In 2013 when Jim and I last spent time in Barbados, we arrived at the sad conclusion that there was nothing left for us to explore or see, no reason to visit again. At only 21 miles long and a smile (14 miles) wide and after 36 visits, we had explored it all. My Mother’s ashes were spread at St. John’s Parish Church overlooking her favourite view
and in the Caribbean Sea at her favourite beach. Our two boys, Christopher and Matthew, grew up spending their Spring Breaks, and even a few university breaks, on our island in the sun. Barbados became our second home. I vividly remember Matthew emerging from the airport on his second last visit, turning his face to the sun and yelling, I love this island. Bajans and tourists alike laughed and nodded their assent. Jim and I had enjoyed introducing our island to friends and glimpsing it through new eyes, but OMG, when we could no longer manage to get lost in Barbados’ insane maze of country roads, it was time to declare it done.
My innocent island was changing, too. Poor government decisions had and have left critical infrastructure in serious need of upgrading. Barbados was always an island of efficiency units, apartments and hotel rooms, providing great growth opportunities for local restauranteurs. Some of the Caribbean’s best dining establishments, serving every purse level, could be found on Barbados. The big stress of the day was where to go for dinner. Oh, how we enjoyed that stress. Insidiously over past years and I am sure the result of many a greased palm, five major all-inclusive resorts have opened on the island, stealing business from small local entrepreneurs and socking massive profits away off-shore. Don’t even get me going on the damage they have wrought. The bright massive windows at the airport were converted to opaque glass in an effort to prevent drug smugglers from signalling one another. So much for waving at arriving family and friends as they disembarked their planes. Aaach! Maybe time to move on, we thought.
But still our island in the sun beckons travellers.
She may not be perfect, but she remains safe, friendly and welcoming. Bajan children are taught from the grade 2 level the value of tourism to their economy. Education is free and excellent. Literacy is one of the highest in the world. Health care is free. A large stable middle class forms the bulk of the population. Rent a car and travel the interior with no risk. Head out to restaurants at nighttime without worry. No necessity to remain in all-inclusive compounds for safety or because of government rulings.
One outstanding desire, though, has been niggling at Jim and I .... to introduce our grandchildren to part of their heritage. To see through their eyes the green cane fields, turquoise Caribbean waters, soft white beaches, hawksbill and leatherback turtles,
coral reefs, flying fish, swaying coconut palms, grand plantation houses, calypso music ++++++. I am sure you are getting the picture.
That wish will come to fruition next March. Our whole immediate family - Jim and I, Christopher and Stephanie, Matthew and Michelle, Morgan and Zachary - will head to Barbados for a homecoming of sorts. When Air Canada lands on the tarmac at Grantley Adams International Airport in March 2020 and when Morgan and Zachary first step on Barbadian soil, they will be the 14th generation of my family to do so.
It may be a year away, but my heart is overflowing and my excitement keeps gurgling to the surface. Yes, it is time to go home.