Updated date:

Caribbean Story Part 1: Light the Lamp

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

Caribbean Story features the nurture and influence of Miranda Davis' grand-mothers. In this first episode, they learn of her conception in a round about way.

No Room for the Baby

Caribbean folks feel cold when the temperature drops to seventy degrees. So on that October evening when Janie Davis walked in on her daughter Lulu Davis wrapping herself in a sheet, she took it for granted that her seventeen-year old daughter was seeking warmth. Truth is, the sheet was closer than the nightgown when Lulu heard her mother's footsteps approaching the bedroom they shared.

Lulu couldn’t be sure, but just in case Janie noticed, she offered an explanation for what she thought was a bulging stomach. “I’m pregnant Mamma, but it’s not my fault.”

“Good Lord! Janie hollered, walking away from the half-naked Lulu into the other room. She returned a moment later with the kerosene lamp.

Photo by Chronophobos

Photo by Chronophobos

Grandmother-to-Be Goes Visiting

That conversation took place on Monday night, and by late afternoon the next day, when mother and daughter came home from their labourer’s tasks on the Seaside Sugar Estate, Janie set out to do what most mothers in that predicament would have done in the 1940s.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Spooner,” she shouted from outside the gate. “A word with you, please.”

Mrs. Spooner, pot spoon in hand, and smelling like well-seasoned steamed fish, came hurrying to let her in. “Come in, Miss Janie” and she turned around swiftly. “You could talk to me while I stir my sauce?”

“Yes, Ma’am, and I don’t mean to take much of your time.” Janie followed and continued to speak as soon as Mrs. Spooner positioned herself to stir. “That smell good, eh? Anyway, I come to let you know that you son Manny put my daughter in the family way.”

Photo by Tekesha

Photo by Tekesha

Questions

Manny and Janie passed each other as she was leaving and he was entering Tamarind Alley. They exchanged "good afternoon" greetings but neither one acknowledged the other. Still, Manny's question to his mother proved that he recognized her.

“Mom, was that Miss Janie from Seaside Village going up the alley?”

“Don’t pretend that you don’t know Miss Janie,” his five-foot plump mother scolded, with both hands on her hips and her neck stretched as far as it could to facilitate him looking into her angry face. “You put her daughter Lulu in the family way, and now you forget who she is? Did you do it, Manny? ”

And so it was that the conception of Miranda Davis became known. Her mother Lulu Davis informed her maternal grandmother Janie Davis, who approached her paternal grandmother Mattie Spooner, who questioned her father Manny Spooner. There is no evidence that Lulu and Manny ever discussed their baby before she was born. Miranda’s care before and after her birth would henceforth be supervised by her grandmothers.

The House

Lulu Davis lived with her mother Janie in one room of the two-room house Janie’s mother had left for her and her sister. Janie divided her room into two. She created a living area and a bedroom, partitioned by a fabric curtain.

The economic status of the grandmother-to-be was illustrated in her bedroom. Her excuse for a bed sported four wooden boxes for the legs; a frame completed with four pieces of board pulled from the estate’s discarded junk heap; a mattress, if it could be called that, comprised of course flour bags (in which flour was imported) sewn together and stuffed with dried grass. One side of the bed was jammed to the “wall” of the thatched house; on the partition side, there was enough room to get in and out. Janie slept on the open side, Lulu slept in the corner.

There were two pieces of furniture in the living area. A plain wooden settee without cushion doubled as a nighttime bed for Lulu’s fourteen-year old sister Josie, and the daytime seating space. Taking all the available space that was left, the all-purpose table stood nearby. Henry, Lulu’s twelve-year old brother made his bed under the table, after he pushed away the tin of cassava starch and everything else toward the door.

There was no room for a baby, and Janie was dealing with that reality as she headed home from Mattie Spooner’s house. By the time she arrived, her daughters and son had finished their evening meal. They had also bathed in the kitchen, a shabby little shed constructed in the yard, with the left corner at the back designated for the bath pan. For bathing, they filled the pan with water from the public standpipe.

Fetching Water at a Public Standpipe

Photo by Emily Mutai, SUWASA

Photo by Emily Mutai, SUWASA

Mental Preparation

Janie could hear laughter as she approached the door. Josie, seated on the settee and Henry on the floor were engaged in one of their stories about folks in the village they had nicknamed, so that only they knew whom they talked about. Lulu lay supine on her side of the bed, gazing at the thatched roof, which she could barely see, since the kerosene lamp was unlit again.

Janie entered, and straightway lit the lamp on the table. “What if I didn’t come home? You all would stay like this in the dark? I wish everybody would always wait on me to tell them what to do.”

“Mama, we don't want to waste matches. Only you could light de lamp wid one scratch."

“Speak properly, Henry. Come out here, Lulu.” Obedience was an applied virtue in Janie’s house.

She continued when Lulu made her appearance. “When you all pray tonight, beg God to make a way for us to get through the problems we already have, and plead with Him not to add anymore right now. Lulu, we will talk tomorrow when we come home from work. Josie, never leave this house unless I know where you going. Same for you, Henry. And don’t ever let it get dark in here again. We may be poor, but we can afford light."

© 2018 Dora Weithers

Comments

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 22, 2020:

Annie, you and me both. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Carry the memories with you.

Annie from NewYork on July 15, 2020:

I emjoy going back in time to a peaceful place ..carribean

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 07, 2020:

Cynthia, thanks for reading. Hope it remains a treat to the end.

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on July 04, 2020:

Dear Dora,

A compelling read. I.love the details of the life you present and the windows into the characters' thoughts. I am treating myself to a chapter a night.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 30, 2020:

Thanks, Glen. Are you still there?

Suttonvm on April 17, 2019:

Hi Dora, just read your stories to my sister Daisy. Brought back memories of us growing up. Very true to life stories. Looking forward to reading more.

Glen

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on April 08, 2018:

Thanks, Devika. Happy that you approve my story.

DDE on April 06, 2018:

Sounds like your adventures continue to great aspects of life. Well done!

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on March 22, 2018:

I'm sure I will.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 22, 2018:

Thanks, Natalie, for finding and reading this first chapter. Hope you like the others just as well.

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on March 22, 2018:

Dora - I'm so glad I found this story! I can't wait to read more. The Caribbean is an area I know almost nothing about. Your story presents cultural aspects in the content of a fiction story which makes it fascinating to learn. Thanks for writing this.

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

Thank you, Michael. Your kind comment is encouraging.

Michael Duncan from Germany on March 18, 2018:

Well-written story right from the start.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 17, 2018:

Thanks Audrey. I'm encouraged by your kind comment.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on March 17, 2018:

Thanks for sharing the first part of a very interesting story. I'll be reading more.

Sam on March 09, 2018:

Great start for an interesting story. How fast can you go?

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 08, 2018:

Thanks, Dream. I appreciate your interest in the story and pray to write something satisfying and inspiring.

DREAM ON on March 08, 2018:

It has been a few days I want to get back into the story. I think many of the same struggles still exist. We just glorify them to be a lot different than they really are. Taking care of a baby and all the responsibility is life changing. Thank you for giving me a birds eye view. Sweet days ahead.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 07, 2018:

Thanks, Jack. Trying my best to entertain you.

jgshorebird on March 07, 2018:

Engaging. Interesting style. Has it's own taste. Brings you into another world -- someone's home -- as a guest. I will be reading.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 07, 2018:

Thanks, Chris. Eating the fish head is a Caribbean trademark.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on March 06, 2018:

I love this story from far away about a lifestyle that is so foreign to me. Fish heads? I bury them. Never thought of cooking them. Good story, Dora.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 02, 2018:

Thanks, Elaine. Glad to entertain you. Will continue trying to please kind readers like you.

Elaine PN from Philippines on March 01, 2018:

Wow, you write a good story. I'd like to read more of it. Thank you.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 01, 2018:

Dream, thanks for reading. The struggles are different, but now as then, they serve to keep us focused.

DREAM ON on March 01, 2018:

I was born in 1964. To look at the struggles people face then compared to the problems of today. I can easily get wrapped up in all the characters and their life. You have me thinking what is going to happen now? Thank you for sharing your wonderful gift. Have a great day.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 23, 2018:

Thanks, Nell. I'm hopeful about this new venture.

Nell Rose from England on February 22, 2018:

Hi Dora, I didn't realise you had started this, what a great beginning to the story!

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on February 17, 2018:

MsDora, just had to read this again so the next part worked better for me... :)

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on February 17, 2018:

Wow, Dora! This is great! You did a great job of setting the stage for things to come. I'm impressed and waiting for Part 2.

DDE on February 17, 2018:

A unique story and I admire your style of writing. The food look delicious!! An amazing story and the people are too.

Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on February 17, 2018:

Oh Dora, I'm so proud of you for delving into fiction. It seems recently I heard in one of your comments to someone that you felt you couldn't do fiction. You are sorely mistaken. This is great stuff and I can't wait to hear the next chapter.

April from Columbus,Ga on February 17, 2018:

Amazing good story. I became instantly engaged in this story by first glance, I love it.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 17, 2018:

This looks like it's going to be a great story, Dora. It's already engaging! I love your descriptions.

GlenR from UK on February 17, 2018:

I found your depiction of life in the Caribbean during the 1940s fascinating Ms. Dora and look forward to reading more.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on February 17, 2018:

From what I've read, Ms. Dora, I'm captivated. You have a beautiful style of presenting plot and leaving tantalizing "cliff-hangers." I can almost feel myself being there with these people.

I've had friends from the Caribbean, everything you said sounded like all the descriptions, hope, tenderness, and trust in God they displayed throughout our friendship. If I didn't know better: it seemed like I was chatting with them as I read.

Thank you.

I'll keep tuning in to this story.

Sincerely,

Tim

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on February 17, 2018:

Well, you caught me. I can't wait to see what happens. :)

Peg Cole from Dallas, Texas on February 17, 2018:

Such an engaging story right from the first paragraph. I love it, MsDora and can't wait to read more about this family.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 17, 2018:

The first three times trying I saw a "this page does exist".

I am glad I gave it another shot.

You are just a fine writer. Whatever you do is worth reading.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 17, 2018:

An absorbing first chapter, of what sounds like a good story, quite close to reality. Looking forward to the next.

How much struggle is faced by such people, who ‘don’t have.’

Thanks for sharing this!

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 17, 2018:

Oh, Dora, you are a beautiful writer and must do more. I feel such empathy for the people involved here. You have a way of describing exactly what they are feeling and experiencing.

Yvette Stupart PhD from Jamaica on February 17, 2018:

Hi Ms Dora, this is great! Your story sounds very much like some of my experiences growing up in rural Jamaica.

Jackie Lynnley from The Beautiful South on February 17, 2018:

Something a little different from you, Dora, but top notch as always. I love it. Was halfway through it when I got called away and couldn't wait to get back!

I will be here for the rest!

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on February 17, 2018:

"We may be poor, but we can afford light!" My dear Dora,

I am so happy to know you through your writings and receiving some of your light.

I have never been in the Caribbean but I love it, so I am looking forward to the next part. Thank you for this one.

Manatita44 from London on February 17, 2018:

A new but typical Caribbean approach. We like a good story and if you have come from a village like me, then tales spread fast!

Let’s see how this family copes.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 17, 2018:

What a start to a promising story. Love the local colour.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 17, 2018:

Dora, this is a side of your talent I haven't seen. I look forward to more of this story. So many questions left unanswered about the conception.

I love the last two sentences. The message is clear and beholding to what I've come to know of you.

Nice job, Dora!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 17, 2018:

This is the kind of "real" story I can sink my teeth into. I have great faith in the strength of a good woman. Looking forward to more chapters, Dora!

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on February 17, 2018:

troubling sad in a way, but poverty is what they know and they can handle it the best way they can.. then to add another mouth to feed makes this tug at my heart.. A well crafted story ...

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on February 17, 2018:

Having been born in Africa all the questions are familiar to me. The strength of women never ceases to amaze me.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 17, 2018:

Caribbean Story Part 1 was previously posted on another page, and following (upward) are the original comments.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 16, 2018:

Franks, thanks for your encouraging remark. I really making an effort.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on February 16, 2018:

my goodness this was indeed gripping..

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 15, 2018:

Thanks for following, Kari. The story is mostly true. It is based on real people with a few minor misleads here and there for obvious reasons.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on February 14, 2018:

This is an interesting story. Is it based on a real person?