Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My parents return to Trinidad for good.

Top of the World by the Carpenters

We were told one day, in the latter part of 1975, that our parents were returning back to Trinidad to live for good. We would be reunited as a family not in the U.S. but in Trinidad – home of our birth. We were elated.

I was in my last year at Rosary Boys RC School and looking forward to my next academic challenge. I took my common entrance exam which determined where I would conduct my secondary school education. Most boys wanted to be placed at Queens Royal College (QRC) or some other top level school. QRC was at that time the best school on the island.

Unfortunately or fortunately as it turned out that my test scores got me placed in Saint James Secondary and I was to start the same time my parents would arrive in Trinidad. Saint James Secondary was a good school located in the town of Saint James on the Northwestern part of the island and I thrived there. It was coed and was the first time in my life I went to school with girls. My father’s brother Wayne was the science teacher and I often would go see him to talk.

The summer my parents arrived caused tremendous upheaval in our lives in ways that we could not have anticipated. The decision was made to take us from my grandmother and place us with our Aunt Helen and her husband Benji in Santa Cruz – a town east of the Capitol. My Aunt Helen lived with us in Maraval before she got married so we were already very familiar with her.

Nevertheless, I did not understand this move. It made no sense to me and furthermore no one discussed it with my sister and me. One day we were living with our Grandmother and the next day with our Aunt. Later I learned that the rationale was that my Aunt Helen had more room in her house to accommodate my returning parents, my sister, and me for a short period.

Uncertainty and confusion can be routine in the life of a barrel child especially when adults fail to discuss important decisions that affect the child’s adjustment.

My parents arrived a few weeks after we started living with my Aunt. They stayed with Aunt Helen for a few weeks until they rented an apartment on Belmont Road next to a steel pan yard. It was on the second floor of a two-story building that had a veranda that overlooked Belmont road. Belmont road was busy with plenty of cars and foot traffic and sat on the outskirts of Port of Spain – the capitol. The apartment had two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living and dining room. It had indoor plumbing and was considered a big step up from our Maraval home.

My parents purchased a grocery store on Belmont road just a block or two from our apartment. I worked there after school often ringing people’s purchases, stocking shelves, and cleaning up. I even caught a man trying to steal one time. I was so happy when my father looked at me and said “good job son!”

Traffic stopped and men tried to clear away taxis, vans, and buses the day a eighteen-wheeler truck rolled through Belmont and brought my parent’s belongings from the U.S. to our home in Belmont. Furniture, household items, and even the electric organ came along with all other kinds of stuff stacked high on the truck. However, transport was rough because those who packed the truck did not account for the low hanging wires in Belmont. Traffic was backed up all the way to Port of Spain General Hospital about a ¼ mile away. Eventually, everything was moved into the house including the four of us.

The Salandy family was finally all together after 8 years of being separated. We ate dinner together at the table on evenings and had discussions about the day’s events and our school work. My father tutored me in my lessons. I started doing well in school placing third in my class at St. James Secondary. We went on trips to the beach as a family and visited relatives. We played music on the record player. I fell in love with the Carpenters – I played their 1971 and 1972 albums over and over. Top of the world became my favorite song and anthem to our reunification as a family. It was truly a happy period in my life. I did not care that we were in Trinidad and not NYC. I cared most that my family was together.

But the happiness would not last. We would be together for one more year when I would go through my second painful family separation that would change me forever.

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