It’s no secret that I spend the majority of my time on a French island. The Rock, as I like to refer to it, is positioned on “the elbow” in the Caribbean chain, between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. It’s a tiny spec that you cannot find on most maps and I think the locals like it that way. Pick up any tabloid magazine between the months of November through April though, and chances are you’ll see a pic of some celebrity of the moment spending a getaway here on the island, sunbathing on the stern of their chartered yacht, frolicking in the ocean with their (fill in the blank) or walking down the street with their kids or shopping, looking almost like normal people. (shhh, don’t tell anyone I told you, but they are normal people.)
The rest of the year though, when the celebs & billionaires aren’t in the general vicinity, it’s folks like me and my friends that you’ll find frolicking on the beaches– we practically get them to ourselves. We walk down the streets, shopping, though probably not at Hermes or Louis Vuitton, but rather Marche U or Superette grocery stores, maybe we’re not so much hanging out on yachts, because, well, we’re not trying to kid anyone here – we don’t have that kind of money, but we do have fantastic Sunday picnics on the beach with plenty of good food, good wine & champagne. Basically we’re all just making a little life & living day to day, doing our thing & hoping to get ahead in our own ways.
I don’t have a lot American friends here, it’s not something that I planned or did on purpose, it’s just the way it turned out. The really cool thing is that, living here, I’ve gathered a nice little medley of friends from all over the world. A few from the USA, many different parts of France, Germany, Italy, England & Wales, South Africa as well as other islands of the Caribbean just to name a few. Here, we’re all in the same boat, so to speak. We are all thousands of miles away from our families and everything we’ve ever known in life before arriving. Even though we have different histories & traditions, we all have one very similar thread connecting us. Interestingly and ironically enough the common thread that brings us together, is distance. In order to “live the dream” that so many people are envious of, we have each had to give up those close (geographically speaking) connections with people in our lives that we know and love. When there is something missing in your life, when you have a void, the natural thing to do is to fill that void. I think here, because of this common thread, I’ve sort of formed a stronger family-like bond with my close friends. It feels like we have almost adopted each other as surrogate family members, pulling one another into the roles we need, as we need; some fatherly advice here, motherly love there, sisterly confidant when we’re down, brotherly shenanigans when we’re feeling silly. We have family gatherings and we have sibling-like spats, common breakdowns in communication happen regularly & then the task of figuring out how to put the pieces back together again after feelings have been hurt or trust is broken. It’s all the same kind of stuff we’d go through with our blood families if we were closer in proximity, but we aren’t, so we choose each other to substitute for that which we need or miss, even if subconsciously. I like this idea of having friends as fill-in family, it gives me a certain degree of comfort.
There’s a saying “you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family” I don’t think that same rule applies for transplants of small islands – we most definitely pick our families, our adopted island families that is. At least I know I have, I guess I shouldn’t speak for my friends, and of course nothing can ever replace the real thing, but I must admit, for me, they make pretty damned good stand-ins.