An envisioning . . . 1990 and a sultry afternoon in Bridgetown, Barbados.

Oh to be here.

The trade winds gone off somewhere but back soon. Afternoon on the verandah in the old army barracks just up the hill from the beach.

Decades lived and not ending up where one would have thought. Bombay, London, and then first one West Indian island and then another. Weather better than England but the work much the same.

Like the stories Father told about the army moving him around but different. All French places, those were. French then, they were, but the family morphed somehow into an English speaking British bunch since.

The same tropical trees and almost the same smells. A going back if one squeezes one’s eyes tight enough shut.

The scent of curried goat from somewhere down the hill and music the other way. Mother in a sari and Father coming in the house in his cavalry boots with the heavy noise they made against the tile. A nurse whispering in at the other end of the verandah in the same sort of sing-song lilt.

But not the same. Life comes and gone, and India left. But still, things to hold in one’s hand that bring it back. Prickly and studded brighter than the sun. A turban ornament, but funny. Cartier, not Indian, really, but a shop in Paris where the cousins lived. For one of the grand balls they held in 1903 when the king’s brother came out from London. Delhi Durbar and everyone positively dripping diamonds.

Not exactly gone. . . well mostly. . . .Emeralds up and left but in one’s mind. . . .nothing ever really gone if you remember it . . .

This is not my story. It is, rather, the story of my Saint Lucian friend, Charles C., who was old when I was young. Son of a high caste Indian lady and a French army officer at the turn of the last century in Bombay, a time when that was not supposed to be.

Indian turban ornament and brooch (sarpesh). ca. 1900.
Indian turban ornament and brooch (sarpesh). ca. 1900. Gold and silver set with emeralds, diamonds and a hanging natural pearl. Cartier Paris, maker. © The al Thani Collection. All rights reserved. Fair use license. Photo credit: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. via

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