My Most Meaningful Trip of 2023
Every trip to the Caribbean yields smiles. Amazing weather, pristine beaches, awe-inspiring natural wonders, incredible people… Yeah, they tend to have that effect. Sometimes, though, those smiles are tinged with tears. Like when your grandmother, whom you barely knew, passes away. A sad occasion that draws you back to your family’s ancestral Caribbean island home. An ancestral home of which you are also largely unfamiliar.
Such were the circumstances that Patrick and I found ourselves living during the earliest days of December 2023.
It was just before Christmas. The festive season.
We were in Trinidad, arguably the most fete-focused corner of the globe.
Our focus, however, was on more poignant thoughts and feelings. Mine largely centered on regret. The deep all-encompassing kind that makes plain the fact that you did something wrong. That you could’ve done something more.
I never really knew either of my grandmothers. My dad’s mom died when I was just a boy. My maternal granny, like the rest of my mom’s side of the family, remained largely disconnected from us since my mom passed during my teenage years. Patrick and I were born and raised in St Croix. None of our extended family members ever lived there, the majority of them staying in Trinidad. It was the 1980s, then it was the 90s and the early 2000s. That is to say, it was a different time. One when connections weren’t as easy to make, rekindle, or maintain.
In 2005, though, I sought some rekindling after hearing from my dad that my granny was alive. I found her number, fairly randomly, in a borrowed copy of a Trinidad and Tobago phone book. Our initial conversations are a whole other story you might get me to share over some nice rum someday. Suffice it to say, though, we got on great from over 1600 miles away.
Soon after our telephone chats, I took things a few steps further. I traveled to Trinidad; to her home in Point Fortin. I enjoyed a brief, yet wholeheartedly fulfilling weekend stay at my granny’s house. She spoiled me with great food. I entertained her with tales of how I came to be the person that I was. Most of all, though, we both got to share a lot about my mom; her daughter. Our exchange helped me to know a bit about who my mom really was. I imagine it also helped my granny understand some more about the person my mom came to be.
That 2005 trip ended too quickly, of course; a fact that had me promising a swift return. I had visions of sharing more stories, introducing my wife and kids to relatives long-lost, maybe even getting to know a bit more about my ancestral island home.
None of it ever happened.
I had traveled all over the Caribbean over the intervening 18 years, even making a good seven or eight trips to Trinidad and/or Tobago during that time. Somehow, though, I never made it back down south to Point Fortin. I blew it.
We always think we have more time…
This, however, brings me back to those smiles.
They’re from my granny’s funeral. This, of course, makes them bittersweet. At the same time, though, the profound love and joy in those faces is unmistakable. They are the faces of just a handful of the beautiful cousins, aunts, and uncles that Patrick and I were fortunate enough to meet, grieve with, and bond.
Were the circumstances ideal? No, of course not. We very much made the best of them, though, cementing a shared love suppressed for far too long. A love that I’m sure none of us will allow to lapse this time.
To that end, Trinidad is my #1 must-visit destination for 2024. I’m talking the whole island, not just Port-of-Spain where everyone goes.
Sangre Grande, Moruga, Sans Souci, Icacos, Claxton Bay…I need to see and experience them all.
Most importantly, though, I have to get to know Point Fortin and San Fernando. This, after all, is where my story truly begins. Where I made a promise that I didn’t keep in time, but can hopefully salvage in some small way to honor a very special lady.