Violent thunderstorms would often strike Freeport, GBI. I was four years old, but I can feel them like it was yesterday. Several times a day, mothers would holler, wet kids running in every direction, rain funneling off the palm fronds and slapping the pavers, anger cracking through the sky. Thunderstorms meant one thing: time to wash my spare change. I lined up the Bahamian pennies around the perimeter of our screened-in porch, starfish side up, watching the rainwater course over them. Years later I would learn that a change-washing machine is one of the famous old quirks of the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Two places that have clean change: The St. Francis and my parents’ porch in Freeport in 1980.
These storms never lasted long. In just a few minutes, maybe a rainbow or two, then blue skies, sunshine, and kids, everywhere kids. Ashish and Vinay, who gave me something so spicy to eat that their mom had to spoon-feed me yogurt until I stopped freaking out. And Nick, my babysitter. We would launch model rockets. Once, we lost one deep inside a field of poison oak. The kid uniform in Freeport was one article of clothing: swim trunks. Nick was maybe 16, so the dress code applied to him too. “I’m not allergic,” he said, lofting me onto his shoulders and marching into the thicket. From my elevated view, I spotted the downed rocket first. Or maybe Nick knew it was there all along, but let me be the one to find it because that’s something Nick would do.