Caribbean Story Part 10: Too Many Women
Time to Move
Caribbean folk back then preferred to enlarge an existing structure than to relocate. If Janie Davis was financially capable, she would have preferred to add another room for Lulu and Miranda, rather than let them leave; but they could not improve on a house which the government legally owned; they were still making payments in meager installments.
Based on this reasoning, Lulu decided that it was time to get her own house. She would have the sugar estate manager move one of the little houses off their property to the same area where they currently lived, and she would make payments on her own house. Not only was Lulu hardworking; she was money smart and business savvy on a layman’s level.
Relocating a House
Her decision to move was primarily inspired by her unspoken admiration for Miranda. She wanted her daughter to have a place where she could accommodate friends. Another reason was that she had been promoted from field work to house work on the estate, and her exposure to fancy decorations in the living room and place settings on the dining table gave her some grand ideas. She and Miranda, she dreamed, could enjoy the beauty of a well-organized home without the disorderly habits of her younger sister Josie, and the extreme carefree attitude of her brother Henry.
Henry too, for a very personal reason, entertained the idea of leaving home. He felt smothered among his mother, his sisters and his niece. “Too many women”, he winced.
He respected his mother as a source of spiritual strength; she held up before him the virtue of integrity in manhood, but she, being a woman, could not model it. His sisters prepared his food and his clothes, but they did not have time to spend with him. Miranda accompanied him to bring the goats home sometimes on a weekday evening, and always on the weekend; but her company was no substitute for the sense of belonging he felt with male peers. He wanted to move in with his father who lived alone, had more space, and offered the possibility of a close father-son relationship.
Mamma Janie did not want him to leave, but she gave him her blessing, hoping that Lulu and Miranda would appreciate the additional space and decide to stay.
“Sorry, Mamma,” Lulu finalized. “The first time I wanted to leave, you tell me I couldn't go and leave my child. This time I going and I not leaving my child."
Another Little Girl
The number of women in Miranda’s life was increasing. Miranda’s aunt Mona had come home to get married and have a baby. Mattie Spooner, her mother would have preferred a large audience to witness her performance in her role as mother of the bride, but the bridegroom was in a hurry, giving them little time to prepare for the event. The wedding was small and intimate with only immediate family, plus Daisy Morton the gossiper who procured an invitation on account of the flowers she contributed from her garden. Marvin Laws had returned to Curaçao, leaving Mona behind to give birth to their baby before she joined him.
In March of 1957 just before Miranda turned ten, Merel Olivia Laws made her appearance and became the center of the Spooner’s attention.
Merel Olivia Laws
Back in Curaçao, Myra Spooner shopped for her two nieces and sent her package to arrive soon after the baby was born. When Miranda came to receive her portion, Grandma Mattie made things clear.
“Miranda, darling,” she began cautiously, “you can never lose you special place in my heart. No matter how many good-looking brown-skin granddaughters I get, you are the first little angel who make me become a grandmother. And you keep my only son Manny alive in this family. Come here, little girl,” and she sealed her devotion to Miranda with a hefty Grandma Mattie hug.
“It would have been easier if it were a boy,” Miranda thought; but what she said was “Grandma, I’ll still be here when Aunt Mona and Baby Merel leave.”
“Well,” Aunt Mona corrected her, “Baby Merel is staying here. I want you to help Grandma Mattie take care of her.”
“Good!” beamed Miranda, trying to convince herself that she was too old to be jealous of a baby. “We’ll play together.”
Girls' High School
Miranda benefitted from a government scholarship to attend a high school for girls. At first, it did not register how much her entire life would be affected. Most of the girls came from middle and upper class families with mother and father figures. Their parents were socialites and their classmates were clannish; but Miranda’s only focus was on learning and making good grades. In the process, she found acceptance.
She enjoyed good teacher-student relationships with her all-female teachers, many of whom were old maids. She admired them for their confident strides, their immaculate appearance and their subject matter expertise. Slowly, but surely she was receiving messages both at home and at school that women could not only survive, but excel independent of the male presence.
Her self worth was developing alongside her understanding of life. Lulu taught her how to starch and press her uniform pleats into a work of art. Her deportment was an asset to her school’s reputation, and her academic performance made all the relatives proud. Even her attempt to throw a stone (stone a mango) on the rosy cheek mango tree on the school grounds turned into a positive experience. On lunch break, the headmistress caught her positioned to throw, and lectured her about behaviors which were, and were not expected from ladies who were well bred.
Rosy Cheek Mangos
Miranda seemed destined to be a leader among females. When she turned sixteen, she was elected to co-lead the church's outreach youth group which always elected two leaders: one male, one female. The pair had to work closely, planning schedules and group activities. They had to meet between group meetings. She was almost the same age her mother Lulu was, when she became pregnant by a church guy.
The first time Miranda's associate came by and sat with Miranda alone in the living room, Lulu became nervous. Miranda realized it and began to dream up ways she could have a social life without incurring unnecessary wrath from her mother.
© 2018 Dora Weithers