In 2018 Hurricane Maria left a trail of devastation in its path, leaving very few structures intact. One of the structures that succumbed to Maria’s high winds was my grandparents’ home. The home where I grew up during most of my childhood. Where weekday mornings caught me running late for school. Where friends walked by calling out my name asking if I was ready only to eventually give up. The few friends who waited struggled to understand what kept me preoccupied for so long, every day!
They also eventually left, not wanting to arrive late at the school. If a student arrived late, if it was at the government school (equivalent to an intermediate school) the headmaster would be waiting in the doorway with a belt in hand. Yes, we had corporal punishment at school and the hits weren’t spanks in the hand, they were leather belt lashes across the back. I somehow made it before the lashes were handed out. One time, I got a beating not because I was late but because I was asked to take out some rubbish; on my way back, I entered through the only opened door where the late students were in line to get their beatings. The headmaster did not believe I was early and gave me three lashes. That was embarrassing. Good memories and bad memories all happened at that house
It’s there that almost all my childhood memories are linked. It was in the halls of that house where we packed bags and suitcases lined the hallways in preparation to emigrate to the states. It’s the space where I barely slept that night because the excitement of getting on an airplane was better than any sleep. That house holds the treasured moments I spent with my grandmother. The amazing thing is, my grandparents never finished high school yet they built that house from working hard at menial jobs in St. Thomas where they lived for several seasons. When I returned to Dominica in 2019 to celebrate my father-in-law’s life, the evidence of the destruction of hurricane Maria was still visible. Our home, like many others in the village, still lacked a restored roof. The pain of seeing the legacy of my grandparents’ hard work uninhabitable strained my soul. Our village has been rebuilding. Devastations from hurricanes aren’t new. My village is made up of resilient people who know how to rally to rebuild. I know village life.
I grew up in a community that lacked certain comforts and amenities. What we lacked in ease or comfort, we made up with ingenuity and community. My grandparent’s legacy may have been gutted by Mother Nature but what they have taught and shown me through their examples, no force of nature can destroy.