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Caribbean Story Part 5: The Spittin Image

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 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

The DavisesRelation to MirandaThe Spooners

Lulu

Parent

Manny (now deceased)

Janie

Grandmother

Mattie

Josie

Aunt

Myra, Mona

Henry

Uncle

 

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

caribbean-story-part-5-his-spittin-image

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.

Manny's Message

MELSANV- Free Stock Photos

MELSANV- Free Stock Photos

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.”

Photo by Jeremy Wong

Photo by Jeremy Wong

“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.

*enough

Strange Likeness

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.

© 2018 Dora Weithers

Comments

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on August 25, 2020:

Dear Dora,

I am back on track with your lovely Caribbean story! I enjoyed more of the explanations around customs and felt the sting for young Miranda in not being allowed to use her father's name. Have the laws changed?

Enjoyed the yummy recipe for cornmeal porridge!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on April 28, 2018:

Thanks, Linda. You will like the cornmeal porridge. It is still one on my breakfast favorites.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 27, 2018:

I like the sound of cornmeal and nutmeg. I'll try some cornmeal porridge soon. The characters in this story are very interesting, Dora.

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

DDE, I would have been disappointed if you didn't enjoy cornmeal porridge. Glad that you did.

DDE on April 06, 2018:

I had cornmeal porridge and it was a wholesome meal for me. I didn't have it much while growing up.

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

Thanks, Manatita. Seems like most of my Caribbean friends like cornmeal porridge. For me, it is still comfort food.

manatita44 from london on April 01, 2018:

Well, memories can be tough to bear, as you know.

'

I liked porridge too (cornmeal). Uncanny habit from the child. Interesting take on 'sorry' and 'not sorry'. Peace.

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

Thanks, Glenis. It is partly biographical. Happy to bring you a good memory through Manny.

Glen Rix from UK on March 19, 2018:

I love this story, Dora. You tell it so well that I can visualise each of the characters. Is it biographical?

A sense of fun is always attractive. The description of Manny always at the centre of a crowd of laughing friends reminded me of my husband, who passed away a long time ago.I'm pleased to see you are now incorporating food into your writing!

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

Thanks, Peg. That porridge IS delicious. Caribbean babies grew up on it in the days when mothers prepared their baby foods, instead of serving them from grocery cans and jars. Some of us are still hooked on it.

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on March 15, 2018:

Not sure how I missed the notice that this chapter was out but I'm here enjoying this latest installment. You tell a great story, Dora. That porridge looks delicious. I believe I would like it cold, too.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 12, 2018:

Kari, I'm impressed that you like Granny Janie's statement. Next chapter coming soon! Thanks for following.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on March 12, 2018:

What can I say, except I'm eagerly awaiting the next chapter. Reading this I feel sad and nostalgic, but happy also. I love Granny Janie's saying, "something go bad in the morning, and turn good in the afternoon". So much of life is like this.

Sam on March 09, 2018:

I grew up on cornmeal porridge, but I am not related to the Davises. I like Granny Davis' speech.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 06, 2018:

Thanks, Nikki, for observing the hills and the valleys. Glad the story strikes you as real life, because it is.

Nikki Khan from London on March 06, 2018:

Amazing story, make you smile and you get sad on some things as you do in normal life.

Looking forward for next one.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 06, 2018:

Thanks, Bill. I manually copied your comment, because I want to register your input.

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

Thanks, Flourish. Still trying to write something enjoyable.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 01, 2018:

I’ve seen some traits pop up in relatives who had no contact with an ancestor or far flung relative but their resemblance in personality or looks can be uncanny. Genes are hard to deny. Still enjoying this wonderful story.

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

Jackie, it was a favorite back then (not sure for now when mothers go for the ready made stuff). I still like it very much.

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

Bill, thanks for your trust. I'm pushing forward, hoping the result is satisfying.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 01, 2018:

I know this story is going to make me feel good...I'm positive of it! Looking forward to more.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 01, 2018:

Seems Mom made it for breakfast, like cereal. I love my sweets too. No danger to me so far. I will probably half the recipe though.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 28, 2018:

Thanks, Frank for continuing to follow. You will enjoy the cornmeal porridge if you ever try it.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 28, 2018:

Thanks, Jackie. Feel free to look for other recipes because this one is short on sugar, but I like my porridge sweet. It will taste good either way.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 28, 2018:

Thanks, Mary. There are certain aspect of Caribbean life I still cannot shake. I still like cornmeal porridge.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on February 28, 2018:

this is still a good story, everything falls into place.. perhaps I too can some day taste that cornmeal pudding thanks for this wonderful share MsDora

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on February 28, 2018:

I have always wondered about children picking up habits from their parents. This proves it was not from living with her father and watching him.

Great story and I am enjoying it all and want to try the cornmeal pudding. Am thinking I have had it at a young age so will see if I remember that taste. Thank you for the story and recipe. GB

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 28, 2018:

I like your story very much but I enjoy most knowing a bit of Caribbean culture. I don't think I ever had cornmeal porridge. I want to try this.