Growing up in NYC, I remember the smell of curry, honey roasted peanuts, the sight of kids riding their bikes and popping open the fire hydrant in the summer. My friends and I would take the train to Coney Island and gorged on cotton candy and hot dogs and ride the roller coasters till we got dizzy. It was my summer of innocence before the world lay waiting for me and I relished every moment of it.
I loved the Bronx Zoo…it helped me to discover my love of photography. I played with shadows and light and learned how to see God’s world through a wide-angle lens. Perhaps the summer I’ll remember the most, is the one in Brooklyn…Flatbush Avenue to be exact when my family visited my brother’s apartment.
Brooklyn, back in the day, was filled with Islanders and Africans selling silver jewelry, hats, scarves, homemade crafts of all sorts and blasting reggae music while we shopped. The sun beat down on us as we wandered throughout Flatbush Ave, noisily slurping Italian ices and honey roasted coconut we purchased for 2 dollars.
The stores were all black run. We purchased crafts, homemade shampoos, soaps and home-sewn clothing and jewelry from an African who loved to embellish tales of his prowess. I suspected his wife was the master tailor/jeweler/soap maker, but kept quiet with some amusement. Then as the evening cooled down we ate home-made Jamaican Roti with curry chicken and a fried ripe plantains and drank B&G Jamaican Cola Champagne.
As dusk cast its shadows over the Brooklyn sky, God’s earth changed from a pale blue to a reddish-orange backdrop and made the neighbourhood seem more alive through colour. Children played jump rope, jumping up and down the streets so much, I secretly wanted to join them. Old men played Dominoes with so much gusto, and slapping their knees with glee as they won a good hand, I feared they would break the little makeshift table they used. The streets came alive with the sounds and sights of our people enjoying life and I felt a deeper connection to them than I’ve ever felt before.
Then, as the night came upon us, the sound of the Mr. Softee Ice Cream Truck slowly made its lyrical tune up the heat-stricken neighbourhood…and the kids went wild with glee. I myself ran to buy a vanilla cone, which I slurped noisily and let the sticky sweetness run down my chin.
My family and I talked all night, played Jimmy Cliff and Mr. Marley while my mom perched by the window and watched the children play marbles. I fell asleep contented with the days events.
That, for me, was one of the best moments of my childhood.