Caribbean Story Part 2: The Navel String
Main Characters (Along with Miranda Davis)
Relation to Miranda
Becoming a father
Caribbean Story features the nurture and influence of Miranda Davis' grand-mothers. Part 1 introduced Lulu's pregnancy and Janie's declaration that there was no room for a baby. Fast forward in Part 2 to Miranda's return home after many years abroad. She recalls conversations with her mother and grandmothers about what transpired before she was born.
Caribbean folks credit the pull of their navel string (umbilical cord), usually buried near their place of birth, when they have a strong urge to return home. The beautiful light-brown, fifty-year old Miranda believed that a supernatural force beckoned her back to Seaside Village. It had to be more than the mysterious peace that surrounded her when she visited the graves of her mother and grandmothers.
The Sealy Posturepedic on which she lay was a far cry from the contraption which her mother and grandmother called their bed. She could toss from side to side on a level surface. She could look up at the clean white ceiling and see that there were no centipedes waiting to fall. She only had to stretch her hand out to the lamp on the nightstand and turn on the light. There were symbols of comfort all over the room, comforts to which she had become accustomed.
Amid the sound of traffic in the rebuilt Seaside Village, Miranda heard the quiet of the past. Through the window came the cool night breeze bathing her body, the scent of the lemon grass clearing her mind and a shower of contentment flooding her soul. She closed her eyes and the sound of the crickets chirping faded into the tender voice of her nurturers sharing some memories of what transpired before she was born.
Granny Janie's Idea
Leaving home at seventeen when she became pregnant with Miranda was not a consideration for the slender, average height, serious face Lulu. She was an industrious homebody, who talked little but was trustworthy with her siblings. Her mother Janie needed her to help keep fourteen-year old sister Josie and twelve-year old brother Henry in line. Her siblings found new freedom when she went to work in the sugar cane fields because they no longer had a house police to monitor them after school. Still, when she was present, she was the best asset to discipline in the house.
Female Workers in the Sugar Cane Field
Grandma Mattie's Story
Mattie Spooner hurried outside the church as soon as they said the last amen. She wanted to catch up with Janie.
“What a sermon, eh Miss Janie! I can't go home from church before talking to you.” Mattie approached Janie and hugged her as she talked.
“I was thinking that you couldn't come to church before talking to me.” Janie smiled. “Since Monday you promised to get back to me.”
Just then Daisy Morton, the corner store grocer walked by. After three hours in church, the scent of her orange-fragranced perfume was still strong. “Hey Miss Janie! Lulu missing today again? She still under de weather? Is she okay?”
“You done say it Miss Daisy. She still under the weather.”
Mattie *stupsed. “Don’t say too much to her, you know. What she don't know ain't happen yet, and what she know, everybody else know."
- the action of sucking air through pursed lips...It is an action often used in populations of African and Caribbean descent to indicate that something is annoying, irritating, or a bother. It may be a reaction to an action or comment, particularly an unwanted or unwelcome action or comment. - Bajan Mike
Lulu looked directly at Mattie. “So what is the story? What did Manny say?”
“I asked him if he was the father. He didn’t say yes, and he didn’t say no, but he begged me to give Lulu whatever she ask for. That’s enough for me Miss Janie. I'm not stupid. My grandchild will get whatever I have."
“So when Manny coming to look for Lulu?” Janie quizzed.
“He tell that she don't talk to him. She don’t really talk to me either, so it’s just you and me for now.”
“Not you and me. The pastor said that we should help people bear they burden; he didn’t say that we have to take the burden from them."
Mother Lulu's Hope
Lulu was three months pregnant when she decided to begin prenatal care. The night before her first clinic day, Janie broke the news to her younger daughter and son that their big sister was expecting. They already knew. Josie said that some of her friends also knew. Lulu felt a little relief when the conversation was over.
Navel String on a Three-Month Old Fetus
The Public Health Nurse asked about her living arrangements to see if her family was eligible for a move which was being organized by the Worker’s League. They had been elected on their campaign promise to improve housing for the sugar estate workers, and they intended to prove themselves credible starting the next year (1947) when the baby was due. Social workers were scheduled to visit village residents to determine who would comprise the first batch to move out of the thatched houses into government-owned prefabricated buildings. She promised to submit Lulu’s household, but warned her not to get her hopes up.
Still, both Lulu and Janie hope. Janie began to sing when she heard the news. She even promised Lulu that after the other clinic days, she could stay at home and not bother to come to the fields afterwards, as she had done that day. Lulu felt deserving because if they got selected to move, she could be responsible for the family's good fortune.
However, "Don't get your hopes up," seemed to fit the rhythm of the barking dog from the yard next door.
More Where Those Came From
The sound of the crickets surfaced again like a surround sound. Miranda slipped away from the mood of uncertainty in the past to the joy of contentment in the present. There were more memories where those came from. The following day, and on many other future days, she would walk a quarter mile to where her navel string was buried and recall other stories she had been told.
© 2018 Dora Weithers