Our second full day in Trinidad (after having gotten our beach fix), we headed southeast to Champs Fleurs to visit my grandmother, or as Alex calls her, "Grandma the Great." This is my dad's mom, she's 93 years old, and I want you to listen closely when I say:
Her mind is as sharp as a tack. It is sharper than mine has ever been, or ever will be.
As long as I can remember, Grandma has spent every free moment she has doing every single kind of puzzle that has ever been put to print. She does every level of crossword, every type of sudoku, every word search, and she even does these really frighteningly obscure ones that are actually long division math problems, except each number in the problem is replaced by a letter, and your job is to decode the letters back into numbers.
She is so obsessed with these puzzles that each one of her (count 'em) 9 children, and many of her grandchildren (myself included), makes sure to bring her a new puzzle book whenever we visit. So Tuesday morning we all headed out to her house, puzzle books in tow.
As I mentioned, she's the mother of nine children (my dad is #2), and when we arrived, my aunt Alma (#3), who we call "Auntie Aqui" was there ...
... as was the baby of the family, Auntie Lystra (#9).
It had been several years since Alex and I had seen Grandma and Aunties Aqui and Lystra, so it was particularly good to see them. And as often happens when you haven't seen family for several years, the old photo albums come out...
... at which point, Auntie Lystra immediately pointed out a childhood photograph of my dad:
DUDE. At the sight of my dad, Kermitt W. Walrond, PhD, one of the most proper men we know, as a 2-year-old dressed in a romper, barefoot (I didn't even know my dad had feet!), with -- wait for it -- his hair in braids, Alex, my mom and I FELL OUT. We could not stop laughing. Dad stared at us with a vaguely injured expression, but really. My dad??
I'm still wiping away tears.
And then, to add insult to injury, Auntie Lystra tried to braid his hair again ...
Sadly, it didn't work. Alex may never get over the disappointment.
After we pulled ourselves together, Auntie Aqui took us for a tour of Grandma's little garden. Allow me a moment to say that the only people I have ever seen give the British a run for their money when it comes to gardens are we Trinidadians. It is a rare person who does not have lush hibiscus or bougainvillea, or fruit trees of various kinds in their gardens, and my grandmother is no exception. There's a mango tree:
(Incidentally, I owe an apology to Trinidad. My daughter ate all of the ripe mangoes in the country, and now I fear there are no more left. Seriously, I've never seen a kid eat so many mangoes in my life.)
There is also an avocado tree (which we Trinis call "zaboca"):
The avocado you see above is about one-third grown -- when it's ripe, it will be about the size of Alex's head. I remember when I was a child, the first time I saw the little shriveled black fruits that are passed off as avocados here in Houston supermarkets, I felt deep, deep pity for Americans who have never eaten a Trini avocado.
There's also a lime tree (for the making of rum punch, don't you know):
And there's a sugar-apple tree. I've actually never had a sugar-apple. I hear it's really sweet, which, you know, I would've assumed from the name.
There are peas, coconut trees, a couple of pomegranate trees, and the list goes on and on, all in a garden that is really no bigger than the one we have in our home in Houston. And, as she has done all my life, Grandma grows various orchids as well:
But my favourite plant that Auntie Aqui showed us was Wonder of the World:
As Auntie Aqui was showing us this plant, Mom told Alex and me that when she and her sister were little girls, they would take the leaves off of this plant, and scratch the names of various boys in their classes in each of the leaves, and then put the leaves in a dark closet. This plant's leaves have the distinction of growing new little plants out its edges (like so), so in a few days, my mom and her sister would return to the closet to see which of the leaves had sprouted, and this would tell them which of the boys was going to be their boyfriends.
"Did you ever scratch Kermitt's name in a leaf?" asked Auntie Aqui, referring to my dad.
"No," Mom replied, pensively.
Which, when you think about it, is not that surprising, given the romper, bare feet and braids.