue.
I remember… the hill where my father smacked me for the first time for knocking over his tea, and I smiled to myself as it didn’t seem that far after all now that I was an adult but the area still looked as scary; and would still be pitch black in the night. I noticed all the tombstones, that lined our path. Sam spoke to me and D as we went along.
I was surprised at how much I recalled.
I remember …..my old school well and the bicycle rides with my father and sister, the hill where whitehead lived. The man we use to poke fun at, his hair was completely white, and they said he would eat us. Yes I remember being afraid of whitehead. But in simple fact he was probably just a man with grey hairs.
I turned to the left, I noticed a girl coming toward me, smiling.
News had spread like wildfire about my return to Jamaica. She was approaching me but I had no idea who she was. “Don’t you remember me” she said with arms outstretched.
I responded with a smile.
“No Sorry, ” I said, as I watched the dispointment fill her face.
“I was your best friend”. I was shocked and taken aback, trust issues screamed at me, maybe she just want money. “I had a best friend in Jamaica”. I repeated those words to myself. Sam stopped his bike and said “Yes, she was your best friend”. It was awkward, I did not have even the slightest recollection of her, I also felt sad, because I could see the sadness in her eyes. Even now as I type I wish I could have remembered her, and try as I could there was nothing, I guess the memory loss had not quite returned.
I embraced her, gave her some money and promised I would be back. I had one thing on my mind, I couldn’t stop to talk, afterall I was on a mission to see my father.
We continued down a road and up a hill, all the time I was wandering would my father remember me?.
We walked past my grandmothers house, where I use to live and I thought of my dog Myoonie. I walked pass my brothers grave I remember now, he died when he was nine months old, and I was born after him. More sadness his name was Glaston, I was shown my own mango tree. I remembered, I was told that when one is born in Jamaica they plant the umbilicus with the tree and there was my tree billowing up to the sky. I remember playing under that tree, and I was specifically told by my grandmother that it was my tree. I started thinking it was the same age as me. Strong and firm into the ground showing my roots was still in Jamaica.
I remember the three graves well, as they were at the entrance to my grandmothers house, and I took a picture. I use to always pass theses same ancestors graves everyday as a child, I was always spooked. I remember now both my brothers were buried there. I felt sad for a moment.
It appears that sadness had followed me to Jamaica. There was no escape.
We walked a bit further, and I saw the church we use to go with my grandmother. I would hide under her long skirt tail whenever anyone approached me, I remeber my grandmother with fondness though my memory was limited to her long hair that I would plait and pin in a bun.
I felt like a schoolgirl, taking in all the sights. Lost in my childhood, happy times. I wanted to run smiling down the road like old times only difference I was no longer a child and I would look foolish, but I still had a young mentality remember I said I felt stuck at 14yrs and still do to some extent., instead I walked….
We walked on up the hill with D on one side. D was on his best behavior and I watched as the two men chatted happily about Jamaica, and the old times.
As I slowed down my steps. A few questions came to mind.
“How well do you know my father?” I asked.
“HE LOVED WOMEN” Sam said. …. My first clue….to mummys abuse.
Was he ok? , was my next question. “Sam” explained that hurricane Gilbert destroyed Jamaica and everything they had, only some people were given property, but it was simply a roof over their head. My father was living in absolute poverty.
He also said he was living with a woman called Linda, I asked if he knows all my brothers, and he said yes but that they have all moved to Kingston, which sounded far to me.
I said to Sam that I wasn’t so sure but I feel I have another brother. But he wasn’t in the pictures I showed him my precious picture that I carried with me all the time.
Sam said something that day, that was about to turn my life into a new direction.
“No!, no! he is not there” he said. Staring at the pictures. Sam had a habit of repeating his first words twice. “You must be talking about Desmond… I didn’t know he was your brother” then he immediately said. “Yes yes yes” he is your brother , you follow him.
I went on to tell him my last memory was a boy running behind the van as I was leaving Jamaica, 1969. He was holding his hat and crying that was my last memories.
.He said he knew my brother “yes yes “he kept saying… That is Desmond… (Not real name)
Mixed emotions. I so need to find him, I remember he loved me.
It appeared that this would be the happiest moment of my life so far after all.
We arrived at my fathers house (similar to above) and I could feel the tears in my eyes and feel the pain in my chest I couldn’t breathe. Sam shouted. “Mr D! Mr D!”
I heard my fathers voice, my heart was thumping so hard I couldn’t contain myself. But I tried to portray my dignity somehow. “You have visitors “. Sam repeated.
He came to the window,
“Whose the person?
“Stranger” Sam said as they laughed… “No strangers can come to my house” he said in a joke.
Sam continued… ” You will like this stranger”. He said. by now I was crying uncontrollably. I saw my fathers face for the first time. Peering out the window, to trY and see who the person was. He looked the same but older, and he reminder me of my eldest brother Rupert in he UK, but much slimmer.
I heard him say… COM ROUN DE UDDER SIDE…. He repeated again ” come round the other side.”
I ran quickly up the steps round the corner and into the room he was living my heart broke.
I ran straight into his arms crying oblivious to who was there. He was so weak he fell back on the bed.
“Its honey your daughter from England”…I wailed.