83.2 F
Cruz Bay
Friday, September 30, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesTHE JAMAICAN SALT-FISH NURSE

THE JAMAICAN SALT-FISH NURSE

The fleshy, pale salt-fish boils for the second time. I dump the steaming, salty water from the pot, replenish it with clean and return it to the high flame for the third boiling.
A skillet is doused with golden olive oil. I add half-moons of white onions and green peppers. A couple spoonfuls of olives. Three fat heels of garlic, finely chopped. A liberal sprinkle of red pepper flakes.
The oil warmly receives the gifts and unwraps their spicy fragrance into the air. The salt-fish is drained, cooled, and added to the soft receptive vegetables.
I stir the medley and give thanks to the Jamaican Salt-Fish Nurse.
I'm lying on a starchy, clean hospital bed. Finally alone. Shell shocked. Ragged. Tired, but too excited to sleep.
My feet are higher than my head in an effort to alleviate the baby pressure on my pelvis. There are hospital noises seeping into the room from the hallway. The white curtain is pulled so I can't see the door or my pregnant neighbor. My mind absently works the picture puzzles in the acoustic ceiling tiles. I look to the left and look out a window filled with sky.
This is the antepartum floor of the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Airlifted by Bohlke from St. Croix with labor pains, too soon, only six months into my first pregnancy. Two days of labor, one of them filled with drugs trying to stop my body from contracting. I've been poked with a hundred needles and intimately examined by a bevy of medical personnel.
The labor finally stopped, but now I'm drugged to the gills and hanging upside down. A trophy to medical science.
A nurse appears from behind the curtain. Her silver aura changes the chemistry of the room. Her shiny bitter-sweet chocolate face makes her uniform look even whiter. She's a big woman, solidly attached to the Earth. A wise, eternal Baobob Tree. If I was a Captain choosing players for a team, she would be my first pick. I look into her eyes and see gates to Heaven.
She talks to me. I talk back. We say nothing in particular. Her voice is deep blue and filled with radio static. The musical lilt, like bursting bubbles, sing to me of the islands, Jamaica. She leaves and comes back with a plastic basin full of water. She leaves again and comes back with soap, a washcloth and a stack of towels. She places towels under and over me. Her hands are hard and smooth like stones that have been washed millions of years by ocean waves.
She washes my weak, battered body with the soapy, warm washcloth. Rinsing. Undraping and draping; an arm, my chest, another arm, my big belly, working down to my feet. I am a baby in my mother's arms. I say thank you, but it doesn't feel enough for the comfort she has given me.
I tell her I love her. She blushes purple.
She pops in on me regularly during my stay. She radiates. I want to touch her. I make her talk with open ended questions. I suck in her energy, her strength, and wonder how she can replenish her stores when there are so many in the hospital drinking from her spirit.
One morning she appears with a paper plate wrapped in aluminum foil. It's salt-fish and a Johnny cake. I throw my head back and laugh with glee. Eating. I hear a palm tree whisper a secret. Taste a salty Sunday ocean. Feel my toes impress damp sand. Smell warm rain coming. The salt-fish takes me Home.
And I cry because she is so good.
Seven years later, I have a son, and a daughter too. I am eating fig banana and salt-fish. The same way she made it for me. Filled with love.
From the islands.
Sandra Sanford has lived on St. Croix for 14 years. She is a wife, mother of two and owner of Playa Realty. She can be contacted by email by clicking here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.