Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I'm gonna let you in a little secret....
I left the US when I was five and was raised in St. Croix, USVI. I remember landing on the island for the first time and had that warm wonderful feeling that I was finally "home".
We drove up to our house on the little hill above the Schuster's house and had to wait for key to arrive. The house was peach in color (tropical) and had a front and side porch. I sat on the steps and was amazed at all the fruit trees I saw everywhere. My little quivering miniature Daschund soon discovered lizards by the bizzilion.
I remember when the key finally arrived I asked my Dad if there were any shops that sold "pop" on our new island. The person that brought the key went to the back of his truck and pulled out 2 icy cokes in the bottle and 2 icy orange crushes. What a great day.
From that day on that place became my little home. I became one with the people, one with their culture, and one with their color. Yes - thus my secret...for many years I thought I was black.
I remember my girlfriend coming over at the age of 6. We both carefully put Vaseline on our hair before we braided it. We rubbed it on our skin, our feet, our arms. Please don't try this at home- it will come out after several washes- key word- several.
I begged my parents for us to move to the projects- Lorraine Village- was my choice, and I talked "Cruzan" to my dolls and make believe friends - Cupcake and Sophie. My Mother after hearing me one day declared If I spoke "Cruzan" in the house one more time I would be spanked- that I could only speak it in the yard. I started moving more and more outside.
My best friend was Troy Schuster. He and I played by the hours together. We made our own glue out of berries, we chased lizards, climbed trees, learned how to ride bikes, and even fell asleep in the grass some evenings. We would catch tadpoles in his "Copper". We were together constantly and his Grannie Schuster adopted me into their family. His Mother and Father had the best parties which would have serveral of the dignataries of the island. It was not strange for the Goveronor, or Senators to be there. I was only a child and not invited. I would sit on the top of the hill and look down on them dancing at their back porch for hours. My Mother would finally find me and hurridly sweep me into our tiny home.
Our church services were lively. We were the only caucasions that attended and I never noticed. The first time I attended Sunday School they cut our papers in half and pulled leaves off of the trees and told us to "color" with them. Everything would be green I soon figured out. I came home to go through my crayons that I kept in my ice cream pail. The broken and ripped ones stayed at home and the best ones with tips went to church. The steel drum Calypso hymns were song loudly. I was one of the loudest. When it came time to praying at the alter my friends and I were always there.
Every four years we had to return to the states for deputation. I was nine the first time we had to leave our island retreat. I was horrified. Leave my friends? My Church? My School? What would Country Day do without me (survive I tell you). I remember landing in Miami and gasping at the amount of "white people" everywhere. I grabbed my mother and clung to her. I told her there were too many white people in the states that I wanted to go home. She assured me that I was white as well and that color did not matter for me to stop being silly.
I lived for one year in the states and welcomed the thought of going "home". Home to pigeon peas and rice, to mangoes, tamarinds, curried chicken, pates, roti, but most of all home to my friends. I missed Troy- my best friend, and all of my friends from church. Finally the day came when we landed back at my island home. I was set for another four years.
I found my Holly Hobby diary the other day. It brought tears to my eyes as I read my sentiments about how happy I was to be home. One of the lines is the reason for this blog. It simply read this "I don't know why people are judged by their outside color. I am white but I am black, I have friends who are black but they are white. Why can't we all just be? Just be people. Troy and I are blood brother and sister and we both are the same. He is black, I am white -we both have red blood."
I was in the 5th grade when I came home. I hope that my children are raised to feel the same way. I still can talk "Cruzan", I still miss St. Croix. My best moments outside of John and the girls are on a tiny island in the sea. I thank God for calling my parents there- for it truly changed my life!