My father grew up on the shores of a small town in Puerto Rico. A little town fondly called Boca Chica. Small mouth. He often referred to it however as “small kiss” as the memories from that beachside town still softly kiss his forehead everyday.
Now living in a house full of too many bedrooms to fill, he overlooks the San Francisco Bay. From afar, he can see the sprinkling of lights, boats, and the sunset sky. The large photo from my mothers funeral hangs in the living room. Going on nine years now. Still looking down into a room of memories from a 55 year old marriage.
Boca Chica was destroyed in a hurricane several decades ago, and it is no longer there. At one time however, a ring of families working at the local Bacardi rum factory circled its nearby beach in simple houses with big front yards facing the road to the beach, and backyards for chicken coops, cows to milk, and a patch of garden.
My father recalls the coconuts he and his brother Walter would have to dodge from clunking them on the head as they skipped and kicked a ball down the road on the way to the beach. Once they arrived they could drop whatever was at hand, and dash into the mad crashing waves with wild abandon. “The ocean is a shampoo for the brain,” he’ll often say.
A cleansing shampoo of clear water, salt and sun courting a parlor of daily rejuvenation in a small town calm, riding waves that they rarely shared with others.
Cracking open a coconut with a machete knife or a hard rock to quench a mid day thirst. Bringing home wildlife from the sea for a family dinner. Rocks, shells, and small wiggly creatures to torment their two younger sisters with.
I often wonder if one has experienced incredible happiness at such a young age, does it satisfy them for a lifetime?
Memories of the chickens yakking away in his backyard, persistently and meaninglessly. His mother’s fearless grasp on the neck of one of them for the evening’s meal as she swirled it around without abandon to yield to a break. The scent of oregano, garlic, homemade beans ready for gathering at the table soothed the chill from the evening cold and darkness that eventually blanketed their unheated indoor/outdoor house.
Only one’s two feet and velocity of your footsteps took you anywhere. The occasional handlebar ride on the front of his father’s bike carried the necessary provisions, including essential coconut and licorice candy, back and forth from town to household. Slow. Slow enough to notice the color of the birds in the jungle of palms. Slow enough to to notice the weave in the roadside tapestry of trees...and even feel a pang to the heart when one of the trees along the side of the road was no longer there.
I hear the stories of the life of “so much” often enough. And yet it is the life that is “so simple” that makes me wonder: when in a place where by worldly standards, you don’t have much — but from your place, you have everything you’ve ever wanted — are you free?
Free to be the good you.
Graced by so many small kisses of magic, nature seems to coat like a shield from the visitors of avarice, greed, lust, gluttony. Prodigality. Paradise seems to be often in environments rich with so little. Satisfying a hunger. Especially for those born in it — hunger they have never ever deeply come to even know.
Boca Chica is a mystical memory now to my father. Small kisses. Kissing his children, his grandchildren, and his path everyday.
Wherever yours come from — May they follow you too.
Rhonda Diaz Caldewey is a practicing yogi, adventurer, and endlessly curious Modern Elder. She is involved in retail and restaurant commercial real estate, and a board member of Madre.org and is an alum of both betas: MEA Online and MEA Baja workshops.