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Caribbean Story Part 6: Going to Curaçao?

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 5, Miranda remembers the accounts of her grandmothers (maternal Granny, Janie Davis and paternal Grandma, Mattie Spooner) concerning the passing of her father. In this episode, Miranda is three years old. A major opportunity is offered to her paternal aunts, Myra and Mona Spooner, and they extend the invitation to her mother Lulu Davis. Maternal Granny Janie weighs in.

The Curaçao Opportunity

Caribbean folks in the 1940s and 50s considered the Island of Curaçao one of the best places to earn a living. Oil had been discovered off the coast of Venezuela and Shell Oil had constructed the Isla Oil Refinery on the nearby Dutch island. Thousands of Caribbean women migrated to work as domestic servants to the wealthy Dutch people; and on securing their work status, they invited others. Myra and Mona Spooner had been invited to come seek their fortune.

Isla Oil Refinery, Curaçao Opened in 1915

Photo Credit: Laika ac from USA

Photo Credit: Laika ac from USA

Among the treasures they would leave behind was their beautiful niece Miranda, now three years old. Her mother Lulu had established the habit of bringing her to the Spooner’s household every Sunday after Grandma Mattie and the two glamorous aunts came home from church. They treated the little girl like a delicate centerpiece to be spruced up continually for display. After every hug, kiss and cuddly embrace, they restored her fresh look.

Miranda loved the abundant show of affection, especially since back at home in the Davis’ household, both Granny Janie and Mamma Lulu withheld expressions of love fearing that affection would undermine discipline. The Spooners discussed having Miranda live with them; but now Myra and Mona were planning to leave.

A Novel Idea

Grandma Mattie marveled every time she noticed Miranda’s preference for foods that her late father liked: cold instead of warm porridge, raw instead of cooked carrots, savory instead of sweet snacks. For her, the little girl brought back sweet memories of her late son, and she loved the child as much as she loved the father. One of the reasons she was excited about her daughters leaving is that she knew how Miranda would benefit with gifts of little sassy-looking outfits and toys she would not otherwise receive.

One Sunday evening, at the sight of Lulu approaching the door to get Miranda, a question jumped seemingly out of the blue into Myra’s mind. She opened the door, and greeted Lulu with, “Lulu, you want to go with Mona and me to Curaçao?”

For a full half minute, Lulu did not answer and nobody spoke―that is until Miss Mattie found her breath. “Miranda sure didn’t take after you. She doesn’t wait that long to answer anybody. But, Myra, that is a good idea.”

Too Shy

“Who will take care of Miranda?” That was Mona who often leaped from the present to the future and its consequences. “Miss Janie got to get up early, to get to the cane field by seven o’clock. Josie is too scatterbrain to mind this sweet little girl. She would suffer.” She turned to Miranda already leaning on Lulu’s shoulder. “You want Auntie Josie to mind you?”

“No!” pouted Miranda.

“See what I mean?” Grandma Mattie laughed. "I could keep Miranda. I could take her down to Seaside Village when Miss Janie got time to see her.” Turning to Lulu, she reminded her, “Lulu you still have to answer. You want to go to Curaçao?”

“You got to ask Mamma.”

“You too shy to talk to your own mother?” asked Mattie, beckoning Lulu to sit down.

“Is better for you to ask her. And we don’t have any money.” All the while Lulu’s thoughts were racing about how life would improve if she got the opportunity to work as a domestic in Curaçao. Myra and Mona would become her friends, and it would be an honor for her to spend time with such privileged women.

Still Lulu could not manage to express any excitement or the delightful thoughts whirling around in her head.

"Lulu, did you and Manny talk about any plans for Miranda?" Mona was serious. "What did he have to say?"

"He gone." Lulu got up and grabbed her baby bag. "Why we got to talk about him? She walked through the door.

The Grandmothers' Disagreement

Mattie Spooner walked down to the Davises at Seaside Village to deliver the passport application forms which Myra brought from the city for Lulu. Lulu came outside, snatched them from her, whispered thanks under her breath and hurried back inside the house. Janie watched from the outdoor kitchen.

“Miss Mattie, what’s that you give to Lulu?” Janie shouted. She had to feed the fire with wood and could not leave right away.

Three Stone Fire

Part of Seaside Village Life in the 1940s and 50s.  Photo Credit: Alex Kamweru/UN

Part of Seaside Village Life in the 1940s and 50s. Photo Credit: Alex Kamweru/UN

Mattie drew near the kitchen entrance so that she did not have to shout. “Did Lulu tell you that we want her to go to Curaçao with Myra and Mona?”

“What?” Janie started laughing in spurts, and humorously managed, “If you hear me really laugh, you will think I rich. Where Lulu going to get the passage money?”

“Miss Janie, me and the girls want to help Lulu make a decent living. We doing it for Manny and for Miranda. I could keep Miranda while you working and you will get to see her whenever you want.”

As the Caribbean comedians often say, “Who tell her to say dat?” Miss Janie rushed to the kitchen door, and stood with her face half an arm's length from Mattie’s.

“You son did enough for my daughter. Now, you want to send her away from me? You want to take away my granddaughter and raise her like she from Tamarind Alley so she could say that she don’t know anybody down here in the village? Miss Mattie, I thought you did want something good for Miranda.”

Miss Mattie caught a similar mood. "And you think that cooking on three stones, and sleeping on a grass bed is something good? People like you . . . You know what? I ain't wasting any words. I will talk with Lulu when I see her.”

It was the first time that the grandmothers had shown anger towards one another, but beneath their vexation was their great love for the granddaughter they shared. Lulu was listening from inside the house, and wondering what her fate would be.

“By the way,” she thought, “where is Curaçao, and will it be far enough away from Seaside Village?

Curaçao

Located at the Southern part of the Caribbean Sea between the islands of Aruba and Bonaire, just 35 miles north of Venezuela. Willemstad is the capital. Photo Credit: Netherlands Antilles-CIA WFB Map

Located at the Southern part of the Caribbean Sea between the islands of Aruba and Bonaire, just 35 miles north of Venezuela. Willemstad is the capital. Photo Credit: Netherlands Antilles-CIA WFB Map

© 2018 Dora Weithers

Comments

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on August 26, 2020:

Dear Dora

I love your writing. You imbue each character with credible emotion and responses. The little drama between the grandmothers in this chapter is framed by their love for the little granddaughter. Beautiful.

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

Linda, it is my pleasure reminiscing about Caribbean life and sharing my thoughts. So glad that you appreciate my effort.

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

I'm enjoying reading the story as well as learning about Caribbean culture and history. Thank you for the education.

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

True, Devika. This migration to Curaçao is part of our Caribbean history. I still wish that I could visit.

DDE on April 06, 2018:

An interesting history lesson here that I had no clue of and you explained in through an informative story.

manatita44 from london on April 02, 2018:

Yes, and Trinidad too. Nice story.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on April 02, 2018:

Manatita, you might remember the days when Curaçao was like the Promised Land for domestic workers. I got my fair share of gilders.

manatita44 from london on April 02, 2018:

Opportunities and conflicts as regards the care of the young one. We face them so often in real life. Decisions can take us forward or backward. Dutch oil and money, eh? Why not?

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 30, 2018:

Thanks, for keeping up with the story. You're a great encouragement to me.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on March 30, 2018:

Well, I have some catching up to do. I can't wait to see what Lulu decides.

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

Thanks Peg. For me, it is a treat reminiscing about those cultural beginnings.

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

I love glimpsing into the lives and livelihood of the Caribbean people along with their customs and sayings. Learning so much about their traditions and ways from your story.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 11, 2018:

Thanks Bill. Glad you like the visuals. Hope the story continues to delight you.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on March 11, 2018:

Hi, Dora. There seems to be much love floating around Miranda. I liked the map you shared. It helps me envision even more what's taking place. Good story and I look forward to each new chapter!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 09, 2018:

Thanks Sam, for showing an interest. Comments like yours encourage me to keep going.

Sam on March 09, 2018:

Dora, this is a good story. It is interesting for Caribbean people as well as for people outside the region. Janie is my favorite character so far. Keep it going.

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

Thanks, Frank. The history is such an important plot of lives, is we would pay attention.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on March 08, 2018:

MsDora I never realized it, but I agree with Jackie, you are teaching in a different format.. Love the story and the historic... Teacher you..:)

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

Thanks, Flourish. I appreciate your input. You raised a very important concern.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 07, 2018:

She has a wonderful problem that so many people love her. It’s so much better than no one caring about your future. I hope they teach her to be brave and smart.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 07, 2018:

Thanks, Jackie. Kind comments like yours are very encouraging.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 07, 2018:

You are teaching in this story Dora. I love to hear about different places and I just always loved the name Curacao. It is like a snappy sound unlike the southern I am used to.

Will be interested to see how it all works out!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 07, 2018:

Thanks, Mary. I've been to Curaçao, but I have relatives and friends who have been there. Enjoy it, if you get there.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 07, 2018:

Thanks, Ron. Curaçao was to the smaller islands then, what the Virgin Islands were to them until recently. Working there was a big deal.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 07, 2018:

Thanks, Bill. I'm thrilled that you, a master story teller find my story engaging. I'm encouraged.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 07, 2018:

I did not know how the oil industry affected the Caribbean until you brought it up here. We were planning once to visit Curacao as they said it is really beautiful but we never did it. Now you have piqued my interest.

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on March 07, 2018:

Dora, this story just drew me in. I didn't know about Curaçao, and it's fascinating to see what the prospect of working there meant in the lives of these women.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

Not only an engaging story, Dora, but educational as well. I love learning about other cultures.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 07, 2018:

Thanks, Nikki. So happy that you like the story. Happy to share it with appreciative readers like you.

Nikki Khan from London on March 07, 2018:

Very engaging and fascinating story,,got to know about Curaçao,,loved that three stones stove,, a village thing in asian ethnicity as well.

And love of both grandmas was just the most wonderful thing to read.

Bless you Dora for sharing amazing things with us.