Celebrated Trinidadian writer Sam Selvon wrote “All these words that I hope to write, I have written them already many times in my mind. I have had many beginnings, each as good or bad as the other.” If that doesn’t describe a woman who has had my life, I cannot imagine what will.
There is no question in my mind that the biggest beginning I have had is moving to New York City. Mr. Selvon wrote those words in his short story “My Girl and the City,” a love letter to London. Law school made me realize I have been writing my own love letter to New York for the past seven years.
I never had a vision of the American dream. I came to the US to marry the man I fell in love with. He could have been anywhere in the world. I made the decision to follow. I now thank him for being here and not at any end of the world. I’d have gone there, sure. But I’m very happy he chose to be here.
My beginnings here were difficult. It’s hard to live somewhere for 32 years, get used to its ins and outs, and then pick up and move to a sprawling metropolis that manages to fit eight million-plus people in a 302 square mile island. I lived on an island. I’ve had to rethink the definition after I moved here.
That island is thought of as laid-back, easy-breezy, drink-all-the-rum-all-the-time. This island is thought of as quick, rude, isolating, don’t-talk-to-me-I’m-walking-here. Both are true and really untrue. For me, they are more untrue. I was part of the rat race on that island. On this island, my life was so much more relaxed, at least until the man I came to marry told me I need to find something to do because he was tired of coming home to clean laundry and hot food every day!
A little exaggeration, but after five years of being a stay at home parent, it was time to get back out into the world – to find something new to begin. With the support of that amazing man I came here to marry, I began what would become the most fulfilling three years of my life to date. Even better than that, I grew to appreciate this island in a way that surpassed anything I could have thought of.
Perhaps the best example I can give of how grateful I am to have followed that man here comes from the wake of Sandy. This island’s response to unbelievable devastation made me so proud to be able to say and mean that here is my home too. Twenty years ago, pregnant with my first son, I nearly died in a flood that swept through the area where I lived. Every year, every single year, floods would destroy crops, homes, lives, and nothing got done about it. Twenty years later, things seem to be getting worse.
One year before Sandy, Irene wreaked her own havoc and those in a position to protect took a beating. Here, in a turnaround of one year, the same City and State administrations were able to correct many mistakes to save lives. And the post-storm efforts were nothing short of Herculean to get our beloved island back to normal. Never could I have imagined living in a place where a government would fix its mistakes because its people needed it to.
Like Selvon, I want to say everything to you, the way he wanted to communicate everything in his heart to his girl and his city. “I say them because I want you to know, I don’t ever want to regret afterwards that I didn’t say enough, I would rather say too much.”
But I am not Selvon, gifted in his way to write that ode to the people who need to hear all the words I need to say. Where would I be without my John? What he gave up is immeasurable and not something that most would understand. In all of my absence from his life, he still made me laugh, gave me advice, didn't brook my nonsense, and made fantastic eye candy at every event I dragged him to.
My children. Chris is more removed from me to have been terribly impacted, but what he doesn't know is that this entire experience made me appreciate him so much more. He is so focused on his schoolwork and knows his own ins and outs so much better than I could have ever hoped for. When I should have been inspiring him, his work ethic inspired me.
My little DerBerries. When I started, he hadn't even turned 7. Kudos to John for turning our baby into a young man. But he missed his Mama, more than I ever thought he would. He also got used to it, even teasing me about coming home "early," before his bedtime! It's when we, just the 2 of us, do something together that I realize how much he misses me and how much I miss him. Yesterday, after we played in his room together, he said, "That was fun, Mama. We should do that again tomorrow." I reminded him he would be on an overnight school trip, but I understood how he felt.
All the people who stood by me, giving me support and encouragement: Anu, Bellie, Kimmy, Michele, Kir, Janelle, Samia, all my old high school friends who knew me when I was a little girl. What do I say? Thank you just seems so lame. Maybe if you could read my heart, you'd know.
Today is my last exam. It ends at 9 p.m and after that, I would have a J.D. Whoda thunk it? Well, lots of people, me included, but it does not mean that there isn't some disbelief in me that this is where I am today. Maybe Alex, Christina, Emery, Kayla, Rob, and Sondah might have an idea of what I'm talking about. They must be going through something very similar.
So, this is the end. Tomorrow begins anew.