One of the things I am most proud of when I talk about growing up in Trinidad is the sense of love I felt as child. My parents were not financially rich, or had an expensive education.
They were limited in the opportunities they were able to afford their children compared to many of the people in their extended social circles. Yet I don’t remember feeling lesser than or inadequate.
Now that I am in my adult years and a parent, when I reflect on the things they were able pass on to me, what stands out most is not of material composition, but instead endowed a wealth of street smarts, open mindedness, curiosity of the world, its’ many cultures and peoples, which back then seemed unattainable, and now resonates more than ever given the world’s present political & social climate.
If my parents had any racial biases, I wasn’t aware of them, because they treated everyone with equal fairness and respect no matter their race or religion. Maybe they were what some would refer to being as a bit ahead of their time. …
One of the most treasured opportunities my parents afforded me was that of spending time at our neighbors’ home.
Oh how I revel in the memories of the looks on the faces of bewildered strangers when they would hear me, then, a little “Indian girl” affectionately calling out to her strong, handsome, Negro neighbor as “Daddy!”.
“Daddy” was not only polite, educated, respectful & well respected in our community, he was present to answer to the local hospital officials at the time of my birth!
He ran the local youth camp with which I was lucky enough to sometimes attend, he taught me to play the piano, helped me with mathematics. He introduced me & the other little non Christian children to Sunday school. He welcomed us into his Methodist church where I fondly remember taking part in the Christmas play about Jesus’s birth. He was one of my Daddys.
He also had a wonderful friendship with my actual dad, a white bearded, black Indian Islamic priest, also well respected within the community.
Both men would routinely congregate at an adjacent neighbor’s front patio with a few other men of the village to discuss politics, religion & current world affairs. The heated banter & debates echoed houses away, laughter in the distance that even now I can still hear, it is a childhood memory which will forever be stamped in my brain.
Theirs was a comradeship I don’t expect can ever be duplicated. These were men from different backgrounds, social , financial and economic statuses, who highly regarded and respected each other’s culture and differences. Where else would you find an Imam who smoked Du Maurier cigarettes comfortable enough to be at the same table with men who might be drinking the local Carib & Stag beer, among vices different from his own?.
I mention these things because these are aspects of two very different men, who inadvertently played a major role in parenting me, whose spirits are still living through me. It is a legacy and a chapter of my truth that I am grateful to be able talk about and share with others.
It truly does take a village to raise a child. Who would have imagined that elements of the progressive and unified aspects of my upbringing would have most relevance thirty something years into the future. To today.
I think the irony for me is that these two men — one Indian Muslim, one negro Christian — handed down to me many subtle life lessons. Despite opposing views on many topics, they shared the same values on humanity and compassion.
Different dimensions and elements of one love and unity.
To my daddy’s, two men of class & culture in their own right, their love & nurturing forever cemented in my heart, I hope they are pleased & proud looking down at me because I am ever pleased & proud to always have them to look up to.