First Memories

My childhood memories are like snapshots or slides
with no sound
there are tastes and sensations
but like watching an old soundless home movie
you are relying on other stimulation
and maybe what you are seeing in your minds eye
is heightened with remembering
the mute button causing you to intently take it all in....

my earliest memories,
besides the very VERY first one
where Grandma Jodie has me seated on top of the counter
in her kitchen
she is making me a sandwich and is asking me if I want mint jelly
want what?
and then she lets me taste it
and just like that no more memory....

Cut to the Bahamas
is it years later, and how could that be?
But I am in Kindergarten, on an island
in confined paradise
a world contained only by proximity
in my heart it is boundless and wild and interesting always...

I remember the Junkanu band on early mornings
having their own tribal parade that for them must be like their church
and I wonder at how fun it seems,
and now as an adult I admire their brand of celebrating

I remember grilling sea creatures on the beach
my Dad spearing lobster
walking right out of the dark part of the water into the clear part
and bringing those lobsters right up to us on the shore
where we dug a hole to put them in
and then he walked right back out into the water again

I remember being in the glass bottom dingy
staring down into the clear deep water
and being terrified of sea urchins and of falling in

I remember skimming across the water
that might as well been a sky
because beneath the surface we shot past countless sea stars
star fish they would bring up onto the boat and I can remember touching them....

hunting for land crabs at night
so thrilling!
We loved the finding!
The crabs sideways crawling
Dad shining a light into their eyes to stun them,
then stepping on their backs
and snatching them up wriggling
into the blue net bag....

and then Wednesdays we would boil them
and make vats of spaghetti
and lobster too
a weekly party
of friends like family
everyone healthy and tan looking

I remember spinning on the porch
sitting on the underpart of my mom's clay throwing wheel
the smell of formaldehyde as the sea stars laid out,
stiffened in the sun

I remember flying in a tiny plane
to go shopping on another island
and getting caught in a terrible storm
and fearing we were going down
that we really might die...

our dog Spry and the most dramatic day
when wild dogs ripped his throat open
and Dad dumped something down his throat to heal it
did he die? I don't remember...

I remember my dads hand at the back of my bike seat....
don't let go Dad!!
OK, just concentrate...and then...
BEA!!! Look! You are doing it! You are riding all by yourself!!

Then I am being held over the black part
the part of the water we fear
because that is where the sea urchins are
that is where the barracudas emerge from and come after us
I am at some sort of day camp, some kind of island YMCA and
I am so scared and these two teenagers manage to peel my clawing hands off of them
and then I am swimming
or maybe I am running in water
pure fear performance
and either way, from then on
I am a fish

I remember my Dad running in the water after the barracudas
that tried to swoop in to get us
he would raise his hands over his head and yell and
run with crashing thrashing footsteps
and I remember thinking he was my hero

I remember floating under the clear water
in utter silence
with my mask and with God
watching the way the waves moved the sand beneath it
in subtle wavy patterns
and time stopped for me then
and I remember wondering what would happen
if I just stayed there forever
and I guess became a mermaid
but my thinking wasn't as fanciful
just simple and contented
totally at peace

I remember Bahamian bread
the texture and sweet taste of it
of bartering flip flops and man made things
just to get some

and the spice mix called soogie Mama
and how it tasted with nutritional yeast
on popcorn mom made homemade on the stove
in the same pot that I still have...
and I've tried to recreate the mix from memory but was it
cumin? and paprika? and salt and what???
I cannot quite remember what spices came together....
but I wish I did.

I remember the first time I saw my Dad cry,
I worried for him and then when I knew why he had tears
I cried for my own loss too
his mom, my grandma had died
I crawled under my bed and sobbed and said I was never coming out

we had a babysitter and I couldn't even draw her face
in my memories she is this presence in my peripheral
present but elusive
one time we found a tarantula on the doorknob
and had to get the man who drives the bus around the island
to come and get it off for us
with his flash light in the dark night

another time we were going to make popcorn,
I went into the cabinet to get the pot
and there was this slithering body
 I slammed the door and ran to the sitter
when Dad got home, he and a friend fished it out
and we kept it on the porch in a big aquarium tank
and fed it huge fat bull frogs
and we'd watch them slowly go down....

I remember swimming with friends
my top falling off and gasping
because there were boys
the beginnings of my self conscious

and another time
my mom and her nudist friend Newfie
on the beach nude sunbathing
and encouraging me to throw abandon to the wind
(there was no way they were going to talk me into that)
and I secretly thought they were both crazy

and another time
this too vivid memory of Newfie answering the door
totally naked and I was confronted with her crotch
too close to the height of my face...

and then falling asleep with my first massage
by Newfie
and being moved to the pallet of pillows and blankets on the floor
where the rest of the kid massage victims were placed
all of us in physical bliss
transported to dreamland
forever henceforth a victim to the charms of massage...

I remember the batik factory
and being fascinated by the energy of the women creating
of the colors, and the wax
a solid and now ironed through....

I remember accepting Jesus into my heart
singing songs to him on the swings and looking into the blue sky
with the big puffy white clouds
and knowing He was up there loving me

I remember Salty the singing song book and all the songs he sang
putting on that play for the church of all those songs
with puppet play
I can still sing all the words to all those songs to this day

I also remember carrying my little brown cassette player
and buying tapes at the little grocery store
Samantha fox especially, and walking and singing those songs
my first realization of my addiction and love for music and singing along

I remember "mid rats", a night when Mom and Dad let us stay up late
and go to the cafeteria for a midnight feast of everything breakfast
with heavy eyelids but freakish delight with our good fortune
we would eat too much and fall into food comas,
were we carried home? I am sure....

These impactful significant memories.
each one telling a story of how I'd be later, how I would handle things
how all my memories would become touchstones in a glass globe
that I can look in and revisit to this day
my earliest and first memories on a tropical island
etched into me
effecting me to the core
the beach babe through and through
dreaming of an island way to be
an island kind of philosophy
it has never left me
from beach decor
to Men At Work

in my memories too
it is where my family is frozen
the last time we were a family
and not broken
where I had my mom's influence
as much as my Dad's
and I wonder if I remember my interactions with my Dad most
because I would have to go most of the rest of my life
without them
without him

it makes sense why I so cherish my memories of the Bahamas
it is my first childhood memories
of a magical island wonderland
but it is mostly where I had a DAD
a Dad who loved and cared about doing things with me
who influenced and taught me
who proved to be my hero
again and again

my Dad, who could do anything.
and above all things
won my heart.



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