Summer time in Dominica was a favorite time for me and Shaley. Grandma lived in a little village between Portsmouth and Roseau. Well you really couldn’t call it a village it was exactly three little houses surrounded by banana fields accessible only by the donkey paths the farmers used to carry their crops to market. Funny enough though no farmers lived in the little community. It was home only to three Carib women.
All with long dark wavy hair to their waists, and dusky skin, turned leathery with age, but still rich in color. Oh and when they smiled, you could see the integrity of their Indian features. These had been pretty women, but here they were, between the trees and the black sand beach of this little cove.
I know that once my Grandpa lived here, he had died many years ago. The other ladies had had husbands too, just like Grandma. And just like Grandma they had had children. Grandma’s children had scattered to the winds, Uncle Mark lived on the Carib reserve here in Dominica, Auntie Ro lived in Guadeloupe, and our Mama lived in Antigua, she was a doctor there, but none of them lived with Grandma and none of them ever came here to see her. Mama once told me that the others did not even talk to grandma. When I asked why, Mama only cried, and told me time would tell me. Grandma would react pretty much the same way so I stopped asking. I got the feeling, even as a boy of 12, that if I pushed there would be no more summers in Grandma’s hut on the beach.
But as intriguing as all this is, this is not the fantastic intrigue that was the little village. You see, by the village there was a cave, right there on the beach. Me and Shaley were often warned not to enter there, because a Maybouya lived there. Sometimes you could hear the cave moan and groan, and since rocks could not do this, it must have been true that the wicked spirit lived in there.
Grandma and the other women would hold ceremonies on that beach, they would paint their skin in intricate designs, and adorn themselves in traditional robes. Grandma was the Shaman of the little village, though the story of how that came to be seemed another great secret. The other women would beat the drum and sing as Gran danced and chanted, making offerings at the mouth of the cave, to the Maybouya, to keep him happy inside, where he could do no harm.
Then the women would sit around the fire, passing around their tobacco pipe, and tell stories of those old days. Grand tales of good hunting, fantastic fish caught at the mouth of this very cove and of the antics of the men and children that lived here. It was always colorful and funny, and Shaley and I always fell asleep on the sand warmed by the fire, listening to Gran and the others stories.
Those were the summers that stood out most vividly in my mind, the glow of the flames and the sound of their well worn voices. Those were the summers me and Shaley made up our own legends, while raiding those banana fields, crab hunting and fishing on the beach and chasing iguana though the underbrush. Trying to play out Grandma’s stories. Those were the summers before the letters stopped coming, and mama started crying every time we mentioned Grandma.