My dearest Helen,
Today I am thinking of you. It is your birthday and I have not seen you since 1998.
Yes. If you could talk, I can imagine you beckoning me to come back home.
From childhood, I aspired to honor my pledge as enshrined in the words of your anthem, “Wheresoever you may roam, love, oh love, our island home.”
I had to leave you when I was fourteen years old. It pained me to leave, but your beauty and your essence always remained with me.
The First Peoples fell in love with you. You were given the name of “Louanalao” by Arawak ancestors and “Hewanorra,” by Carib ancestors. The British and French fought over you fourteen times.
You were a jewel and had to be possessed. Just like the mythological battle over Helen of Troy. Britain prevailed but could not conquer the hearts and minds of your children.
They brought my African ancestors to your shores to labor under inhumane conditions. We survived with our faith intact. Since my ancestors could not return to Africa, they wove French customs with those of their homeland.
I do not own a wob dwiyet (St. Lucia national dress) but I am working on it (smile).
I can hear the band strike up to accompany the Quadrille Dance troupes. My regret is that I did not practice enough of this part of my heritage. Helen, you do understand. Yet, it strikes a chord within me and takes me back to my youth.
Helen, it started in a humble placed called Entrepot.
The hilly terrain, the houses perched one on top the other, the sounds of a daily existence are still vivid. I remember a thriving community full of personalities who remain a fixture in my memory. I can still see my childhood home atop the hill with a backyard garden with a variety of fruits and vegetables. There was a towering avocado tree which extended into the lane, pineapple patches, a tall guava tree, green banana trees and mango tree, which produced three varieties.
From time to time, I crave green figs and saltfish, rock cake, icicles, ice lollies and other savory delights. Christmas makes me miss you more with the Festival of Light. As a little girl, I looked forward to being in Castries to join in the festivities.
I take memories and pictures of you everywhere I go. I did not forget my pledge to love you with all my heart.
Helen, you continue to inspire me, having risen from a chaotic historical past, forged a future with independence from British rule, bred two Nobel Laureates and in recent times persevered in the face of COVID-19. I think of you more so with the ongoing effects of climate change, which affect your existence as an island.
However, I know I will see you again.
That’s a promise!
Happy 43rd birthday, sweet Helen! Your daughter loves you!