I can still remember it like it was yesterday. The smell of the crisp, salty air, gazing at the beautiful,pristine , Caribbean Sea kissing the horizon, the clear blue skies, feeling the coolness of the water against my toes, the warm golden sun on my skin and the hypnotic sound of the gentle waves reaching the sandy shoreline,littered with colorful shells…
I was eight years old and this was one of the many and frequent family trips to the Negril Beach in the parish of Westmoreland, Jamaica.
The period was late 1980s to early 1990s. The beach area we tended to visit was hidden behind thick groves of woodland. Many of the hotels we see now had not yet been constructed.
Once you exited the Norman Manley Boulevard it was necessary to drive a bit of a distance along these “secret” little dirt tracks until you hit the sand. The excitement always grew as you caught sight of the shore. The earlier you arrived, the more time you would be able to spend at the beach…to my delight. Most times we would have these beach get “together” whenever my relatives visited from the United States.
On arrival the men would clear the area and put up the tables, chairs and tarpaulin, whilst the women would handle the duties of cooking, sharing and serving the meals. Fried chicken/curried chicken, fish, rice and peas, fresh salads, corned beef or cheese sandwiches, fruits and an assortment of drinks or punch and water were on the menu.
But for us…the kids…the sea was “our place” : swimming, splashing, playing games, looking for seashells, making one “bag a noise” and creating sandcastles in the beautiful white sand. We only got out of the water either when we were hungry, if it was raining heavily or if someone ever dared to yell, “Shark!” Every “Jackman” scurried out the water, tanned from head to toes…sand everywhere, laughing when they realized the joke.
It was fascinating to see the tourists walking by or the vendors passionately selling their wares. Everyone always looked so happy and friendly back then.
Occasionally you could see a crab retreating to its hole or the small cockles (shell fish resembling baby clams) burrowing back into the sand as the waves fell back from the shore, a seagull echoing overhead or the whirring of a small plane from the air strip nearby. Which reminded me how terrified I was of them. I once bolted from the water because of the loud sound of the engines ( luckily my mom, with her quick reflexes caught hold of me). Well, when you are a child everything seems bigger and sounded louder. Haha! I also remember the sweet and tangy sea grapes that hung from the heavily ladened trees on shore.
I also fondly remember the jet skis whizzing about, glass bottom boats and oh, the sight of the colorful para-sails, with the occupants feet dangling above, safely strapped in.
If anyone ever ask me if I would do this all over again, then my answer would be an excited and confident “Yes! ”
Simply reminiscing on these childhood memories made me a little nostalgic but I treasure the opportunity to be able to have lived those days. Priceless memories and how awesome it feels to be a JAMAICAN and be able to benefit from such majestic nature and wonderful people, never, ever to be taken for granted.
Until next time: One Love, One Heart.