My youngest daughter, all 10 years of her, sometimes encapsulates good sentiments in a way that is so pleasingly simple.
This child is a great blend of a certain kind of diversity. Her parents are from different countries. Her half-sisters were born in different countries; they look very different. She has spent most of her life living outside the country of her birth, but also living in countries to which she can claim some strong ancestral links. She speaks one language fluently, and two others reasonably well. She embraces all aspects of her family history, as far as she can capture it.
She’s lucky enough to be living in Jamaica, the country where her father was born–not that of her birth, which he left for half a century and to which he returned a few months ago. Due to sad circumstances, she has her paternal grandfather living in her house, convalescing. Nice to be living near grandpa, whatever. She gets to see the wonderful landscape of that island, and sample some of the family and cultural connections that surround her.
Last year, she went to a family reunion to Grand Bahama, where her maternal grandfather’s family gathered. She spent days enjoying cousins she had never met before. It was a first reunion for her.
She spent the past summer on a small island in The Bahamas archipelago–Greater Inagua–from where her maternal grandmother comes; it was a family reunion on her mother’s side, the first she’d attended with them. She had a ball, seeing an island of about 1,000 people, whose economy is based on salt extraction. Apart from those on the reunion, most people seemed to be cousins or connected. The island has ruggedness throught its heart, supporting some vegetation that like dry climates. Fish abound off its coast as do conch, and we went to catch our fair share. It also hosts flamingoes, arguably the most beautiful birds on Earth. They are preserved in a national park established by one of her maternal great grand uncles.
She admires her grandmother as the matriarch of her mother’s family. The patriarch of that family, her grand uncle, born on the same island, is now an important political figure and she loves to let the world know that she is his relative. Her grandmother and grand uncle are half-brother and -sister, with the same mother (born in Haiti), but one having a Bahamian father, and the other having a Jamaican father.
“Where will the next family reunion be next year?” she asked her mother on Christmas Eve. Her mother explained that there’s no reunion every year. “Whatever. Why don’t we go to Haiti, to honour your grandmother and her family roots?” she asked. My wife nodded and agreed that was a good suggestion.
I am not sure if my daughter has a good idea about the recent earthquakes in Haiti. However, her mind has no barrier to the place.
She spent the afternoon of Christmas Eve looking at photo albums in her grandmother’s house. “She looks just like me,” was a common comment as she saw pictures of her mother and her aunts. She was the centre and they were the edges. Welcome to her world! She binds her present with their past seamlessly.
I hope that she can continue to embrace the small and big differences that come into her world.