Better Here Than There
(But we knew that already.)
Before I was aware of the pandemic, I had planned a trip to the States to renew my U.S. passport and check on my medical situation. Then air and seaports closed, and the only way out was to swim. When I called the U.S. Embassy in Barbados, they said the consular visit to Dominica had been cancelled, and they had no idea when the embassy would reopen. Even though I’ve been a citizen of Dominica since 1999, I’ve never had a passport—I departed courtesy of The United States of America, and returned on a rumpled piece of paper with a picture of a younger me that declared I was a citizen of the island. Now it looked like I was stuck for a while. No problem. Better here than there.
Meanwhile, the hoopla leading up to the 2020 presidential election was ramping up. I try to stay out of politics at home and abroad, but I was delighted Joe Biden picked a woman of color for his VP. No need to go into the sordid details. The good news is that there’s hope for future healing.
In any event, I am now the proud owner of a Dominica passport. It’s a lovely thing, embellished with butterflies, whales, parrots, and frogs. It’s amazing all the places I could travel on it if I wanted to—most anywhere except the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, the three places where I have friends and family. Never mind. I’ve traveled enough in my adult lifetime: wandered five thousand miles with World Wildlife Fund in Brazil; cycled around Baja and Bali and across the Yucatan Peninsula; did business in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Santa Fe; attended writer’s workshops in Trinidad and Key West.
But when I presented my notarized birth certificate to the immigration department in Dominica, admittedly a little worse for wear, the officer wanted to know why it was so old.
“Well,” I said, “that’s because I was born in 1947.”
She smiled. “Wow. You look pretty good for somebody that age.” And then she spoiled it. “You must have been a beautiful woman.”
Was I? At this point, I’m so out of the vanity loop that there’s nothing on Google News I can relate to. Movie stars, hair dressers, nail salons, gyms, restaurants? I haven’t seen a movie in years, nor had a haircut, and I’ve never had a manicure. Most mornings, I do “Stretches for Seniors” on YouTube, and Yoga with Rodney Yee on my upstairs veranda. I collect eggs and forage in my garden for food and eat whatever I happen to find. Most of the clothes I wear are hand-me-downs from friends regardless of whether they fit or not. I buy one pair, and get one pair free per annum at the Payless shoe store in Roseau. My jewelry selection is tarnished and minimal for someone who used to be in the design business. My only handbag is shedding its skin like a molting lizard. My last pair of sunglasses cost eight dollars when previously only Ray Bans would do. Once upon a time, I walked into the showroom and bought a brand-new Jaguar sedan. Now I drive a thirteen-year-old Suzuki that has definitely seen better days.
And yet, I wouldn’t trade places with anyone in the world. Believe it or not, I like it inside my seventy-three-year-old self on this wildly fascinating island. My only regret is my lack of interaction with my sons and grandchildren. I wouldn’t risk traveling right now, and even if they decided to visit me in Dominica, there’s a two-week quarantine for visitors from the States. Not much of a vacation. So I guess we’ll have to hold off a little longer. Besides, what would they do when they got here? Seventeen-year-old Jake was seriously into reptiles a few years back, and we’ve got plenty of anoles plus house geckos and a few snakes hanging around in the bush. but thirteen-year-old Ella hates bugs, which abound, and there’s no basketball hoop for her twin Eli. There might not be TV, fast food, or online power shopping, but what about hiking and swimming and kayaking? Surely that would be fun even for privileged teens from upper crust America. Or maybe not. Anyway, having my family around in my old age would be wonderful as long as I don’t have to forsake my self-sufficient nature island paradise and move back to the States to accomplish it.
Hmmm. Maybe ole Island Granny won’t be in a hurry to renew her U.S. passport after all.
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