Caribbean Story Part 3: Change Happens
Caribbean Story features the nurture and influence of Miranda Davis' grand-mothers. Part 1 introduces her conception in a disadvantaged household. In Part 2, an adult Miranda recalls events that transpired before she was born, as told to her by her mother and grandmothers. In this episode, baby Miranda is born and another significant change happens.
Characters In Order of Appearance
Role / Relation to the Baby
Myra and Mona Spooner
Mattie's daughters, baby's aunts
Mattie's son, baby's father
Mother to the baby's mother, Lulu
Henry and Josie Davis
Lulu's siblings, the baby's aunts
The Spooner's Household
Caribbean folks do not force an adult child out of the house, except he begins to “play man” or she begins to “play woman” in disregard of the parent’s authority. As long as the young adults abide by the rules of the house and cooperate with the family agenda, they can remain at home until they get married, migrate or make their own decisions to leave.
It is not surprising then, that Mattie Spooner’s three adult children still lived with her. Myra, age twenty-five, worked as a housemaid for the City Bank manager from England. Mona, twenty-one cared for the children of a City Grammar School teacher, also from England. Manny, age nineteen worked as a general laborer at the City Sugar Factory. Mattie was married, but soon after Manny was born, her dark-skinned husband migrated to another island convinced that the infant was too light-skinned to be his child. He never wrote to Mattie, but his daughters occasionally received letters with dollar bills included.
The Spooners of Tamarind Alley were better off than the Davises of Seaside Village, and were considered a class above them. Their house, made from lumber, was painted inside and out, and sported a verandah. Their living room had ample seating accommodation and their dining room had a table, around which they actually sat to eat. Matronly Mattie had her own bedroom and the handsome, popular Manny had his. Her two glamorous daughters shared a room.
Manny’s level of luxury compared with Lulu’s stifling living arrangements (described in Part 1), and his light complexion compared with Lulu’s dark skin were enough to render him too good for her. In the absence of racism, classism could be almost as dangerous.
The first Sunday in April, 1947 (April 6) Mattie Spooner and her children were seated for their Easter Sunday breakfast when they heard a knock at the door. Mona reluctantly pulled away from the sight and scent of fried johnny cake and stewed saltfish to answer the visitor.
It was Janie Davis. “Good Morning, Miss Mona. Please tell you all mother that I’m going to get the midwife for Lulu.” She left.
Mona called after her. “Tell Mamma, or tell Manny?”
“Child, don’t bother me. Tell whoever want to know.” Janie would apologize later for her brash response.
Mattie pushed away from the table to run after Janie. Manny also left, but not even he knew where he was going. Myra and Mona were not vested enough to forsake their food.
“Tell me why Manny went down to Seaside Village.” Mona managed between chews.
“To see Lulu?” Myra laughed out loud and eventually choked.
Mona was serious. “He could choose from so many girls in Sandy Town (general area including Tamarind Alley, Seaside Village and other small vicinities), and so many of them like him. Lulu doesn’t even talk to us.”
“I bet she talked to Manny.” Myra was still giggling.
“This is not funny, Myra. Will you go down to Seaside Village to see Manny’s child?”
“It’s an Easter baby. That might be significant even if the birth place isn't."
The Main Event
Janie and Mattie walked together down the dusty dirt road toward the thatched house where their grandchild would be born. Janie expressed her disappointment that the new housing program launched by the Worker’s League did not place her in the first batch to be moved into a government prefab home.
"You know, Miss Mattie, the social worker tell me that they had cases in Seaside Village worse than mine. She talk about a family with ten children. The oldest boy used to kneel down to sleep; he didn't have anywhere to lay down. She make me to believe that it could be four more years before my turn come."
"You'll survive. Don't worry."
Immediately on arrival, Janie gave her orders: “Henry, go see how the goats doing and move them around. Josie, go help him keep them together.”
There was only room for the midwife around the bed, so Janie and Mattie stayed outdoors not wanting to be too close. They talked on and on about what the baby would need, and how they would contribute.
“So you think Manny will ever come to see Lulu?” Janie's curiosity could hold out not longer.
“Don’t worry about Manny, Miss Janie. The baby will do fine."
“The devil himself” Janie squinted and pointed toward Manny approaching them on his bicycle.
“Good day, Miss Janie,” he said coyly, and the next sound was that of the baby screaming.
Mattie and Janie collided in the doorway, on their way to the bedroom. With a smile and a look of satisfaction, she motioned them to retreat. “The father gets the first view.”
While Janie fussed at the preference he received, and Mattie tried to quiet her, citing that she got her wish, Manny instantly became a father.
“Hush baby girl, your Papa’s got you in his arms and he loves you. You're so beautiful like Miranda (and the name stuck). I'll do whatever it takes to care for you.”
“What about the mother?” Janie tried to interrupt, but Manny was lost to every sight and sound except the bundle in his arms.
“You’ll come often to see the baby?” the midwife inquired as she took the baby from him.
“I wish she could remember me holding her.”
Manny rode off on his bicycle and the grandmothers got their chances to cuddle the baby. Janie and Lulu already knew that the only available space for the newcomer to sleep was between them on the makeshift bed. Mattie inquired and Lulu said she felt fine. The baby lay in a beautiful, peaceful bundle beside her.
Suddenly, shattering the peace, came a piercing holler from someone on the outside: "Miss Mattie, come quick, come quick. Manny get in a accident. He laying flat out on de street. They call de ambulance."
© 2018 Dora Weithers