Writing Prompt: Our House

What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.


I remember hot stones beneath my tiny four year old feet. The sun was made for me, and my feet were made for the hot stones. The water pump was just down the hill from the house. I would follow my grandfather there and watch him pump water to bring back to the house. A large brown water barrel sat on the porch catching rainwater my grandmother used when no one felt like walking to the pump.

There was no electricity, no running water and the outhouse was several paces away from the small brown house built by my grandfather’s hands. He lived and died in that house, his loving creation for my grandmother and his eight children, my aunts and uncles. By modern standards, my grandfather’s house would be considered a shack. But it was home, with beautiful solid wood floors my grandmother shined with a coconut brush.

My memories of the house are vague, but the tiny red flowers that decorated the yard which I used to make jewelry are fresh in my mind. I virtually lived outside, enjoying the fresh island air of my land beneath Cuba.

The house smelled like “food”, our provisions that were actually a store of white yams, yellow yams, dasheen, yucca, salt fish, ackee and several other traditional foods that cooked collectively we’d call, food. We wouldn’t say, “Would you like some yellow yam, boiled green banana and dumpling?” We’d say, “Would you like some food?” We always knew what that meant, a great meal.

I don’t remember sounds inside as much as I remembered sounds outside. Life was all around us on our over one hundred acres of land. Everything alive shared what my grandfather grew—mangoes, ackee, jackfruit, star apple, sugar cane, breadfruit, soursop, sweetsop, gineps and many more I cannot begin to name. He was a beekeeper, so honey straight from the honeycomb was my first experience with natural, unprocessed, unadulterated honey. I remember sucking the honey out of the tiny holes and many years later wanting to return to that experience.

I would often sit, shaded by giant banana leaves and sing. I sang all the way to America where memories followed me and would cling to me. Life in Jamaica as a child has left me with many fond memories that I cherish and am now writing about in a coming memoir. I’m not sure where I’ll take it, but I’ll let the sometimes fleeting and sometimes elephantine nature of memory take it where it wants to go.

© zaji, 2016