Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Salad Years... or should I say fruit?

For the past few nights I've been woken up by one or both kids. This happens all the time, as you may know, but this week I've had trouble falling back to sleep and when I do, I have the weirdest dreams.This often happens when I'm a bit stressed and lacking in sleep.

Last night I had the most vivid dream - of the house that was across the street from us when I was a child. There was a girl named Jamie Sawyer who lived there who was our best home friend  (not be be confused with our best school friend, mind you.) My older sister, KK, (she's on the left, my brother Kevin in the middle, my younger sister Tracy is in front, and that's yours truly on the right - and I still have the same hair colour. Hmmm.) and I hung around with Jamie for 6 years until she moved to Marsh Harbour, Abaco. Jamie was one of those girls, even as a young child, who was in a hurry to grow up.

When we were both five years old we got drunk. That's right - likkered up. My father had a collection of miniature liqueur bottles. A lot of them. They were off limits and I never really had any interest in them until Jamie thought we should play with them. Since they were stored in a cabinet we could easily access if we pulled a chair over and climbed on the counter - we helped ourselves. Mixing the booze with water - we cooked. And drank. And then fell into a drunken stupor. My parents were horrified and I'm fairly sure our housekeeper/nanny was fired. We had a period where we ran through them quickly (the housekeepers) and I'm fairly certain she was one of that crew.

That was our only 'bad' time. We spent most of our time having  wonderful afternoons, weekends, and school vacations. Between her back yard and ours, we had season upon season of fresh fruit, off the tree to eat. Her yard had tangerines, jujubes, guavas, grapefruits, cherries, key limes, avocado, loquats, gneps and tamarinds. Our yard had sour oranges (a cross between a lemon and orange - delish), mangoes, key limes, coconuts, and sea grapes. You can read about them all here if you're interested.

Every day we'd devour fruit - sometimes we'd pick cherries - not maraschino cherries - tropical cherries which have soft seeds and are more tart. We'd drown them in lime juice and slurp them down. We'd peel limes, grapefruits or tangerines and have eating contests - stuffing them whole into our  mouths. Or eating two limes and then taking a sip of milk (don't try it - it's terrible!) One of our more wicked past times was to suck the guts out of a guava, chew it up and wait for a passing car then spit it out as if we were throwing up. Charming. We were only about 8. I've grown to realize this is gross. But it was hilarious at the time. We got in trouble for this a few times when people complained to our parents.

Across the street from our house and next door to Jamie's there was a nice wooded area. We had 'forts' in there - we'd have 'rooms' designated to different things: crafts, cooking, the dormitory (we were fascinating with Enid Blyton and her many characters who went to boarding school), the hospital where we took unsuspecting lizards from time to time to 'operate'. They all made it in the end but I'm sure they were less than pleased with our attention.

We played spy games, Barbies, Fischer Price Little People and everything kids do. We often went swimming at the Johnson's (another neighbor who only had boys). They had the biggest pool on earth. It's a huge pool, complete with baby pool, a slide, a diving board and it was 12 feet deep which was great for diving contests and holding your breath. We'd spend HOURS in that pool. Marco Polo was a favourite.

On Saturdays we'd ask our mom to bring Jamie to the beach with us. We had a membership to a private beach on Paradise Island. In fact, we had our wedding reception at Club Med because it was on this beach. I just love it that much. Atlantis has bought it, much to my dismay, but here's a photo - It's still gorgeous - just imagine how beautiful it was before Atlantis was built:
At the beach we'd swim all day. Or walk out to the end of the rocks (on the left in the background) which was always fun because of a natural canal that ran through it. We liked to try and catch the trapped fish, left behind after the tide rolled out. We'd practice our gymnastics to impress the tourists or beg mom to let us go and buy a fruit punch from the cabana.

Jamie hosted our first sleepovers. At her house - which is what I dreamed of the other night. I haven't thought about it for ages. It wasn't a tremendous house, it just holds a lot of great childhood memories for me from the sound of their old fashioned phone ring (the phone was housed in a nook in the wall), the living room 'stage', their covered patio, Stan's room (he was a teenage cousin who came to go to school on the big island. he was also our babysitter and the nicest guy on earth. He had very cool stuff like black lights, in his room), and so on.

So on this particularly tough night I dreamed I was back in it hanging out with Jamie and KK

When we were twelve Jamie moved, as I mentioned. Her mother had just had another baby, also named Cate, like my daughter. They came back from time to time but around 17 we fell out of touch. Our fathers kept in touch so we heard how she was faring. Jamie was married and having her first child at 17.. She had three children all together and opened a seafood restaurant called the Golden Grouper in her twenties. As I mentioned, I always thought she was in a hurry - she was interested in make up, boys and all the trouble that comes with it, long before we were. She married early,  had three kids before she was 24. I could never understand it. But it makes sense to me now - Jamie died about ten years ago from pancreatic cancer. She had a happy life, albeit too short. And I think about her from time to time. But it makes sense that she was in a hurry - she had to have a full life in half the time. And she did.

Whenever I go home, which isn't very often now. I always look over there and wonder what it looks like inside. The neighborhood is very different now - all houses, no woods anymore. And I always think of what a nice, easy childhood I had filled with fresh fruit, beaches, good friends and loads of laughter. I know I'm lucky and I want the same for my kids. I hope they find Jamie's of their own one day.


  1. How sad about Jamie. It sounds like you had a wonderful childhood together. I love your photo - I can really see Cate in you!

  2. Hi Erin, thanks for your comment. I love the way you've written about your friend- three children by 24? I cannot imagine that!!!! ... It's nearly a year since you came to visit! I can't believe it! Hope you are all well, despite the sleep depriavation. Xx

  3. I'm on someones I pad and it's doing reallllly annoying spellchecks. Sorry

  4. Also, Erin, your Winnie Griggs link is going to someone elses interview

  5. Oh I really enjoyed that. I could picture it all perfectly. Sad about Jamie.

    I've been to Atlantis and while it is decadent and luxurious, I can so see your point about how beautiful the beach must have been. Dangling your legs while looking for trapped fish on a hot day, must have been some kind of bliss.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Sounds like an idyllic childhood. So sad about your friend, though.

    I think Atlantis looks horrible! How awful to have that monstrosity in the background of such a beautiful beach.

  7. I love this story, a wonderful childhood but very real too. Its really funny when you are such great friends and you take such different paths. I still keep in touch with my two best friends since I was born, one is now best friends with my two sisters so she is in our lives all the time. Gives you life a sense of grounding when you've known someone that long, all your memories are linked to theirs. Love your two pics too, our family used to dress matching like that...and Atlantis back then looked like the mythical place.

  8. Hi there. I really enjoyed reading your post and getting such a great flavour of your childhood. Drunk at the age of 5... oh my!
    You have such lovely memories of a glorious childhood. And not an Xbox in sight. bane of my life right now!

    I too loved Enid Blyton and my friends and I set up many a secret den in our day ;-)

    xx Jazzy


Go ahead, make my day!