Caribbean Story Part 5: The Spittin Image
Caribbean Story features the nurture and influence of Miranda Davis' grand-mothers. In Part 4, Miranda's father dies on the day she was born. In this episode, the adult Miranda recalls and ponders her relatives' account of the coincidence.
Miranda: The Link Between Two Households
Relation to Miranda
Manny (now deceased)
Missing: Father's Name
Caribbean folks were not allowed (until recently) to have the father’s name on the birth certificate if the child was born out of wedlock. So the unmarried Janie Davis named her daughter Lulu Davis. Lulu (because she was not married to her baby’s father) named her daughter Miranda Davis. Three Misses Davis: Janie, the grandmother; Lulu, the mother; and Miranda. That was another good reason to attach titles to their first instead of last names (for example, Miss Janie); the first reason was common respect.
Father's Name? Blank on Birth Certificate
While growing up, it bothered Miranda that she did not answer to Spooner, her father’s surname, especially because folks who knew Manny said they could see him in his daughter. She had his fair color, his good looks including his straight nose, and sometimes his humour. She couldn’t prove it, though; there was no photograph. She longed for the time when she could pay the legal fee to have it inscribed on her legal documents.
She was born on the same Easter Sunday that her father died, and beginning at an early age, she listened to family recitals of the event every year. Her grandmothers had profound interpretations of the coincidence.
In the Davis' Household
According to Granny Janie, it was the pastor who delivered the news of Manny’s passing on Easter Monday morning.
Josie screamed. She confessed that she admired Manny’s leadership stature at church, and his comedic behavior at the socials. Though they never talked much to each other, she expected that being the father of her sister’s baby would have forged a brother-sister relationship between them. Henry looked stunned, opening his eyes so big that it seemed he would never wink again. Eventually, Josie and Henry hugged and wept together until neighbors started gathering around.
Lulu sat up to hear the pastor deliver the message that Manny sent during his final moments of consciousness. “Manny asked me to tell you that he is sorry for the way it happened, but he is not sorry for what happened. He also said ‘Be sure to call the baby Miranda, and let my mother tell you why.’” Lulu said nothing; neither did she cry.
Granny Janie sobbed as she struggled through the speech she would repeat through the years. Miranda heard it whenever she deserved something tangible and the family could only afford something thoughtful, as in when she excelled in her school work or in a performance at church.
“You are special Miranda. God wanted your father to leave his spittin image for his family to look at before He take him outta this world, and God make it be you. Don’t be sorry about not having a father; be thankful for his life in you. I got vexed with your mother for disappointing me but I am glad that I didn’t ill-treat her. You goin' to come something good Miranda. This won't be the first time that *something go bad in the morning, and turn good in the afternoon.”
Miranda pondered these sentiments often, because she always hoped to reward her grandmother’s trust and confidence. Janie had been her ever-present refuge and strength before she learned about God. Often, when her mother Lulu’s quietness brewed into a raging storm of discipline, Grandma Janie’s gentle breeze of compassion fanned it away.
*a bad beginning makes a good ending.
In the Spooner's Household
Grandma Mattie told Miranda that she and her two daughters had rushed back to Manny’s bedside when they got word that he regained consciousness. They lingered there until the orderlies took him away. Other people told Miranda that her grandmother began to die the day her father did. Mattie hollered all the way home that God had taken her best child.
At home, the neighbors including Daisy Morton, the village grocer and gossip, came to sympathize. Whether or not she still had kites to sell, she focused on comforting the Spooners.
“Manny always used to make me laugh,” she began. “Whenever you see a crowd and you hear the people suddenly laugh out loud, you could bet that Manny was in the middle making jokes.”
“Manny was *nuff” agreed Mattie, wiping her eyes, “but you’re right, Miss Daisy, and he wasn’t rude.
”So you all think that God called him to be a joker in heaven?” Myra ventured and who didn’t laugh out loud, snickered.
Then came Grandma Mattie’s perspective: “You know what I think? God let Manny know what was goin’ to happen. That is why he reached down to Seaside Village in such a hurry to see the child. He didn’t say anything to Lulu, but I know she felt good that he sent a message. I don’t know about the first part, but when I get ready, I will tell Miranda why he call her by that name.”
Miranda waited years to hear the reason, and whenever she was strolling down memory lane, she hesitated to talk about it, though it proved how much her father loved her.
Miranda remembered her father often, not sadly but fondly. Her grandmothers, her aunts and even the neighbors told many favorable stories about his likeable personality. They convinced her that she would have been proud of him. The more she grew, the more they saw his likeness in her, and told her also that he would have been proud of her.
Strange how she never knew him, but modeled one of his habits so accurately. Cornmeal porridge was his favorite breakfast food; it was also Miranda's. Just like him, she liked the scent of the nutmeg effusing through the steam of the hot porridge; and just like him, she preferred to eat it after it sat for hours and turned into a thick, cold pudding.
Cornmeal Porridge Recipe
There was only one person who never seemed excited over Miranda’s resemblance to her father. That was her mother, Lulu.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Dora Weithers