This long weekend, Trinidad celebrated Indian Arrival Day and the Tumavicus-Pereira’s celebrated Elias continued recovery from a fractured nose and a concussion. The cast came off and the splints came out.
An audible sigh of relief. He could breathe easier, and so could we.
Since he was on physical and cognitive rest, we followed suit. We did a lot of lying around and resting as though through some sort of vicarious osmosis, relaxing our collective bodies and brains would help Elias’ brain and nose to recover more rapidly and completely. I think it worked; his eyes and spirits are brighter with each day, and we all agreed that his nose looks straighter than it did before the collision with the other player’s knee on that soccer field in the Dominican Republic last weekend.
In the process of all that lying around, we also did some planning for our rapidly approaching trip back to Vermont for the summer. This included some retrospective assessments of our year. When I asked Nicole what she liked best about living in Trinidad this year, she said, “Number 1: the loud music. Number 2: the skin color.” She closed her eyes blissfully, and continued under her breath, ” Oh, yeah, baby, the skin color.”
While we have all witnessed Nicole blossom and thrive physically, emotionally, and academically here, I didn’t fully understand that the skin color factor lived right there on the tip of her tongue. Although why wouldn’t it. She only lived in her southern state of origin, Atlanta, Georgia, for 2 or 3 days before we whisked her off to lily white Vermont, the second whitest state in the nation, right behind Maine. Her arrival completed the peachy-brown rainbow of colors already in our family, her arc forming the darkest hue of our family’s spectrum. Her features are so much more African based than her mixed race brother Elias. Such a different version of beautiful than anyone in our town or school or neighborhood. I often wished I could take the burden of being the minority away from her. Having a large strawberry birthmark on my upper lip that looked like, well, a big fat strawberry sinking the ship that was my lip, for the majority of my childhood, I knew firsthand the burn of the grocery store stare.
When she was four years old, we travelled to Cleveland, Ohio to see her older brother Kario in a theatre performance. We walked into a restaurant, and while we were scoping out the menu, she began looking around, pointing at people and counting in a determined whisper. One, two, three, four, five, six…. We sat down, and she continued to count. seven, eight, nine…..She wasn’t counting for us to see necessarily, she was in her own little world, incredulously enunciating each succeeding number. ten…eleven…twelve. It took us a while before we figured out that she was counting how many black people were in the diner. People who looked like her. She wasn’t used to that, and we were faced with the reality of her self awareness as the other, even at age four. Sitting in that diner, we started the conversation about the possibility and necessity of living in a more multicultural area, one that mirrors more accurately the multicultural-ness of our family.
On Saturday, while the boys stayed at home to rest their brains, we slipped out with the neighbors to go play at Macaripe Bay. For all you New Englanders, this is the equivalent of heading out to Lake Spofford for the day.
So much like being at Lake Spofford or along the West River.
lots of children and families,
digging in the sand,
running away from their parents,
clinging towards their parents,
and generally soaking up beauty of the day.
Teenagers testing the limits
and sun worshipping.
yet so different.
Here at Macaripe Bay, our girl blends in like the happiest of swimmers.
We hear audible sighs of relief from her on a daily basis. Maybe she too, like her brother, can breathe easier. (is it a coincidence that she hasn’t needed to use her daily inhaler at all in this warm Trinidadian air?)
While it doesn’t feel like home to all of us a lot of the time, I feel so much gratitude to be living, for now, in a culture where no one would bat an eyelash to see a mixed race couple appearing in a Cheerio’s ad.
And where my children can see themselves reflected right back at them everywhere they look, whether at the beach or the doctor’s office or simply driving in the car.