what i do for love

The island of Jamaica is small. When I was a little girl, however, it seemed large and imposing, a big place filled with adventure–it was the world to me. I was less than five years old, but I remember the feel of the small rocks beneath my toes as I walked barefoot down the long hot country road. Now, to walk barefoot on stones leaves me wincing in pain. I’ve become soft. But I remember what it was like to feel skin to ground, comfortably warmed stones, and freedom. The freedom stays with me.

Some say memory is fleeting under five years old, yet, I remember even a time of darkness; before the face of my mother, grandfather and favorite uncle; before Jamaica. To be aware of darkness and my existence within that darkness has always been a strange thing for me to carry. It sits inside me, like another life lived somewhere in a place I can’t remember clearly. But I remember a drive-in movie, a memory that stayed with me so deeply and so persistently, that after finding no clues to lead me back to the origins of the memory, I began to think that maybe it was my imagination and not a memory. I wanted to open a drive-in theater, dreamed of the day that I could bring my experience to others, so they could feel the joy I felt on that day long ago. It was like a relentless dream that would never leave me in peace. Forty years later I would mention this memory to my father. With wide eyes, he told me that he was the one who took me to the drive-in movie in Jamaica. He still wonders how I remembered that. I was not yet four years old.

My grandfather built the house we lived in. He was a beekeeper, farmer and a fierce protector of his family. He’d watch as I sat on the hillside playing with tiny red flowers, the name of which I cannot recall, and string them together to make necklaces and bracelets. They were the most unique and interesting flowers I’d ever seen. I don’t remember who taught me about their interesting qualities. But to be able to string the stem of small flowers together with the tops of the flower itself, connecting one to another, is something I have never seen again. They were beautiful and I would spend hours adorning my tiny body with them. I would never see those flowers again.

Shortly after, my mother migrated to America. She carried with her an education, a nurse’s license and two daughters, one who could read at four years old. While other children were dragging blankets or dolls through the house, gripping them for dear life, I would have a book in tow. Many doubted I could read. But after reading through a few books, those who couldn’t believe it quickly discovered that I was in fact reading, and reading well.

Writing followed close behind. While I would take short breaks from writing during my years in primary school, it never left me. By the time I entered Junior High School, I was infatuated with poetry. One day, a few years later, I would accept my destiny and step into writing as a career. I realized I was passionate about storytelling and sharing my ideas about the world. I wanted to bring readers into my mind, my experiences and my way of seeing our existence. I wanted to become a griot, but knew I couldn’t reach as many in that role. In lieu of becoming a true griot, I decided that ink and paper would be my voice box, my oral tradition to spread far and wide. I would pass my words down to my children and grandchildren and help them to imagine us sitting around a fire as I fastidiously recounted stories until sunrise. The written word would be my sound and echo, vibrating on the hearts of those who read my creations.

Writing has for many years now become a dear friend to me, a warm cup of tea, a walk on the beach, a talented lover, a heartfelt laugh, a sunny day, an intellectual debate, an unfolding of memory, thought and the unfailing wisdom of imagination. It is my passion, my first love. When you love something, it needs nurturing and requires us to give our time to it, generously and without complaint. We do it unconditionally. We do it because it is all we desire to do. Anything else would be a source of discontent. We hone our love, making it better and stronger each day. We recognize our shortcomings and work to improve with each word.

I believe that when you’ve found a thing you love, it should be less a dream come true and more a life you’ve decided to nurture through doing something that is, and has always been, your passion. When you are passionate about a thing, you have no need to dream. Your passion will be all you know and will ever want to know, and never something you wasted time dreaming about. I’ve never had to dream of becoming a writer. It has been my whole life, leaving no time to dream, only time to be.

Daily Prompt: Money for Nothing

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