Island Life

My kids are growing up on an island, and for that I am thankful.

I am thankful that my kids are growing up knowing there are many languages in the world, not just the language they hear at home from their Dad and I. At 3 1/2 and 1 years of age, they have friends who speak Spanish, English, Creole, and French, and have met others who speak so many more. My three year old attends a bilingual school where lessons are taught in Spanish and English. My one year old will dish out sweet kisses at the request of “un beso por favor!” My three year old creates stories with her dolls where one might be from in Scotland, another from the Dominican Republic and another from Canada. With my daughter ‘guiding them’ the dolls then communicate with each other in a mixture of English and Spanish, dependent on that particular dolls ‘language knowledge’.

I am thankful that my kids are growing up with friends of all different races (or skin colours as my 3 year old would say). As they run and play, they reach out for a hand and whatever little hand lands in theirs is the one they hold and squeeze and run with. She told me yesterday, “None of my friends have the same colour of skin. Some are almost the same, but not quite. Everyone’s colour is a little bit different.” I asked her if she thought all of the different colours of skin were beautiful. She said, “Yes, they are all so beautiful, like a rainbow.”

I am thankful that my kids play outside 365 days a year. The sun isn’t always shining but there is never reason enough to hide inside. They run on the grass, bike on the pavement, splash in the puddles, dance in the rain, climb on the trees, dive in the waves, dig in the sand. They breath in the deliciously fresh air. Even when they are inside, the doors are wide open with the breeze a welcome visitor whenever it makes its way in. The windows without glass couldn’t be closed if we tried. In the yard we collect fallen mangos and avocados and think up what creations we can make with them. We collect fresh eggs from the chickens to be eating them just 10 minutes later. I am sitting in my garden at this very moment, writing these very words as I watch my two girls chase each other in the grass beside me.

I am thankful that my kids are growing up around families of all shapes and sizes. Some live in tiny wooden houses with their aunts, uncles, parents, cousins and siblings all in one room. Some live in concrete homes with their mother, father, sisters or brothers. Some live with just their mum, others with just their dad, many with their grandparents, some with a family friend. Some have no siblings, some have many. There are families with parents born here who have never left, some with parents born far away who have just arrived. Some have parents who live in other countries, and others have parents who come and go. Some big brothers are taking care of their little brothers. Some big sisters are taking care of their mums. Some grandparents are taking care of everyone.

I am thankful that my kids are growing up without playdates. Our neighbours aged 2, 3 and 6 wander over to see if anyone is outside or if there is a ball around to kick or throw. We pop over to a friend’s house to see if they are in. They pull us through the doors and into the back yard for white wine between mothers and freshly baked cookies between friends while the kids run around collecting flower bouquets from the bushes. We pick up a friend whose mum has been sick to take her out for icecream and her parents ask only that we drop her off before bedtime. We run into friends upon friends at the local restaurant on a Wednesday night because who can resist 2 for 1 pizza, and our girls have to be asked five times to quiet down and stop running, but really, how can they resist? We walk the waterfront at dusk, waving and saying hello every few steps we take. There is always someone ready to play, or talk, or listen. Not scheduled, not planned. Just there.

Island life isn’t perfect. Some nights you have to cook dinner by candlelight because the power is off… again! Some showers are taken with a bucket and a scoop, with water so cold it makes you squeal. Some nights it is so hot you toss and turn for hours until you finally drift off in a puddle of sweat. Sometimes it is really bad. Sometimes there is no electricity for days. Sometimes there is no water for days. Sometimes someone you know gets really hurt in a motorcycle accident. Sometimes they don’t make it to hospital in time because there is no ambulance. There is no 911. Sometimes it is so hard you don’t know if you can do it anymore and so you stop and think about the good parts. You remember why you are here. You remember why your kids are here. You remember why you are thankful.

And you write down…

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12 responses

  1. *big sigh*

    Oh man, Fiona, this was just beautiful. Colorado mountain life is very different than your island life (for example, I keep having to correct Stella that the color peach isn’t “skin color” – ugh!), but we do have a bit of your flexibility thanks to small town living when it comes to just popping into friends houses and walking down the middle of the street and not being overly concerned about many things that city people worry about. Island life sounds truly amazing.

    So great to see a post from you! ❤

  2. Life here in the USA is so vastly different from the world you describe there, and where I grew up in Paraguay. I often miss the “simplicity” of life in Paraguay. Things move so much more quickly here, and I worry about all my boys miss out on by not learning more about different cultures, languages, etc like I did. (sigh)
    I remember taking bucket showers growing up and also having a generator power on electricity for 2 hours a day. Compared to my boys, they have the simplest life and they don’t even realize it!
    So glad to read an update from you. Miss hearing from you and glad all is well!

  3. Fancy seeing a post from you today!!!! What a pleasant surprise!

    Your life is so beautiful, so simple, so complicated, so amazing, so admirable! I am envious of the simple things your kids have, the simple things we all HAD growing up, that my kids just don’t and won’t have. Play dates… Yuck. Planning to play… Makes no sense to me!

  4. I am often so jealous of the life you all have created on the island. It sounds magical! I just commented to JJ last night as we went for a walk, that I love going for walks now and every so often seeing someone drive by that we’ve made friends with and wave to, or on a walk themselves who end up joining us the rest of the way. It doesn’t compare to ease you have for your kids and the relationships they are building, but in a city with so many people, it’s nice to have a small town community feel. I am so glad to see a post from you! I miss you and your words, but I love seeing your beautiful family in other spaces.

  5. Big hugs!

    I was so excited to see a post from you!! This is amazing and beautiful. I’ve been trying to think of something profound to say about it but amazing and beautiful is all I can come up with.

    It makes me want an island life, even with the hard parts, because the good parts seem so amazing and simple.

    I’m an hour away from where I grew up and it is amazing how much LESS diverse it is here. It makes me grateful for being raised in an area where I got to learn about different cultures just by being friends with people who were different from me. And it makes me sad (and worried) my kids won’t get the same experiences I did.

  6. Such a good post Fiona. I often see your pictures and think how amazing it must be to live where you do without even thinking about the hard things you guys must go through. You handle it all so well. The diversity your kids are growing up with is going to take them so far in this life!

  7. I loved this post. Simply adored it. And it really got me thinking about a lot of important things. What you described in the first paragraphs, that is my dream existence. I want that for my kids so bad. But then when you described at the end sounded hard. Really hard. Maybe too hard? And I wondered… what negatives am I willing to accept in order to have the things I’ve deemed most important in my life? And if I’m not willing to let go of some (or any) of the amenities that I enjoy, I need to own that when I grieve not having those things that feel important to me. This just really got me thinking, and I’m sorry it took me so long to comment, but thank you for writing this post.

  8. what a wonderful post and childhood for your children. The hard parts are so daunting, I didn’t realize how often you were without power or water. Our water was out for a few hours on night a few weeks back and I was panicking so hard – we are on a well and I was terrified of what we would need to do without water. it came back the next morning but I was pretty scared and have been scared ever since when I turn on the tap that the water won’t come.

  9. This was wonderful! Oh how I long to get back to writing like this – from the heart. You say I inspire you, but you truly inspire me. One day I WILL bring my family to the DR and pay you a visit. 🙂

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