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Caribbean Story Part 12: First in Two Families

Caribbean Story shares memories of a Caribbean writer, including bits on parenting and other lifestyle aspects influenced by the culture.

Caribbean Story Parts 1-12 features the nurture and influence of Miranda Davis’ grandmothers. It follows Miranda's life from conception through her high school years: her father’s death, social complexities of her introvert mother, the support of her uncle and aunts and, very notably, the powerful love of her grandmothers.

In the final episode, Miranda is celebrated in a church-community-family event, discovers why her father chose to name her, and pays tribute to her grandmothers.

High School Certificate

Caribbean folk in the 1950s and 60s wrote the General Certificate of Education (GCE) exam at the completion of their high school curriculum. The certificate was awarded by the University of London, England and was equivalent to the American High School Diploma.

Miranda was the first in the Davis as well as the Spooner families to write the London exam, and even before the results came, both families recognized her accomplishment. If she succeeded, she could be immediately employed as a pupil teacher, while obtaining her teacher training at the City College. Being the first high school graduate and the first college student in her families was good reason to celebrate Miranda.

Photo Credit: f-g-s.co.uk

Photo Credit: f-g-s.co.uk

Party in the Works

Pastor Ben Simmons, who presided over her father’s death knew the struggles of the families. The idea for a gathering in Miranda’s honor originated with him in June when the church prayed for her success in the examinations. Herbert Paul who co-chaired the youth group with her was happy to participate; and Josie, her mother's sister decided that it should be a church-community-family affair. Her mother Lulu and her Granny Janie thought it was way over their heads; but Grandma Mattie showed Janie the letter which informed them that Miranda’s aunts Myra and Mona wanted to come home and make it a party.

“So Miss Janie,” Mattie decided, “Before good food waste *ley belly bus.” That was the Caribbean way of saying that they should not waste the effort of so many people. It could and would also have a literal meaning.

Caribbean Black Cake

Photo Credit: One Caribbean

Photo Credit: One Caribbean

Daisy Morton, the gossip grocer was on the church team and she was a generous as she was talkative. Fried chicken was her specialty, and people usually left home just to get some. Granny Warner who cared for Miranda during her crèche [nursery] days offered to host the event. She had large rooms and a large backyard, and was willing to add her delectable black cake and ginger beer to the menu.

Miranda’s uncle Henry, who had left the Davis household citing too many women, was on call to butcher Granny Janie’s choicest goat for the goat water. The church women were responsible for cooking the sides including rice and pigeon peas, johnny cakes and fried plantain. The party was on!

*let belly burst

Family Reflections

Grandma Mattie sat leisurely in her rocker, brooding over the beauty and prosperity of her female flock. They sat poised in the living room as though waiting for a photographer. Mona and Myra had scheduled their visit to coincide with Miranda’s party, but little Merel Olivia was as much the object of their attention. She had replaced Miranda as the little princess in the family, and Mattie hoped that the younger one would follow in the steps of the older. The adults were all happy.

Merel jumped up from beside her mother Mona when they heard a knock on the door. “It’s Miranda. Miranda.”

“Can you spell Miranda?” Miranda hugged her on entering the door.

“M” she began. “Does everybody’s name begin with M?”

Spooner's Family Roll Call

NameFamily Position

Matilda (Mattie)

Matriarch

Myra

First Daughter

Mona

Second Daughter

Manny

Late Son

Miranda (Manny's daughter)

First Grandchild

Merel (Mona's daughter)

Second Grandchild

“In this family, it does,” her mother confirmed.

“Why?”

“I’ve been meaning to ask that myself.” Miranda confessed.

“That reminds me,” Mattie spoke softly while she straightened up. “When Manny visited you on the day you were born, he called you Miranda, but he didn’t have a chance to say why.”

“You mean nobody ever told her?” Myra was surprised. “Let me.”

“About two years before your father died, he began to see a beautiful girl on the beach, in his dreams. He always chased after her to find out who she was, but whenever he got near, she vanished. The last time he dreamed about her, she told him her name just before she disappeared. It was "Miranda" which means "admirable" and "wonderful." He never dreamed about her again.”

“The next time he saw her,” Mattie added, “was the day he saw you.”

Grandmothers First and Last

The first Monday in August (Emancipation Day) is a Caribbean holiday. Folks remember the declaration which set their forefathers free from slavery. The mood was appropriate for celebrating the academic and social progress of a young lady whose mother and grandmother still worked on the sugar estate founded by the colonial masters.

There were about thirty people present when Pastor Simmons said the opening prayer, but when the dish covers came off and the aroma began to travel, about thirty more drifted in. Myra and Mona met many people they would not have seen otherwise. Everybody mingled. The food was plentiful and delicious. Joy abounded.

Photo Credit: Crowdfunder

Photo Credit: Crowdfunder

Finally, it was time for her speech. She thanked God, and then referred to her two grandmothers as the first on her list of human beings who deserved her gratitude.

“My grandmothers gave birth to my father and mother who gave birth to me. In addition, they nurtured my mother into becoming a parent at the same time they nurtured me to become the young woman you see here today.”

She continued with thanks to her mother, the pastor, Granny Warner, her teachers from her primary private school all the way through high school. She thanked all the residents of Seaside Village. It seemed that she forgot no-one.

"And finally," she concluded, "I love my grandmothers. Thank you Granny Janie. Thank you Grandma Mattie. I can never say that enough."

© 2018 Dora Weithers

Comments

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 11, 2020:

Thanks Cynthia, for following the story and writing a comment for every episode. You encourage me, seriously.

Yes, the laws have changed. Children born outside marriage are now allowed to bear the father's name. His name is listed on the birth certificate.

Cornmeal porridge was my father's favorite and it's now mine, though I never knew him.

These were the days when poor people didn't even know what they didn't have. They thrived on what they had. Happy that you enjoyed my Caribbean tales.

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on September 23, 2020:

Such a sweet, upbeat ending! Are there followup chapters in the works?

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 18, 2018:

Alan, thanks for your comment. I appreciate knowing the difference between what we have always called black cake and the burnt offering. There is a link to the Jamaican version in the article and there are several on YouTube. Thanks also for your kind opinion on my writing.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on May 17, 2018:

Dora, looks like a good spread. I like the 'black cake' even though it's a rich, dark fruit cake (a black cake would be a burnt offering, like the ones King Aelfred is said to have let burn). Is the recipe a Caribbean state secret, or can anyone know?.We have some rich fruit cake in Yorkshire that's eaten with cheese and ale. Looks nice and moist, like a good fruit cake should be.

Nice, plain writing, by the way. Simple but effective narrative.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 22, 2018:

Thanks, Delcia. Your kind comment is a huge encouragement for me. You're special!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 22, 2018:

Thanks, Bill. I appreciate your encouragement on this and all my other efforts.

Delcia Browne on April 22, 2018:

It has been a pleasurable journey reading week after week. I learnt so much of times before me and felt as if I was present in each reading even at this party, imaging even the aroma of the food. Smiles.

Thank you so much sharing and I look forward to your next posting.

God bless

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on April 22, 2018:

What a wonderful story, Dora! I enjoyed it so much and hope there will be more coming form you. Great job on this series!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 21, 2018:

Frank, not responding to your comment was not intentional. Thanks for following. Glad you appreciated the Caribbean details.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 21, 2018:

Thanks, Flourish. Manny had left some unfinished business. I think she will be empowered just knowing how and why he maned her.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 21, 2018:

Thanks, Linda. I thought I had invited you to follow. Sorry, that was an oversight. It means much to me, that you followed anyway.

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 20, 2018:

What a sweet and appropriate chapter having her show her loving gratitude to all. I enjoyed the touch regarding the story about how she was named.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 19, 2018:

I've wondered for some time why I haven't seen any more of your Caribbean story. I didn't realize that you had another account. I enjoyed this chapter. I'll gradually read the ones that I missed.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on April 19, 2018:

Thanks, Bill. Tried my hand at story-telling and enjoyed it.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on April 19, 2018:

Well done, Dora. Thank you, so much, for sharing these stories! ;-)

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on April 19, 2018:

MsDora.. you chose an appropriate way to end this series... but there's more to tell and I hope you do tell in future endeavors. I have learned so much from this saga, and I look at this life from a different perspective.. bless you

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on April 19, 2018:

Thanks, Eric. Good suggestion! We can check in with her after she has lived a little.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 18, 2018:

Just call me a cry baby. You got me good on this ending. Maybe later on you can tell us how Miranda is doing.

Thank you for this great story of love in the Caribbean. I treasured each moment.

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