It’s 5:30 in the morning. It’s 16 below zero with the windchill factor — the bleak midwinter. Last night’s snow has hardened into ice. There’s a stillness in the morning, no sound, except for coffee percolating, the most intimate smell in the morning, especially during the time of the plague, when, if you live alone, you are totally isolated from other humans and the sound of the coffee machine comforts you. Outside your window you see all these naked, skeletal trees, covered in icicles, making it seem even colder than it is. It’s hard to break the spell of the moment, but I start listening to Louis and Ella singing the standards, and then, at my age, the mind starts wandering, and I lose myself in nostalgia and sentimentality. Chiaroscuro, the contrast between light and dark, is what I see when I look outside.
What the hell am I doing here, a boy born in the Belize district, growing up never imagining that I would end up so far from home, in some alien land? The Midwest, to be precise. Anyway, on this particular day, I revert back to my early years and teens, growing up in the city, Belize City, and start reminiscing about all that was good and exciting or scary or daring or just fun. I think about Price and Goldson, about how revered they were by the people of British Honduras. We don’t see today’s politicians in the same light, mostly because they lack the gravitas these two men exuded. Ordinary men, that did extraordinary things — no flash or pizzazz, just out of patriotic duty to their country.
I think about George Mckesey, Everald Waight, Eustace Usher, and, of course, the one and only Seferino Claudino Coleman! Oh, and Funtime with Sonia! They were the stars of my childhood and early teens. I think of Hood’s bakery, early in the morning. The mixture of that freshly baked bread and and kinel water was the best smell ever! I think about the masked man on the bicycle cart, with the plastic bucket on his head, about Walter and Winnis and Mabel, Papel and Cobo, and Ms. Helen Taylor on her bike; she was the Englishwoman. All the assorted characters that made my city so colorful! Hattie and its aftermath, self-government and all those people who stepped into the breach, who contributed to the forming of a new nation. I remember names like Francisco Sagastume and Ydigoras Fuentes and Herman Jex, Colin Thornley, Jimmy Guy, who murdered 2 people, and set off a manhunt for the ages! These names come back to me out of nowhere, and without association.
Right at this minute, I miss that place so much, that undiscovered country that grew up too quickly, too innocently, unaware of Barbarians at the gates, watching and waiting to pounce, and they have, sans merci! Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald are now promising each other that their love is here to stay. I have to go salt the walkway so that I don’t slip on the ice and break my fragile bones. Still thinking about Hood’s bakery.
“We look before and after, and pine for what is not!
Our sincerest laughter, with some pain is fraught.
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of our saddest thoughts.”
Belizean in diaspora