vistas: Hello Island

Hello Island and Good Bayou

When I was a kid, people used to go to a place called Hello Island to get away.

At least, that's what I thought it was called. It was the main port for the Fitzwilliam Islands, but people were so happy to arrive, there got to be a custom of saying "hello, island!" as they got off the boat. It became a nickname.

It took me a long time to figure out it was the same place they meant when they talked about "the islands," which seemed like this great place they wished they were. It would show up in expressions, too, like when my father would say, "those shenanigans may fly in the islands, but here on dry land you'll do as I say!"

The funny thing was we barely lived on dry land at all. When I was a kid we had to work really hard, up to our waists for hours in disgusting pools of muck the temperature of bathwater. There were mosquitos and leeches and we would spend all day pushing the mud around. Maybe it was sorghum, I was little and never really figured it out. But I hated it, and I think maybe my parents wanted me to hate it so I would get away even if they couldn't.

Later I really did escape, and it was natural to go to the islands because I'd heard about them my whole life as a place where life was better. I took the boat, and said "hello, island!" like everyone else. And it was better. I still had to work hard, but the weather was better, and the food was better, and people seemed happier.

It puzzled me, though, how some people would talk about the bayous where we came from. For a long time I couldn't understand how they could miss them, the way they'd talk about "the good 'ol bayou," or how the people there were "good bayou folks." At first I figured they just didn't remember what it was really like. Later, when I was older, I realized that just because it was awful there for me, other people maybe hadn't had it so bad. Bad enough to leave, but not bad enough to hate it.

But now that I'm older still, I think I know what it really is. Every so often the wind blows a warm, wet smell over the islands, and even though it's not like how it used to smell back in the swamps, it reminds me of those hot, humid days. Strangely, I get a little nostalgic too.

So now I'm going back to the good 'ol bayou, at least for a visit. Even though I hated the place, it reminds me of being young. 2017 [171108]