On this small island, in the Caribbean –the hot sun was and continuous to be the one “constant”. Living in that constant is different today than it used to be, but that can be said about anything. Having said that, the mind is a wondrous thing and a Child’s mind remembers things beyond the expected and in minutia detail. Here, the ground shimmers and phantom pools of water are everywhere covering land that was parched dirt or asphalt only seconds ago. Yes, Aruba gives one so much to remember.
August is the time of year when the sun comes out to play and places ownership on all.
Then - kids wore starched and ironed white t-shirts that had been bleached into a shocking white and had faint smells of ammonia from laundering. Shorts were beige Khaki without belt loops but with an elastic band that mercilessly held it to the waist and very much in place. Most feet were covered by black high-tops. The kind with the round white ankle rubber protectors on the sides and laces that were much too long.
In those days – most kids had three pair of shoes, a black pair that had been shined every week-end since the day they were bought – even if only worn once or twice. They were for special occasions and would be outgrown while with the original heels. Then there was the standard brown pair - seldom if ever polished and scuffed into a comfort beyond words. They were for doing everything that wasn’t “Dress-Up” and would undergo many soul replacements while the heels were re-done with “Cats Paws” heels. The brown pair did most things well, especially walking in water. Not to be forgotten are the Keds. The bastions of “Play And Romping” On Sundays most kids wore socks with their shoes. This was not applicable to Saturdays or weekday afternoons.
It should be noted that the “High-top” was truly the first non-shoe shoe that pretended to be a great shoe and that everyone felt was the best shoe. It should also be noted that this miracle was made of canvas and form-printed rubber. The laces were exceedingly long and fragile.
August summers were listless, hot and dusty. Nowadays they are still hot – but instead of the languidness of the general populace - everyone rushes - and, they do that much too effectively. Listlessness is almost non-existing. There is barely any dirt left that hasn’t been paved or cemented. Thus – the dust today comes from something else besides the small particles in the soil. Dust today is dirty instead of dusty. There is a difference.
Back then, the lack of so many cars and other vehicles allowed for more open areas. The heat slid into those open areas and “hunkered” for the day – ‘it” looked for nooks to slide into. Cats panted as they leaned against outside walls or under small pieces of wood.
When walking the streets of Wilhelminastraat and looking in through the windows of the homes, you would notice that the faces were in deep recesses far in from the sills. Aruba heat had not yet known the cure that “Air-Conditioning” would bring to this sweltering humanity.
It was amazing how perky and happy the skinny stray dogs were in these kids of environments. Give a scrawny ‘street-dog’ the worst that the world has to offer and they prance as if walking in winter. They hold their noses up and, for them; dust becomes snowflakes and the searing asphalt is their newly found bed. Dogs are a ritualistic animals. I never (to my recollection) saw one just sit down. They hovered over an area, looked down at it and then spiraled down into it leading with the nose. Once settled – they closed both eyes – then lifted one eyebrow every few minutes to make sure the world was still there. Dog rituals.
The heat was everywhere and had a humming sound in my ears - a sound that stays with me today. There were no real colors in the town area. But if a color had to be chosen, it would be light shades of dusty yellow.
One Sunday, my parents took me to the beach and they went off to sit with friends. We were at the “Aruba Zwem Club”. I walked out to the sandy beach and dug my feet into the whiteness. I looked out to the ocean and was amazed at the colors. The brilliant white of the sand contrasted against the light shades of blue surf that worked into a darker shade indicating ocean grass or depth. There was a gentle rolling sound made by sand and shells along the surf. The air carried the dry odor of salt that floats along most shores and the cooking smells of onions on a charcoal grill.
All of it – the colors, the smells and especially the visions were so impactful to me on that one Sunday morning. As I stood there, I looked up at the skies and noticed that the sky had a pale blue hue to the North but to the South, it was dark and ominous – as if it were storming over Venezuela. One side seemed innocent and at peace while the other looked angry.
In this, we lived. We went to school and we learned and we played. We talked to each other and it was a good time. It was a time that was understandable and within the grasp of the youngest mind.
Today, kids can be seen wearing a shirt with too many colors as well as glitter. They have on pants that were too long to be shorts and too short to be pants and with too many pockets to be “Bermudas”, however could qualify for battle gear.. Most kids do not wear Keds – They wear shoes that light up with red lights as they walk.
At this moment – it is hot but the wind isn’t right.
I look around and there is no dust to speak of. Something is missing. There is no dust. Inside of a small house a cat is sitting in a soft chair and he pants slightly, even though there is air-conditioning.
Children’s minds remember things and Aruba gives so much to think about.