Caribbean Story Part 6: Going to Curaçao?
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 issued invitations to others. Myra and Mona Spooner had been invited to come seek their fortune.
Isla Oil Refinery, Curaçao Opened in 1915
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.
Which household do you think would be better for Miranda?
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.”
“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 well-dressed 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
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 with you. 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?
© 2018 Dora Weithers