Month: July 2015
“Idovia” was my maternal grandmother’s name, but we called her “Dodo.” I must admit, she was a unique character. One thing for sure, she didn’t bargain with nonsense, and her tongue was as sharp as a two-edged swords. Furthermore, her fearsome stares were like murder attempts, so everyone knew not to piss her off whenever she was having a bad day.
After reading this story, you should pretty much sum up my Grandmother’s character. Enjoy!
“Now, Dodo what is it I heard you cursed the priest during your confession?” She was asked by one of my great uncles.
As she pulled her donkey toward the gigantic mango tree, she did not even bother to turn her head back while she murmured, “Is it your damn business whether I cursed the priest or the angels?”
Her cousin replied, “You think you’re a tough old lady, but one of these days, the Good Old Lord will bargain with you couzin!”
After she tied the donkey, she slowly walks back toward him. Her bow legs were notable, which made her look even shorter standing next to him, but she was always fearless. She then placed both hands on her hip,
Yes, I’m as tough and raw as a steak, and stubborn as a mule. The Good Old Lord created me just like that, you have a proble with that? “Besides, that damn priest was asking me about my grand-daughter; had nothing to do with my confession!”
“Now cousin, he was just asking you about Angel, he probably missed the child since she’s been gone, what’s wrong with that?”
“Oh please, he’s not about to find out from me! Why the hell he wants to know anyway?”
The old man felt annoyed by her behavior, slightly raised his voice. “Now Dodo, you went to confession, instead, you end up sinning even more. So why even bother?”
“Oh please! Lived to be one hundred one years – Seen all the shit and neat in this life, cursing a priest won’t make any difference.”
After she rushed to grab a large piece of wood, she said “Now, don’t you raise your crocodile voice on me either, or I will bust every dry bone in your body.”
Since he knew he was tramping on thin ice, he started walking away. Standing at at distant from her, he said,
“Can’t imagine what could have gone so wrong so early in the morning; just five in the mornin’ cousin.”
She yelled, “Your face is what’s wrong cousin! “It’s bad enough you’re drinking my coffee at five o’clock in the mornin’ – but you show up here with your shirt looking like dirt buying filth to talk about my damn business!”
He yelled back, “Your coffee? Couzin this is not your coffee! Remember, I planted, harvested and even grilled the coffee beans before I gave them to you.”
After she snatched the cup from him she said, “AND? Still wasn’t no damn coffee till I broiled the water and add the sugar. Then I had to serve you in my damn cup too! Plus, while you’re sitting here farting on my chair, I have to stare at your face, looking like a bee nest.”
“You’re sure one mean woman – don’t know how the hell you got married!” He said.
“What can I say couzin? “Been in training here in hell since I was a little girl, and just about to transition to heaven now; away from you. Ain’t an easy task either!”
“Heaven?” Her cousin answered. “ If I were the Good Old Lord, I wouldn’t let you live one million miles from me; you’ll probably take over!”
“Damn right I will! – After I marry Him! Now get off my land before I bust your lips!”
HEAVEN CAN WAIT!
The story I’m about to tell you is about a little girl, who believed in honesty at all costs. Of course, a blend of true and friction. So enjoy.
During my visit to my great auntie’s, I heard a few stories dated back from my childhood. I was trying to see, how far back my memory would serve me. So, I asked her to share them with me.
“If you knew Mamma?” She answered me. “You were Mama’s little friend, before she passed away. In fact, you were the last one who saw her alive. You were a tiny little thing too. Chubby, light skinned girl. Pretty little girl indeed!
That morning, you ran out of mamma’s room screaming, from the top of your little lungs: “Give me some lemonade and lots of ice! Great auntie is going away. And, where she’s going is very ho!”
“Now, I know Mamma wasn’t going anywhere. At least, she hadn’t told me anything yet. So I answered the pretty thing, “Mamma not going nowhere my girl; so where you got that from?” After you puffed up your lips, with your hands on your hip, you answered me: “Yes, Great auntie is going to hell!”
“Now my girl, you stop talking nonsense, you hear me!” True enough, as I walked back to the house to Mamma. OMG! Don’t you know when I called Mamma, she was dead. I realized then, Mamma’s journey had ended, here on this side. It was a shock to everyone. But I think you blamed yourself for not giving Mamma her last glass of lemonade. Because, you kept on yelling: “I told you Great Auntie was going to hell, now she left without the cold lemonade.”
The poor girl refused to eat or say anything else, till the day of the funeral, when she heard Father Big-Ear saying:
“Now, we don’t need to be sad at Make-a-Choice departure. Because she’s in a much better place than us. She’s in heaven with the Lord!”
You immediately jumped on your foot, and stepped up the bench. With your tiny hands on your hip, you happened to pull up one side of your dress, to reveal the little ruffles you had sewn on your pantie earlier, so your butt can look big. They were all hanging behind your chubby little legs. Everyone was wondering “What is that hanging behind Here-I-Am daughter’s legs, under her dress? But, you did not care. You walked straight on the Altar to ask Father Big-Ear permission to speak.
“Sure Angel! Go head!” Father answered you.
So you said:
“Great auntie, does not like when people lie on her. So, I have to tell you what happened. Because, she sure would not be happy to hear she went to heaven. NO. She told me, she did not want to go to heaven.”
How I know that? It’s because that same morning, I was laying down on her fat tommy, right after we ate some good, spicy fish together. So I said to Great Auntie, “I dreamed you were going on a long trip. You were packing all your stuff. When I asked you “Can I come with you?” You answered: “Not now my girl, you are much too young!” So after auntie heard my dream, auntie said. “My time is up my girl!”
“What’s that mean auntie?” I asked her.
“It means, I’m getting ready to live this earth.”
“You’re going to heaven?”
“Oh no honey, I don’t want to go to heaven, it’s too cold up there.” My legs always hurting me from ism illness (Rheumatism) because of the cold. You see all the white cloud from up there in heaven, my girl? They are as cold as ice. And, being from the Island, I would rather go somewhere hot.”
“But Father always said, the only place hot, is in hell great auntie!”
“Then, I rather go there!”
“But your butt is going to be on fire Great auntie!”
“Child, I’ve been good, so I’m sure God will turn it to paradise for me.”
“So let me run and get you some cold lemonade, so you won’t feel the heat then!”
“Ok my girl!”
So, I ran out to tell Auntie, “Auntie Make-A-choice is going to hell, so we need to make her some lemonade with lots of ice! “But nobody believed me! “And, when auntie went back in the room with me, auntie Make-A-choice was gone. She left home without the cold lemonade. Mm-Mm! So please don’t lie on auntie again.”
Everybody had a great laugh that day. We had forgotten it was a funeral. The priest wanting to encourage us to attend Mass, interpret Angel’s dream as a form of warning from the Lord. But I still prayed for Mamma every day since her burial, although I did not know where mamma’s soul went.
But one year later, after we had a mass for Mamma, I was seating right here under this mango tree. I must have dosed off to sleep, when I saw Mamma standing in front of me all sweating. I forgot she was dead, so I said to her:
“Mamma, you seem mighty hot dear, sweating all over the place, do you want some lemonade and ice?” She answered me:
“My butt is constantly on fire, and you think a cup of lemonade could help me out???”
That’s when I realized my girl was telling the truth. Lord have mercy – The girl sure was RIGHT! Mm!!! Since that day, Dodo and I went to church every Sunday. Then we started going to confession every week as well.
But on our first confession, Dodo sure cursed the poor priest. When Father Big-Ear asked her, “By any chance, are you related to angel? He was referring to my girl, for that’s how they called her at the church. So Dodo answered him.
“What is it to you if she’s related to me or not. That’s none of your damn business! I’m only here because I don’t want to go to hell. So, why the hell do you want to know, who the hell is my family?”
Then the priest answered: “Well, it seems to me, you’ve already made your acquaintance with hell. So why the hell are you running from hell, by coming here for confession?”
Then Dodo answered him: “Since misery loves company, I came to drag you with me!”
So when I heard the commotion between them two, I had to rush and drag my sister from there, because knowing her, I knew she was ready to strangle the poor priest.
When I kindly asked the priest to forgive her. “My sister always had a smart mouth.” I told him. But he just answered:
“I’m used to it my child. I know smart mouth runs in the family my child. Because Angel was here every day, confessing on behalf of her family!
To Be Continued.
We were left both astonished and inspired by Smartgirl -Americannow story. We had laughed so much, our laughter reservoir had dried out. When we were called for dinner, let’s say my auntie had prepared enough food to feed the whole population in Haïti. Between four to six plantains, plus some veggie, and a bucket of rice for each one of us. Those of us from the city were not accustomed to eat as much. Our dinner usually consisted of a small salad, a plantain, and some rice. But when she realized we did not finished the whole tray of goat, she had convinced herself that we all needed a laxative; which by the way she gave me that same night prior bed; I had diarrhea till I filled up the four corners of the world with…
The following morning during breakfast, she mentioned how I used to dream when I was a little girl. “If we even sneezed inside our bedroom, Foufoune you used to dream it,” she said. Then she asked my father, “Does she still dreams?”
Papy answered “not as often, but quite often she will be pre-warned me of upcoming danger; like a car accident we just had.”
Then auntie yelled “Titletales, go fetch some herbs, make some tea – Foufoune’s dreaming angel is not well – “Don’t know what happened to her gift? But, will fix that for you too my girl!”
“Do you still see angels Foufoune? She asked me.”
“No auntie, I see demons now.”
“Titletales, get some herbs, she’s seeing demons now – don’t know what happened to the angels!” Then she called me toward her and said: “Now you’re still pure aren’t you?”
“Yes auntie, still pure. “
“Got to keep that closed up, till you get married, here me? Know, you city girls think differently, but OMG! Do you remember Secret’s story? “Hope you learned from her!”
Then she turned her attention toward my father. “Gineer, my girl was but five years old when she kept on telling me, “Auntie, I see Secret holding a baby boy, right here under this mango tree.”
“Not possible my girl!” I answered her. Because I knew Secret ain’t know no man yet, fact we were looking for a husband for her, but she had bad luck. Just gave her some tea a few months ago. But, my girl would not stop. She kept on telling me bout the same dream over and over, saying: “Auntie Mangotree, I saw Secret with a big baby boy. And, you were calling her another name too!”
“So I thought to myself, Secret has been getting heavy lately! Although I thought it was the effect of the cleansing tea I was giving her to clear out her bad luck. But, low and behold! That same afternoon, Secret legs were wide open. “Heaven was shitting! Yes, heaven sure was shitting, when she popped forth a fat baby boy! Imagine how shocked I was? So I almost fainted. then I said: “You ain’t pure no more child! Now, we changing your name to “Secret – It’s-all-over!” Afterward, had to drink some tea to heal me from that shock. But thank God, the baby papa married her, so she wasn’t lost after all. So her name was changed back to Secret again.”
Papy said: ‘But why did you guys called her Secret anyway?”
“Because her Mamma was just eighteen when she had her in secret too – and she never got married after that either!”
“Foufoune come to auntie so I can examine you. “Turn around and let me see your ass!”
After I turned, while she was touching my butt, she said:
“Now my girl, you can’t go around with your Papa’s ass; flat as an iron! You’re a girl, and you need a little chunk of ass – “No man is going to marry you if you have ass like your Papa’s – You knew that since you were five years old. You use to turn your new sax into ruffles and sew them in the back of your panties, and dresses. “Gineer, we couldn’t hide the needles from her, they were her best friends. “Remember for my Mamma’s funeral, we were dressing her up, when she finally open her mouth to speak again. She had stopped speaking since the day Mamma died. “Auntie MangoTree”, she said. “When I walk I want my butt to say: “Vip-Pip-Vip-Pip – Doum-Boum-Doum.” She sure did Gineer! Then Foufoune walked all the way to the cemetery, with the lace ruffles half sewn in the back of her panty, hanging behind her chubby little legs. And she was shaking her butt, while talking to Mamma: “Look at me Great auntie – Look at me! I’m shaking my butt just for you! All along she was repeating:“Vip-Pip-Vip-Pip – Doum-Boum-Doum! Vip-Pip-Vip-Pip – Doum-Boum-Doum!” And, shortly after, everybody started laughing – So much so, we forgot it was a funeral. Foufoune had even the priest laughing. Then I said, “She was the last one who saw Mamma alive, and she hadn’t spoken since. But Mamma made sure she brought our girl back to us. “Yes, Mamma wouldn’t have it any other way, for humor was Mamma’s gift!”
“But you know what? I have to thank the big tall lady standing right in the ocean. Her name is Hattan.”
“Papy looking puzzled, then said: Who?”
“You don’t know her Gineer? You lived in the strange land, and you don’t’ know the Mother of the land? She’s a tall, green lady. And, she’s holding some fire in her hand!”
“Oh! You mean in “MAN “HATTAN?”
“Now Gineer, when I went to see her, she did not look like a “Man,” they even said she was a woman!”
“She’s in Manhattan, I said!”
“No Gineer, (Meaning engineer) she’s in the strange land. Auntie took me to see her before I came back here! I remember that morning as crystal clear, when she told me:
“Now I know you have a smart head on your shoulder, because since you were four years old, you would cry like a baby for your Mamma to let you pump her breast milk. But’ we found out two years later, after you bought your first set of goat, you were actually selling your mamma’s breast milk, to the dry breast mamma’s, so they can feed their newborn baby.”
“Really? I don’t remember that auntie.”
“Yes you did! In fact, when we asked you: “Where did you get all that money Girl?” You answered: “You guys thought I was retarded when I was pumping Mamma’s milk! “But, I was taking care of my business! “So that’s when we changed your name to “Smart-Girl”
“So what was your name before then?” My sister asked her.
“I just said it. My name was “Girl” before that! – My Mamma had nine boys before she finally had a girl, so she called me “Girl!” Like I was saying. Auntie said:
“I’m taking you to see another Smart girl, and she’s the mother of this strange land. You can talk to her, whenever we get there.”
When I got there, OMG! No wonder she’s called the mother of the land? She was a giant! But when I saw people walking in and out of her, I thought that was too disrespectful. Instead, I stood outside all day talking to her. So I said:
“Beautiful Smart Lady, my name is Smartgirl, and I’m from Haïti. It’s and Island down there on earth. “I see how you take care of your children, they have nice house and food all over the place. I’ve even spent hours picking up some quata and thyme (quarter and dime) from the ground since I’ve been here, and I have a few buckets filled with them now. I came to your country because back home they always said, anyone name American will never have to live in poverty. “You see, I would stay here because auntie is going to get me the green paper the Igration (Immigration) asked for, but I don’t want to stay. “It’s too damn cold in here! “Oh! I’m sorry for cursing front of you too! “So I want to go back home, but I want to live just like your children when I get there. So, I’m changing my name to Americannow, so you can help me too. Now, I have to tell you folks, and that’s an honest confession: “The moment I was done talking to her, this thought came to mind: “Why not go back to Haïti, and turn my people to Americannow too!
So I went back home with a plan. My mager friend had already told me I could send stuff to Haiti by boat. So, I started shipping the boxes of coins to papa, and all the empty spaghetti sauce, and alcohol bottles I had collected from all the stupid Haitian. I sent a message to auntie: “Heaven came down! Sale all the bottles, and help the poor. Save the rest, coming back home soon!” Do you remember what else I sent you auntie?
Auntie answered: You sent that thing that make the strange sound “tra-tra-tac, and “
Oh yes! I sent a typewriter, a camera, and the big light machine. I can even make a copy of my hand with it. I don’t remember what it’s called.”
Papy answered: “Are you referring to copy machine?”
“Gineer, you are a smart Man. How did you know? This is exactly what they call them too! “But I thank God I did that, because the day the tall blue eyes men came to the house, to ask me for the green paper; I only had a chance to get my money from under the mattress. But at the airport, when I walked through that machine, they had to pull me aside to ask me:
“What do you have on you?”
I answered them: “None of your damn business!
“They said: “Do you have over $10,000.00 on you?!”
So I answered them: “And why would I want to share this information with you – so you can have the Mafia come and rob me? I saw that on your TV one day, so don’t’ think I don’t I know what’s going on!!!”
After that, they placed me in a room, almost turned me upside down, in order to shake me like a yoyo. After they made me angry, “I took my bra off, and you know what else. After I bent over, I asked them:
“Do you want to see more?”
They all ran out of the room and told me: “Get dress! Get dress PLEASE!”
I looked at them and said “You Dumbo! It’s a good thing I’m getting a free ticket back home from you guys. I could have given you the green paper you asked for, instead I choose to give you a white piece of paper so you can sheep me back home for FREE!”
Then one of the guy who held my passport said: “Your name is Smartgirl, but you should have been called: “Smart mouth too!”
So I answered him: “No! For your info, that’s my little cousin’s nickname! “Even the angels call her by that name!” As she turned to me to say:
“Foufoune, I was talking about you!”
After we all laughed our heart out, my father finally asked her:
“But, how much money could you have saved in three years?”
“Hihihi! Papa was shipping me some mangoes and plantains, which I sold to the stupid Haïtian who lived there.” So between my three panties and my two bras, I had $25,741.03!!!”
Then she turned to auntie to say: “Auntie, did I tell you I saw “Richboy” working in a store there? He had a blue uniform on, and had to stand aaaall day on his feet. “So when I asked him:
“How much are you getting paid to stand on your precious feet for sooo long Richboy? He answered something like “A minus wave!” (Minimum wage)
“So I cursed him out, auntie – I sure did! “Why would you come in the strange land to freeze your butt off, while working for a minus something, when you have over twenty acres of land full of chicken, goat, plantain and shit?” “Anything with the sound of minus, can’t be profiting you that much?” He must have been embarrassed because he kept on looking on the floor. “That’s when I knew, I would rather save my money, in order to get the hell out of that strange land, before I freeze my but off, and go coucou like all the stupid Haïtian who lived there. “You know, most of them had to work two jobs just to pay the bills. And, whenever I saw them, they always look like a needle pen wrapped in a comforter. Honestly I could never understand what they were saying to me; They will say:
“How-how-how R-R-R You-hu-hu-hu?” Because their butt was freezing!” I would answer:
“Am-am N’ot Fa- ah- ah – ine! Because my but was freezing too.”
“So what type of business do you have American?” I curiously asked her.
“Hihihi! My name is not American, It’s “AmericanNOW!” “When I first came back to Haïti, I just place a sign in front of my front door: “DO YOU WANT TO BE AMERICANNOW?” The same day, I had over 400 people in front of my door. In fact I had to hire some helpers right away!
“But what do you do?” I asked her again.
“Wait! I’m telling you. “When they came in, I told them: “I just came back from the strange land, it’s not worth going up there, unless you want to go to school. “Told them about Richboy working for $5.00 an hour. Everybody said: “What? Now heaven is shitting!”
So after my speech, told them “The only way we can break this poverty spell off our Country, we will have to do the followings:
- First, let’s add Americannow to our name, we will be living just like the American, the only exception, “Our butt won’t be freezing like them.”
- We have to be willing to change our mentality – work together, in unify there is power.
- Let’s find a way to market our resources, the other Islands are already doing that, even though they are selling nothing but CRAP!
So for those who agreed, I only charged them $100.00 for the paper work. I gave them a green piece of paper with their picture on it. I also teach them how to speak their new language for free. But I call it “Frenchglish,” since there are many words I couldn’t even pronounce! We all had lands full of plantation, plus cow, chicken, goats… you name it. So we decided to open an “AmericanNOW Supermarket” just like in the strange land. With cool air and everything.
“You mean the Supermarkets in the City are for you guys?”
“Of course! We have four of them now. Finally coming to the Country side now! Have you noticed the “Rich People Freezer” near the back? I know you guys like your escargot, which we pick up for free around here. But only one thing, we don’t deal with foolishness. Anyone who refuse to let the country progress, we will blow their heads off! This is how we deal with the robbers. First, they must ask them these three questions:
- Are you hungry or homeless?
“If they are hungry, feed them. If they are homeless, send them to the shelter. “Give them this address for a job offer.”
“Then tell them: “Next time we will blow your head off!
- Is your child, your mamma or papa sick in the hospital?
“If they answered yes, send them to bill care.”
“If they said: “What the hell are you talking about? “Blow their heads off.”
- Do you or your child, or your younger brother, or sister want to go to school, perhaps you don’t have the money to pay …?
“If they say “yes” sent them to school care.
“If they answered: “Why the hell do I want to go to school for? “Blow – their -heads – off!!!”
The Americannow entreponor (entrepreneur) have zero tolerance for bull shit! After over 200 years of independence, Haïti must move forward!”
“Excuse me again for my bad language, Mr. & Ms. Gineer, auntie and the children! “Sometimes it’s only fitting to say a good “Shit!” Learn that from the Strange Land too!!!”
Is that my Foufoune I see?”
‘OMG! It is you Auntie Mango tree! Me said you always wore white, so I always didn’t stop.”
“Who is Me? And yes, I always wear white!”
“You have a blue dress on auntie?
“I do? You sure it’s not white?”
“Auntie, you don’t know who “ME” is? We saw him on our way here, he said he was my uncle!”
“Oh! You must mean Mama’s neighbor. But his name is “Put-ME-Down” my girl! “It’s a long story, first come and give me a hug! Cant’s see too well, but can tell, seven of you are standing in front of me?”
“Yes, Auntie. My sisters and bro are here with Papy.”
“Gineer is here too? Oh my! Now I understand what Titletales was saying. She rushed here like a storm, to say “Heaven came down! Heaven came down! “Kill the white goat, wash the mangoes, we need some coffee and bread. “I will go fetch the buckets for the shit and pi!”
“So I answered who is coming?”
“Don’t know auntie, but must be very important people!!! “I’m Just the messenger – Ain’t telling no tales either!”
I gave auntie a big kiss and a hug. As she held and kissed me, she said: “OMG! Just skin and bones – Now Gineer, hope you don’t think you’re leaving today, got to take care of my girl before she leaves.”
Then she asked me: “Foufoune, have you had your laxative this year? Bet you haven’t – Titletales, bring here the coffee, the mango and bread, and go fetch me some herbs and the oil for the laxative. My girl needs cleansing, she’s nothing but skin and bones!”
“Yes auntie!” Answered the young girl.
“Bring the buckets here too, just in case those City folks need to shit and pi!”
“Yes auntie, washing them now!”
We all sit down, as coffee and bread were being served to us. A young man carried two large bags of mango, and placed them before us. After auntie was informed about my school grades, she said.
“Now Gineer, thought you were in the strange land, don’t live there no more?”
“Papy looking puzzled, “Strange land?”
“Yeah! You know, where money is falling all over the ground! Then she turned back to ask Titletales who was sitting on the floor, not too far from her.
“Titletales, what’s Smart-girl new name again? She just came from the strange land.”
“Oh! Her name is American-Now auntie!”
“Exactly! American-Now was sent back here, because she didn’t show the green paper they asked her for.”
“Green paper? You mean the green card?” Papy said.
“I don’t know Gineer! “Where is she anyway? Let me have her tell you her story. Oh! Here she is!”
“Oui auntie. Good afternoon everyone! “She kissed everyone of us, went on to kiss auntie as well.”
“Come and tell these folks why the tall white men sent you back from the white people’s country – You know she’s a business woman now! “Tell them about your business too!”
Amerian-Now was wearing an American Flag top with a jean. She laughed then said:
“I went to the strange land up there three years ago. After the plane dropped us, I saw the cloud, (snow) I realized I did not want to stay there because it was too cold. “You see aallll those clouds up above our heads, they are heading straight to that strange land. It gets so cold over there that, even when I was wearing ten panties, and three stockings, my butt was still freezing. Couldn’t feel my nose one day, and thought I was dying. “Hell! How was I supposed to breathe without a nose? I thought to myself.
While I lived there, I saved auntie Coucou over $100.00 in electronic bill. (Electric bill). “After I told her one day: “Now, why do you need to pay that extra bill for the fridge, when you have a freezer right outside your door and your backyard?”
“Auntie said, “Now we can’t use outside to keep our food freezing?”
“Why not? Leave everything up to me auntie, and I promise you, your electronic bill won’t be so high by next Month.” So I kept all the meat and the juice right under the cloud that fell in the front porch, and they were never spoiled either. “Even when I made my lemonade, I just went and grabbed some cloud, blend it in my juice, and it was so cold, had to soak my teeth in some warm water afterward. Damn! Oh! Excuse me you all for cursing. “I learned a few curse words while I lived there.”
As she turned toward auntie Good-Mercy, she said:
“Auntie, I forgot to tell you that too. “People curse over there like rain falling. They fart and burp on people like crazy too! And, nobody will say a damn thing to them. Oh, excuse me again for cursing.
So one day, I was seating on the train, when that woman kept on burping and farting right next to me. It was so loud, everyone could hear her. So the last “Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr,” she did, I turned to her, and said:
“Didn’t your mamma taught you some manners? “You don’t “Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” on people like that, and don’t even say “excuse me!” Then she looked at me as if I was crazy. So I said: “Keep on looking at me like am crazy, I will turn you into a cow. You already sound like one anyway!” So that’s when a pretty white lady said to me:
“Which accent is that from?” I answered her:
“Do you see me cooking? Besides, even when am cooking, I don’t use any of the accents you white folks use here; they no good for you. Sometimes, I may use a tiny piece of Maggi, but that’s about it!”
Then she looked at me as if she didn’t understand, one word I said. So another tall black man said: “Oh, she was not referring to the accent, as in seasoning, she wanted to know where you were from?”
“Then why didn’t she just asked me that? Even If I told her we season our meat with lime, and hot pepper, she still wouldn’t know where I was from! Well, I’m from Haïti. It’s on the ground, down there. You guys are up here in the sky, but we are an Island from down there. Everybody started to look at me funny. Finally, I heard one voice asking me: “Did you say, you were from Haïti?”
“Yes I Am Mam!” I answered her.
“And did you just say you were going to turn that woman into a fat cow?”
“Yes I did. If she doesn’t stop “Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr on people!”
OMG! Auntie, everybody started running to the next section of the train. I had the whole space to myself!
“When I realized it was because they were afraid of me, I laughed and thought to myself: “Shuut! If I had that much power, I would have turned them into $1,000.00 bill, not a cow!”
After she laughed herself to tears, she continued: “And people from the strange land talk very different from us too. One day a guy asked me “What’s up?” I turned and looked at him. “What’s up?” You asking me? You should tell me what’s up. You are the one from the strange land up in the cloud, aren’t you? I’m from the Islands, way down there!”
That was the day, I was on my way to the store to buy some oil to cook for auntie. When I got there, guess what I saw? Some yam, and some mango, plantain and avocado for sale. But those damn things were so expensive, they were asking over $1.00 for one mango.
“You mean, a whole green Dollar? I would never eat a mango again!” Screamed auntie. “We sell these things for two pennies, and the strange people are – “Oh! Maybe it’s because they have to plant them in the cloud. Do they taste the same as ours?”
No Auntie, they get them from Jamaica. I don’t think they know how to plant them in the strange land. The avocado was even more expensive. So I took one, and went to the lady who was doing the ringring with the little machine in front of her, then asked her: “Are you crazy? Why are you charging a dollar for each mango? That’s too expensive. In my country, I shit and pi on those stuffs. I can even get you some for free, but you guys will have to pay for the plane ticket for them.” Suddenly, everybody started laughing. I didn’t know what was so funny either. So, the pretty white girl answered me:
“Please go speak to the Mager, at custom service.”
Then Papy said: “You mean “the Manager, at the Customer service?”
She answered as if it did not matter:
“I guess so Gineer, but I said what I heard. So when I went to custom and asked for the Mager, they answered: “Who?”
I answered, “I want to speak the the Mager, at custom service!”
But, thank God, he was standing right there. He turned and looked at me. Then, heaven came down!” I could hear my heart beating;“Bip-Bip-Bip,” and almost fell out of my chest too. “Never seen a good looking white boy like him before. But, he had a strange name. His name was John. So after he kept on saying, “Can I help you?” I finally came back to myself. Because I was already thinking of all the cute children we could have together. So she turned toward auntie to say:
“Now, auntie I know you taught us to keep it sealed till we get married, but I tell you auntie, I wouldn’t wait till I get married with him.”
“I can see why? Because when he came down here to check our lands, at first I thought he was God, and I’m not interested in no man either.” Auntie answered while laughing.
“He came to Haiti?” My father asked.
American-Now answered “That’s what I’m trying to tell you all, Am a business woman now! But first, let me tell you what I told him about the mango when I finally answered him. I said “Now sir, my name is Smart-Girl. I cannot understand for the life of me, why are you asking me to pay so much for these mangoes? In my country, we have over 20 acres full of them. In fact I use to shit and pi on them, when I was a little girl. And my little cousins are still running butt naked all over our land, shitting and piing on them too. Then, I squeezed the mango right in front of him and said: “And those mangoes are not even good quality either. No-no! For god’s sake, where are you getting these crap from?” So when I was done talking, the Mager was staring and smiling at me. My heart went “Bib-bib-Bib” again. Then he said, “You seem to know what you are talking about. Where are you from?”
“I was embarrassed to say I was from Haiti. I didn’t want him to start running like the others did in the train. “So he said: “Are you from Haiti by any chance? “I have a good friend who’s from there as well!”
“Yes, I sure am!” I answered him smiling. While in strange land, they called what I was doing “Flirting.” Because I really, really liked him.”
“Well, they ship them from Jamaica.” He said.
“Are you serious?” I yelled at him. Those things are shit and neat quality, they no good! “In that case why don’t you buy them from Haïti – from my family?”
He smiled, then he said, “Here’s my card, let me check the head something, gelation and custom, and I will get back to you. So please leave me your phone number so I can all you.”
Pappy interrupted her again to say: You mean “Regulation and custom.”
“That’s probably what he said. But, he said something about a head too. I didn’t know what he meant by that. Was it a cow or chicken head? I thought the white man didn’t believe in voodoo? So that was my only concern about the cute Mager.
So Papy answered, “No. He was referring to Voodoo. He meant he had to follow up with upper Management.”
“ I still gave him my aunties phone number and address.” And when I walked away, I realized my but was shaking : “Vip – Pip – Vip- Pip, Boum – Boum!” I turned to look at him, because I was embarrass. But, he was still looking at me! Hihiho!”
“You all know the end of the story. “He came down with another fat looking white man to buy some land from us. Now we ship some stuff back to them, including some coffee. But you know what? I have to thank the big tall lady standing right in the ocean. Her name is Hattan.”
“Papy looking puzzled, then said: Who?”
“You don’t know her Gineer? You lived in the strange land, and you don’t’ know the Mother of the strange land? She’s a tall, green lady standing in the ocean She’s holding some fire in her hand!”
“Oh! You mean in MANHATTAN?”
“Now Gineer, when I went to see her, she didn’t look like a MAN to me. And the people from there even said she was a woman, not a man!
To be continued
Yes. You heard it right. Foufoune was my childhood nickname, and it’s pronounced as “Foofoone!”
Would you like to know what it stands for in the Creole language? Well! I will tell you anyway. It is the private part of a baby girl! Yes, till this day, my mother’s family still calls me Foufoune, a baby’s vigina! So whenever my girls ask me: “Mom, what’s that nickname they just called you?”
“Oh! It stands for “procreate! “I was so beautiful as a young girl, my grandmother gave me that name. Then she would say: “I Hope you have children as beautiful as you are!” Don’t ask me what happened to you girls.”
So now that you have the Haïtian Country folk’s definition of direction, (discussed on part I of this story) let me share with you an actual journey to my grand-mother’s house. The most memorable one, I recalled I was twelve years old. Please keep in mind not all the names mentioned in the story were my actual family members, but there are actual people called by those names. For example, the real meaning of my biological mother’s name is “Here she is!” People back then named their children based on an event, or the baby’s action during their early childhood. So believe it or not, those strange names have profound impact upon our lives, to say the least, our culture.
It was mid-July, truly a sunny beautiful day. We arrived in Duvalier-Ville around ten thirty in the morning. Papy (how we called my father) decided to drive through the dirt road which would lead us to my grandmother’s house. He was driving for about thirty minutes when we reached a dead end. Thankfully, about the same time, an old man on a donkey stopped. So my father greeted him, and asked him for direction:
“Good morning Monsieur!”
“Good morning ouiii!” He answered.
“Could you please tell us how to get to Dodo’s house?”
He did not say a word for a few seconds. Instead, he started walking toward my father’s car, then he stared at my father. He took a long and good look at my step mother, for a quick second, gazed at us in the back.
“You going to Dlodlo’s plantation you said – Are you related to her?”
“I’m taking her granddaughter to see her.” My father answered him.
Sudenly his tone of voice changed, his faced brightened with a smile: “Really? Who the mamma, or papa is? Don’t tell me – Is she Sun’s daughter? Then while he talks to himself, he said: (That’s the oldest one – probably not.) Then she must be Venus, or Mars, or, “What’s her name again?”
He place his hand on his forehead, while seriously thinking. “I forgot her name – But I know the whole family, you know!”
“You do?” Papy answered cheerfully. “ I’m glad we are talking to you then!” But he was too busy thinking, so he did not hear one word from my father. He continued.
“Lets tee! I belie Dlodlo haaa, twel chilren. (Meaning: I believe Dodo had twelve children) I remember Tar, (he meant to say Star), “Neverforget, She-is-here, or She-was-born, or Here-she-Is.” Can’t never remember that one – Hihihi! “I told you I know the whole family.”
Papy interrupted to say: “The third one name is “Here-she-is, because her daughter is in the car with us.”
“You mean, the pretty little fat light skinned baby she had with the Gineer? “Non-non-non! Don’t tell ME that!”
“Yes she is, and I’m the engineer – But the little baby girl you knew is now twelve. – Nadege, say hello!”
After jumping for joy, he said: “Oh my Goodness, now that’s something! Heaven came down! Heaven sure caaame down!!! “ Foufoune is here with you?”
“Hello!” As I raised my hand. And all my siblings said hello to him as well.
“OMG! Now look at Foufoune –Always askin bout you, your mamma tell you? “And you Gineer, sure didn’t know it was you. Bout half blind now, so I can’t see well, and I lost all my teeth since I was a little boy – Look: “Hee!” (He basically gave us a big smile so he can show us he only had two teeth left.) Then he put his head inside the car:
“Where is Foufoune? “I don’t see any light skinned chubby girl here! Which one is she again Gineer?”
I answered: “Here I Am!”
“Now, you a dark girl now! “What happened to all the curly hair you haaad? Now your hair is all kinky, just like your mamma! Child, your father’s has those good and silky hair, and you went and got your mamma’s nappy hair? “OMG! We thought we had a white girl in the family, now you been turned dark on us. “But a good thing you still pretty! “Now you a City girl now!” (While shaking his head and smiiiiiiling) “Oh boy, heaven came down!”
My sister and I were tearfully laughing by then. The guy was all inside the car, while talking his heart out.
Papy finally interrupted to say:
“Your face do look familiar, but I can’t seem to remember your name!”
“Gineer, you don’t remember me? Its ME!”
“It’s you. But, what’s your name?”
Gineer, I’m “Don’t-mess-with-me son, ME! My name is: “Me!”
“OMG! Dontmesswithme and Nadege’s mom were the best of friends! “Wow! You are, I mean, are old are you now?”
“Am about five years older than your first son. “Don’t you remember? M’just turn thirty-fy year-old! “Still very young Gineer, still very young!”
Papy shaking his head. Trying hard not to laugh. Because all along, he is standing so close to Papy’s face, they both can practically smell each other.
Papy finally try to interrupt him, to remind him about the direction.
“ We are trying to reach Dodo’s House early, can?”
But he walked toward the back window of the car: “You don’t remember me Foufoune? You use to run all over the place butt naked. “Gave me a nickname too. Hihihi! Gineer she used to say “Here comes Talk-too-much!” Boy, she had a mouth in her beautiful head, funny too! “Do you still have a smart mouth?”
“So, how do we get to Dodo’s plantation?!” Papy cut him off again.
“Oh yeah! I keep forgetting Gineer. Dlodlo’s plantation not far at all, bout an hour or two walk. Ok. So you start walkin. But, get off the car first, and just keeeep walkin “And when you see the red horse, turn right. “The red horse is always there, aint gone no where, so pay attention to him – “If you want, you can tell him hi too! “I just said hello to him on my way here. Hihihi! “What I was sayin again? Oh yeah! To your right, there is a cow with a gold teeth, just turn left.”
“The Cow with the gold tooth?” We all yelled.
“Yes, Gineer, the cow been have a gold tooth, you’ll se shining goooold tooth! The owner brought it just like that, and he calls him Mark!” Stange name, ain it? “So, as I was sayin, “When you see Mark, the cow with the gold tooth, to the right is a large field of green corn.”
“Hihi! Well, they are not yellow yet, so they are still green.” Keep walkin!”
But, I thought you told me to turn left when I see the cow with the gold tooth?”
“Oh! I did? Let see. The red horse, the gold tooth, oh yeah! You just keep walkin till you see the green corns, can’t miss them! “Then you’ll see the plantain field, not yellow, but green plantain.” Now he placed his head inside the back window to say:
“That’s your grand-mamma’s land Foufoune!” But, keep walkin. “Then cross the river, walk up the red hill. You will see your great auntie dressed in white under a tall mango tree. Yes, she always wear white dress.”
He place his head inside the widow again to say:
“Foufoune, remember “Auntie mango tree? Heard you gave her that name!” “So you all should stop walkin. “You all can go and say hi, then she will give you some coffee first, them some mango, while you waiting for the food to cook. I will send news, so she can have them kill the white goat for Foufoune to eat. You all can eat with her too. “Foufoune, you eat with your folks, ok!” “Hihi – What I sayin again? Yeah – After you leave auntie Mango tree, keep walkin, till you see the fifthy black pigs, to your left. (Running all over the place, dutying all the road, Mm!) But, you gona see a pure white pig too. “Hihi! Yes, he’s pure white. The owner brought it just like that too, and he calls him Pete! Strange name – aint it?”
“A white pig?” Papy yelled again.
“Yes, he is Gineer – Yes he is – Aint lying – His papa calls him Pete. “Was sayin again? “Keep walkin! “And, as soon as you see all the chicken – I mean all colored chicken, aaall over the place – You can look for your uncle “God –So-good” carving his furniture right in the middle of the road. “Mmm! He been cutting all the trees, to make some nice bed too – I even bought one for my girlfriend!”
“You have a girlfriend?”
“Yes Gineer, have a girlfriend! We have seven kids together. ”My wife not too happy about that either.”
“You have a girlfriend, and a wife?”
“Now, you know better to aa this silly question Gineer. “My wife and I got four bigs kids too.”
So imagined us rolling on the floor laughing. I don’t know how my father remained so calm. Finally my stepmother asked him: ‘How long before we get to Dodo’s house after we leave auntie Mango tree’s house?”
“Very soon Maam Gineer, very soon! Bout an hour or two!”
Papy asked him:“You said, after we see her uncle, we?”
“You just mentioned an uncle you brought a bed for your.”
“Oh, you mean uncle God-Sogood?” Yes. You will see him, right in the middle of the road. But, he’ll be too busy to take you to his mamma’s house. Besides, his wife Alwaysthere will probably want you guys to eat with them. I will send news ahead so Jonas (one of your cousin, Foufoune!)can go grab some fish from the ocean for Foufoune to eat. “Foufoune, you share with your folks, ok! “But, by the time you all done eating, do you really want to walk to Dlodlo’s plantation? Gona be dark by then. Your girls may be skin and bones, but some bad people around here still like skinny chicken!”
At last, Me was done with his direction. But, even after he was done he still stood there talking. Papy gave him $50.00, and made us all thank him. He smiled then said: “Boy, you are a big City Man, Gineer! Will come to see you at Dlodlo’s. “Do you still love Mango, and sugar cane?”
“Yes I do!”
“Good. Because your uncle will bring you everything you like. You are too skinny – will make sure you have some meat on that skinny body of yours before you go back to the City. Your sisters and brother too!”
“Thank you uncle Me!” We all yelled.
Finally after he left, we started our walking journey, till we saw the auburn looking horse, the cow with one gold teeth, named Mark. We said Hello, and He answered us back. For he was a fat man, dressed in black and white. He asked us: “Which one is Dodo’s grand daughter?”
Papy answered “Her!” While pointing his finger at me.
“Yap, you been turn dark on us, with kinky hair too, but pretty girl! “But, keep walkin, till you all see the green cornfield!”
“Will send some mango for Foufoune to Dodo’s, hear? “Share some with your folks, here Foufoune?”
“Thank you Mark the cow!”
Yes. We kept on wakin! Saw the field of YELLOW corn, the fifty pigs and the one pinkish colored new born one in their mist. Yes, his name was Pete! Finally, after about an hour walk, we noticed the mango tree from a distance. Under the tree was a light skinned, skinny old lady, with her hair as white as snow. Indeed, she looked gloriously beautiful. However, she was wearing a blue dress. Next to her was a table covered with a pure white embroidered tablecloth, and a few white cups and a coffee pot, covered under a white linen. But my father still doubted she was my auntie.
“It must not be your auntie, because ME said, she always wore white.” So I answered with a smile: “ I may not be able to remember my great auntie’s face, but I would remember that mango tree from anywhere in the world!”
That’s when we heard: Is that my Foufoune I see?”
‘OMG! It is you Auntie Mango tree! Me said you always wore white!”
“Who is Me? And yes, I aways wear white!”
“But, your dress is blue auntie. And Me said he’s my uncle!”
“Oh! You must mean your grandmothers’ neighbor, but his name is “Put-ME-Down” honey!”
To be continued.
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While mother lived in New York, I lived with my father in Haïti, who was truly family oriented. Probably why I have twenty-seven siblings, although I’m yet to meet all of them. So, the dinner table was always the time for our family history, from his side of the family. But during my summer vacation, my father always made sure I would spend at least one day with my grandmother. He would drive to the countryside, to a City by the name of Duvalier-Ville, which was the nearest to the village where my mother’s family lived. The drive was about an hour from Port-Au-Prince, the capital of Haïti, where we lived.
Driving to Duvalier Ville was not as challenging, compared to the walking distance to my grandmother’s house; which is referred as “Dodo’s plantation.” No matter how many times we’ve been there, we could never remember the direction to her plantation. It’s not like she had a specific address. And, asking for a street name in that area, was like speaking a foreign language to those country folks. A typical direction from one of them will probably sound like the following:
“Walk straight, till you see the woman with the pink dress after the big white rock – You will see a skinny donkey to your left – The dry muddy river to your right, or the malnourished girl with a fat stomach running around… or “You may also run to “Tifédé” who stole a basket of plantains just last week!” Imagine this? So any wise person would ask for direction, wouldn’t you think so?
If you think following the country folk’s direction was strange, wait until you try to understand their indirect warnings. Imagine after you were told, “Dodo’s plantation? Oh – not far at all! It’s right down there!” And after thirty minutes walking through mud, river and mountain, you still have not seen the skinny red donkey, in order to make the right turn. Finally you feel the need to reconfirm the direction. That’s when you see an old man on a donkey, so overloaded with merchandise, it can hardly walk. Although the guy is wearing a wide hot, you can still hear the sweats dropping off his face like hail storms. He pulls a red handkerchief to wipe his face. When he answers your greeting, you noticed he only had two teeth left, but he loves to smile. Then it behooves you to understand exactly what he is trying to tell you. Trust me, it’s a matter of life or death. :Lets say you asked:
“Can you please tell me how far along the way is Dodo’s plantation?”
Note the following chart
|“Oh, Dodo’s house is right down there, not far at all!’||About one or two hours walk.|
|“Oh, you are almost there!||Still have between forty-five minutes, to an hour walk. (If you didn’t have to cross a river first).|
|Oh, you are here, this is her house!”||Meaning you are standing on one of her acres, among her twenty acres of land. For sure, her house is somewhere in between.|
|“You want to WALK to Dodo’s plantation?”
“Now better don’t ride any type of donkey with your girls sir!”
|“It’s a long way- Over 3-4 hours walk. So best to borrow a dog, cow, donkey or horse to ride on.
And if you do borrow one of the above, make sure it is from the right owner. If not, you might be surprised how well you look with for legs, and some fur all over your body. So be warned!
|“Now if I were you, would wait for tomorrow mornin’ –kinda late don’t you think?”||The road is too dangerous to walk there so late.
Chances are, you will run to some zombies, or a cow with a gold teeth, a cat who can speak, or a river, you must ask permission before you cross it.
So you better pray that God will send you some good angels to watch over you. Otherwise you may be the next peace of steak sold at the grocery store the following morning.
So when do you know for sure, you have reached your destination? At one point, between the one to four hours walk, you may see a face you don’t even recognize, but who happened to be one of your family member by the name of “Justlikefoufoune.” She will stop eating from the three dozens mango pile in front of her. She will get up to walk toward you. As she stares at you, with both her hands and face full of mango residue, she will smile then say:
“Now this pretty girl looks just like antie’s Shewasborn daughter? “Is this you Foufouououne?”
Bingo! You are there!
And YES, You heard correctly! That was the nickname my grandmother gave me. And it’s pronounced as “Foofoone!”
If you want to find out what my nickname means? Read part two of Walking To Dodo’s Plantation!
To be continued