Didn’t you hear me calling you? “Come and get dress I said!” It was a couple months prior to my sixth birthday.
“I couldn’t careless!” I whispered to myself, while I sit on the floor, playing with my favorite doll.
Yes, that was my mother’s voice. She was holding a sleeveless couture, yellow polka dot dress. Just then, I concluded, I was doomed. Wearing that dress would make me look like capital sin. I don’t know why she had managed to convince herself, it was a special day, because, I dreaded “Picture day.”
Yes, that dreadful day took place once a year. Both, my brother and I were dragged to Abraham’s photography. Where, I swear, if my mother could figure out a way, to have our lips permanently glued, while she was yelling: “Sourire, sourire!!!” She would probably confine herself to a convent, and later on, lived to be a Saint.
“Sourire” meant smile in French. Apparently, while we were still in Haiti, my father who lived in New York, looked forward to my mother’s relentless form of torture. As you note, I was not the only sacrificial lamb. My older brother was also part of the yearly ritual. But, while I looked like a yellow warbler, my brother was the black crow.
Don’t’ get me wrong. I didn’t have a problem with the event itself. It was all about the dress. First off, all my couture dresses were sewn above knee length, and I hated showing my knees. Furthermore, I hated the fact that the dress was also sleeveless. She knew I didn’t like showing my tiny arm, so you think she would take my feeling into consideration? NO!
“Did you hear me calling you, or NOT!” She yelled again.
With both of my arms on my hip, I responded, “Is – this – a – sleeveless dress again?” Fortunately for me, that day my mother only gave me “the look.” She didn’t even say, “You owe me one!”
At last, when I was dressed, she said, “Sit, and don’t move!” Yes, you heard right. Don’t you remember how the adults back then felt they had the legal right to torture us children? They would tell us to sit steadily for over an hour. Are they for real? With my attention spin?
Are you frowning, as if you’ve never heard that before? Ok, you’re probably not from the Caribbean then.
First off, it starts with the bathing process. After they are done with us, our skin usually feels like an aluminum pot, which had just been scrubbed with Brillo. Seriously, if anyone were to slide one of their finger upon our skin, it would make that, “Grub-grub,” sound.
Lastly, as if they didn’t feel we went through enough humiliation, they would tell us, “You better glue your butt on this chair, and don’t’ move till I tell you to!”
Is that so? I can’t speak for the other children, but usually, I sat still long enough, till my genius cells take total control of my mind. I recalled that day, when I heard, “Why don’t you re-design your ugly dress?”
Oh! I forgot to tell you. I was a seamstress from my toddler years. In fact, I believe the day I popped from my mother’s womb, I’m sure I had a needle and thread, stuck between my fingers. Because, by age six, I would already been in the hospital at least four times.
1. I was trying to sew in the middle of the night, when I accidentally sat on a needle. My mom had to be called from a party, in order to rush me to the hospital, on a donkey. Well! What a girl to do? She didn’t want me to sew during the day, so….
2. A needle almost permanently sewed my hand on my bed, because I had forgotten it was hidden under my pillow.
3. I almost had my thumb sliced and diced a couple months later, after I poked my finger with a needle. Since, I was afraid to tell my mom, my finger eventually turned blue.
4. I forgot the last incident. But it was so bad that my mother banned me from touching anything from the needle family.
Needless to say, with my history with needles; Oh! Now I remember the last accident. Too embarrassing, I can’t share that with you. But, still, if you were in my place, would you let those insignificant experiments stop you? Of course not!
So, I thought: “Why not cut a piece from the lower back of the dress, to patch it above the hemline in front, in order to cover my knees? I didn’t need the back of the dress for the picture!”
Therefore, once I executed my brilliant idea, I patched the dress with a red thread. It was hanging like a table cloth above my knees, and I was thrilled!
I had to think of a new strategy for the sleeves. So I cut another piece from the side of the dress, but when I realized it was not enough, I cut an additional piece. By the time I was done cutting the back of the dress, only the shoulder had remained from the back.
Meanwhile, it still did not dawn on me, how my whole butt was going to be exposed. And, just when I was about to sew my version of the sleeves over the shoulder area, there walked my mother.
She walked in the dining room, dressed like the Queen of Sheba. But, when she saw me taking care of my business. My needle and red thread held tightly in my tiny hand, while I kneel on the table, with my shoes scattered on the floor, sweats dropping off my forehead, like hell storm invading Haïti.
I honestly don’t know how to describe her facial expression to you all.
I could say, “She looked like Cruella De Vil.” But, it would be an understatement!
Of course I got a butt whooping!!!
To be completely honest, the whooping was followed by an exorcism, in order to permanently ban these three words form my memory: “Needle, thread and scissors!”
The following day, I cut my new sock to create a new invention for my doll. Ha! I bet you she learned her lesson then.
Picture this: I was six years old, living in Haïti. That day, I had serious business to handle. My doll needed a new dress, and I was pissed that I didn’t have any more fabric left. So after I ripped off one of my new socks and started sewing, my mother showed up with a short, dark, heavy-set, masculine looking woman. I thought she was there to punish me since I had just riped off my sock.
“Nadège,” my mom said. “Come and greet auntie Satanise!”
To be honest, when I turned to look at the woman, my mind completely blocked out the “ise” part of her name. Considering what she really looked like, I thought my mom actually said, “Come and greet your aunt Satan.” So, instead of walking toward her, I hesitantly said:
“You mean to say my uncle Sa?”
But before I could finish my sentence, my mom gave me her common daring stare. I knew better than to finish my sentence. So, instead of walking toward them both, I slooowly started to walk backward, until they had disappeared from my sight. Then, I ran inside the house as fast as I could, to grab my shoes, stormed back out from the side door. Yes, I ran all the way to the Cathedral Church, which was located right across our house.
Somehow, my mother always lived next to a church. I don’t know if it was because in Haiti there were so many live demons, or perhaps she might have reasoned: “With a daughter such as mine, I must have access to a nearby church !” Whichever was the case, Church has always been where I spent my favorite spare time. I recalled being the first child who went for confession by the age of five. I also remember begging the priest to partake in the Eucharist, before I even knew what Catechism was all about. Seriously, if a dog barked the wrong way, I would run to church, to confess on its behalf. So I knew all the priests in that parish by name. Well, at least the name I called them. Because I could never remember their real names, I gave them my own name. Most of which described their physical appearance. They didn’t care, because they still loved me anyway.
So now, I would like to share some examples of my confession, and my daily conversation with the Priests.
“Bonjour Father big nose, I have a big confession today!”
“Yes Angel, who did what?”
“My mom said a bad word this morning. My brother came home late last night again, and I pi on my bed last night, so the maid will have to wash more clothes today because of me. So I ask forgiveness.”
The priest: “You are forgiven my child.”
And I continued, “But today, I also want to confess for mother Mary.”
“Yes. you see Father, I was looking at her statue, but she did not wink her eyes. So I think she’s dead.”
Meanwhile, if father Red Skin was passing by, I would scream: “Hi father red skin, how are you doing today?”
“Fine, fine, my child! Are you confessing again?”
“Yes father red skin. I’m confessing for “Mother Mary. I don’t want her to drop baby Jesus on the floor because I think she died.”
Father Big Nose answered: “No my Angel. Remember, this is just a statue, so she won’t’ wink back. Our real mother Mary is in heaven with our Lord – but you’ll learn all about that from Catechism.”
“But father Big Nose, my great, great, great, grandfather Moses said, we should never pray to a statue”
“And I agree with your great, great….. Grandfather!
“HI FATHER Lag –uad- a; “Hi Father HEAVY TONGUE!”
“Hi T’Angel. Here for your t’dream toot’day?”
“No. I’m confessing. “Oh My God! I forgot to tell you father Big Nose, “The reason I’m here, is because “Satan is in my house!”
“Satan is in your house?”
“Yes. She came home with my mother. She has big nose, big ears, and gigantic eyes. She’s black and short. But she’s missing her horns. My mom called her auntie, and she wanted me to kiss her.”
“Well! If your mom called her auntie, and she does not have horns, she’s probably not Satan!”
“Yes she is. My mom just told me: “Come and kiss your auntie Satan!”
Father Big-Nose pause for a moment. “Mm! You said she’s a she?”
“Yes Father. My mom made a mistake and called her “She” but I was about to say she’s a “He” and she gave me the daring look.”
“Angel, perhaps she’s just a friend of your.”
Father Big-Nose, Pleaease give me some holy water so I can sprinkle on her; I’m scared of her, and I don’t want her to sleep at my house!”
“YOU, scared little angel? I find that hard to believe! I will give you the holy water, but just sprinkle your house, not her. Most of all, do what your mother ask of YOU!”
“Ok, father Big -Nose. See you later!”
When I arrived home, both, my mother and Satan-ise were sitting on the patio. So I kept on praying she would not come near me. As soon as my mother walked toward the back door, I heard Satan–ise said:
Nadege, bring me the comb so I can comb your hair. You’re going to your grandmother’s.”
“In your dream!” I whispered. ” You are NOT touching my hair!” Afterward, I ran in the backyard and begged the maid to comb my hair.
“Nadege, come and bathe!” Satan–ise yelled.
“In your dream! You are not washing me with your hell water!” Then, I rushed toward the back and throw some water on myself.
“Nadege, come and get dress!”
“NO, YOU – are- not- dressing me – YOU SATAN!” I finally yelled.
Just about the same time, my mother happened to be walking inside the house and heard me. So she said, “Who are you talking to Nadege?”
“To Satan Mahhhhhh!” I answered back. “I don’t want her to touch ME!”
“Wo is Satan?” My mom replied.
“Her. And I don’t want her to touch ME!”
“Her! She has a big nose, big ears, large eyes; and she’s only missing her horns.” When I saw my Mother’s face transformed, and heading for the belt, I grabbed my tiny bottle of holy water, and rushed toward Satanise to flush the blessed water all over her dress, and her legs.” But, to my surprise, she was still standing in front of me. That’s when I yelled:
“You are a bigger Satan than I thought!”
And when Mother noticed I was about to run back to the church, she grabbed me by my hair. But, I was so busy screaming, “You Satan, out of here! You Satan out of here!” Then both, my mother and Satanise started laughing hysterically. And, thank God, although my Mom was holding the belt, she could not manage to stop laughing long enough to give me the whooping which I had truly deserved.
I was furious at them. By then, my face looked like a car in bad need of a major tune-up. I just could not understand why my Mother was laughing with Satan. And why would she invite her to our house? So, I stood up with both hands on my hip to say:
“Laugh all you want, but you will see when father Big Nose comes here. He’s going to call aaaaalll the angels, and you’re going straight TO HELL!
I did not get a whooping that day. But I was banned from going to church for two weeks. At least, “So my mother thought!!!
As for Satanise, thank goodness she displayed a great sense of humor. Although, I don’t recall ever seeing her again.