I went to get my eyebrows done today. But, during the whole time, all the ladies were speaking their native language. The only English word I heard, was when she asked me “Just eyebrows?”
“Yes.” I answered her with a smile.
But, she was already saying “Chunyoungching,” to her two partners.
I gathered they must have been talking about someone by the name of “Chung.” Because the conversation went somewhat like this:
One lady said: “Chungching-chiiiiiiiing!”
My helper answered “Dongdonngdondond H’r! Chungchinggg-rrrrrr!”
The younger one was eating from a bowl. As she got up, she said, “Honnnng-Hing-hin-ghing rrrrrrrrrrrr-Chunghing!”
I don’t know how she had managed to say all of that, with her mouth full. But, she did. NO, I’m not lying.
Ok. So I’m lying. The truth is, she didn’t exactly uttered those words, but what I heard sounded just like them.
Of course I felt compelled to participate. So, that’s when I said “Hongggg-HING-rrrrr!!!”
The three ladies remained silent for a few seconds as they starred at each other. Then I heard:
“Ohmyguy-youthink we’re fo-rom China! We are fo-rom Viet-Naame. Not China!”
Although I understood what she meant, I thought I would tease her. “You’re from Viet-Naame? I heard of Vietnam, but where is “Viet-Naame?”
“Naaaa! We fo-rom whereyoujustsid! “Viet-Naame!” The older one answered.
I responded back, “Ididnotsid “Viet-Naame.” I sid, “Vietnam!”
While shaking her head, she said:“Yah-yah! There-there! Youuu-Justsidit!”
Finally the younger lady turned around, after a glimpse, while laughing she said, “Hayhoyoooow-YING-hoiyyy!” To the other two ladies.
Without a doubt, I knew she had just said something about me. So, to scare her off, I slowly uttered the following sentence: “I – would – be – careful if I were you. I speak Murong- Chinese-Tay-Nung-Hmông and French!”
What they heard almost caused them to stop breathing. They yelled together: “Hunnnngg! YOU DO?”
“Ah-ha! So you ladies WERE talking about ME-weren’t you?”
After they all laughed, the older woman told me, “Hunnnngg, you so fon-ny! You kom back again, we give you diss-Kont. “You Kom back, Ok! Wa-yourname?”
I answered, “My name is Nad…”
“Wa? Hunnngg – yournameis-wa?”
“No. My name is not “Wa.”
After she laughed her heart out, she said again, “You so fon-ny!”
“Really?” I answered her. “I’ve been told the contrary.”
“Hong?” She said with a serious look.
“Never mind.” I answered her. “I will be back in a couple weeks. But next time, can I pay with my jar of pennies?”
“Pen – hunnngg! Letseee!” She turned to confirm with the other lady while speaking Vietnamese.
The middle aged lady looking frightening started to walk toward me. “Waaaaaaa? Pennies? How much?” She asked me.
I answered, her “About if I bring you ladies a five gallon jar full of pennies!”
“FYYY GALLON? Hooooooong!”
“Got you!” I said. While I laughed my heart out.
“Hunnngg – you so fon-ny!!! “See you net-time, ok!
“What? You want to set the time?” I answered her.
“Nonnn! “I said “Net –time. Net. Net. Not appoint-mend!”
While I walked out, I just had to say: “No appointment? Then, let’s forget about the net. I will just bring the fish.”
“Hunnngg – You so fon-ny!”
I honestly had one of the best time of my life! Therefore I know I will definitely go back.
So my God-mother came to live with me when she arrived here, in America. Although I felt honored, the decision was not mine. On Thursday afternoon, I received a call from my mom. When I answered, “Hi Mellie, how are you?”Yes, this is my Mom’s nickname, which I gave her. So, after a brief pause, she answered me.
“Listen, get ready to pick up your God-mother. She’s arriving here from Haiti tomorrow afternoon, and she’ll be living with you.”
Mind you, I was living with a “husband.”
Yes, I said a “husband,” simply because we were legally married. Need I say more?
“Ok!” I answered my mom. “By the way, thank you for the extended notice.” I think if she knew how to say “My pleasure!” She would have. Instead she answered, “Good, call me once she arrives!”
My childhood memories with my God-Mother are nothing less than pleasant. So I was looking forward to seeing her. Therefore, if it meant for me to sign a divorce paper, I would have gladly done it, considering the bumpy phases during our relationship, divorce was already projected.
Unfortunately, he did not object when I gave him the news. In fact, he only made one complaint “You could have given me enough time to get drunk one more time, without having an old lady staring at me!”
Mind you, my God-Mother lived in a Town about forty-five minutes from the City. During the Duvalier Regime, they had running water, electricity, beautiful waterfall; I even recalled a nice aquarium. Unfortunately, when the “Other” regime took over Haiti, over the years, they had managed to sell everything our country owned to foreign investors. The civilized neighborhood have to rely on their diesel inverter. Therefore, for the majority of the villages, the people could not afford this commodity.
By the way, keep in mind, my childhood nickname was “Foufoune.” Somewhere in one of my post, I told you guys what my nickname meant. Believe me, no child would wish for a nickname which stands for “Virgina.” So My god-mother calls me “Foune” instead. Thank God for mercy.
I on the other hands, call her “Ninn” For God-Mother.
I arrived at the airport with great excitement. From a distant , I saw a pretty round face, dark skin old lady walking toward me, with her hands over her eyes. I recognized her by her fair long grey hair. Once she saw me, for a brief moment, she stared at me, she hesitate before she said.
“Oh, my Foune, is that you “Pitit-Mwen?” Meaning “Is that you my child?” All along, both her hands were hovering over her eyes, as if she was annoyed by a midday-sun.
“Ninn, yes it’s me! I’m so glad to see you, been over ten years.”
“Yes, my child. Been asking for you, but no news. So I called another child your name. I often tell her, “You’ll be my Foune number two, just so my heart wont’ continue to bleed!”
All along, I couldn’t help wondering why her hands was still covering her eyes, so I asked her:
“Ninn, why are you covering your eyes!”
“Can’t deal with all this light, Foune. I almost went blind when I stepped out of the big boooom.”
As she laughed, she reminded me of the little old lady from the “Looney TunesTweety Bird.” In fact my children said the same thing before they started calling her “Ninn” as well.
“Ninn, what is the big boom, are you referring to the airplane?”
“Yes Foune. The big car. I saw the sky while I was inside. “When they told me to get out, I thought I was going to walk in the cloud. Look at all this light – why don’t they send some to Haiti?” Oh my God, look at this!”
“Ninn remember we had electricity in Haiti when I was younger!”
“We had what? What is tri-City?”
“E-lec-tricity; we had light, even at your house.”
“Oh! Yes, we did. But now, we only see the light when lightning strikes. Yap! We’re going backward! No water either, all the rivers have dried up, now we have to buy some fish, and the plantains look they suffer malnutrition.”
“Wow, Ninn – that’s unbelieable! Why are you stopping Ninn? This is called an escalator; try to step on it, and it will take us downstairs. Just stand on it, don’t walk.”
“I am not stepping on this stuff!”
“Ninn, you have to. Just step on it, and stand. Don’t move.”
She answered, “Now, folks told me about those crazy stuff in this country, but Foune, I’m over a century old, Am not about to step on this crazy thing, moving like a river, but don’t see no water; can’t fool me! I’m over a hundred years old now.”
Nin, you are not over a century old, Gando was older then you. You are probably in your seventies now. And try to stare at the light for a moment, they won’t hurt your eyes.”
“Yes they will. Many people came back to Haiti, wearing some brown or black thing over their eyes. Because they said, the light from here, caused them – There you go! You see that woman over there, she’s wearing one of those stuff.”
“Oh, you mean the sun glasses Ninn!”
“Sun? Why they call them Sun?”
“It’s a long story Ninn. Let me just give you one pair to wear.”
Thank God I had a pair of sun glasses in my purse. After she wore them, she started to laugh.Yes, my Godmother was wearing a pair of Sun Glasses at eight O’clock at NIGHT, because of the light.
“Now look at this! The whole world is dark now! Those white folks sure know God, to invent something like this.”
“Ninn, by the way, those glasses were probably made by a black man, working in the factory.”
“No child, can’t be. This thing must be from the white man. Just like the big Boom and all the cars in Haiti was made by them.”
“No Ninn, in this country black people invent things too. Anyway, let’s walk on the escalator.”
But, she was too busy turning in circle, with her eyes upward, starring at every light. Myself and everyone else could not stop laughing. Just when I though I would look for an elevator, a young Haitian man CARRIED HER down. She held herself like a little baby, while all along she was saying, “Now son, don’t you drop me. Am about a century old now, haven’t fell not once!”
People stood still, to listen to my God-Mother telling me, “There is no way in this heavenly Country she was going to step on something that just slides like a river, but she could not see the water. She would have felt much better riding on a donkey instead!”
I could not stop thanking the young man who carried her down the escalator. With a smile he finally answered me:
“Trust me, I’ve been there too. This was my first trip to Haiti because I wanted to meet my Mom’s family. My grand-mother made me eat, drink and bathe me with so many herbs, by the time she was done, I thought I was a tree!!!
To be continued
I stopped by your house twice, brought you some soup, but Zawa told me you were not there.
The grey haired woman was too busy coughing to answer her friend. Finally she answered.
“The rain sprinkled on me while i was out shoping, now I know, am going to catch a cold. “You made your squash soup today?”
“I always cook my Sunday meal on Saturday.”
“What? You eat left over food on Sunday? ”
Annoyed at her friend, she slightly raised her voice to say. “You mean, you still wait till Saturday to shop for your Sunday meal?”
“Yap! I don’t play with tradition. I have to cook my fresh chicken, some white rice and white beans every Sunday. Even Wawa won’t eat if he knows…”
“Well, you need to tell your Wawa this is America. He’s been here for over twenty years, and he still wants freshly cooked food every day?
She answered, “It’s not only for him. I enjoy my Sunday meal better when I shop on Saturday!”
“Get away from my face with your nonsense!” Ersula slightly raised her voice. “I don’t waste my time on food. I can have a sandwich, broil me a plantain, to eat it with some leftover meat. Even a bowl of salad will do. Food is food! “
“You sound like an American now! Eating a sandwich on Sunday? You should be ashamed of yourself!
The old woman stares at her friend as if she had committed an abominable crime.
“I can’t believe you would eat a sandwich! A dry bread with some bo, bo, Bolola?”
“For God sake, it’s called, “Bolog – Na, not Bolola!’ I can’t believe you can pronounce even that, after twenty years being in America!”
“Well, that’s because we don’t eat Ball log Na. Wawa used to eat some Him/ Hamm, I don’t know how to say that one either. But, when he found out it was made of horse meat, he kept on imagining the horse running all over the place inside the house. So he told me never to buy that again.”
“Your Wawa is as sick as you are. I never heard of anyone not eating a damn sandwich! Anyway, when do you have time to cook all that food on Sunday – don’t you have to be at church by 9:00 A.M.?”
“I start broiling my beans after midnight! The hen takes a bit longer to cook, but unusually all my foot is ready by the time Wawa wakes up. Since he doesn’t like his soup to be cold. “
“You mean to tell me, you cook some squash soup to top the rice, chicken, beans?”
“Yeah! I broil some plantain, plus we eat some salad too!”
“Your boys eat dinner with you guys on Sunday?”
“Dinner? The soup is for breakfast. The Rice and chicken … for after church, around 2:00. But we have some rice pudding for supper. One bowl each.”
“Are you kidding me? And you guys are still but skin and bones?”
“You must remember, we’re always on a diet!”
The old lady turned to look at her friend. For a moment, she refrained herself from saying anything to her. In fact, she grabbed a bottle of water to gargle down, while she shook her head. But, finally when she turned her head she yelled:
“Diet? Diet? How in the hell do you imagine yourself and your husband to be on a diet, ZAZA?
Zaza calmly answered:
“Wawa and I drink some tea, so we can shit all day!”
My cat Mikko thinks he can bully us around. At one point, he was the chief terrorist in our neighborhood. But, when he became sick, he was treated, then we decided to transition him to an in-house cat. Of course, it’s a nerve-racking transition for him.
He still craves to go outside. He has nightly tantrum and refuses to let us sleep. To get our attention, he’ll scratch the windows, doors, runs back and forth all over the house; even Jump on the bed, dresser, slams his head/ his body against anything he can manage to break.
I swear this cat does not think he’s an animal.
So last night, when he noticed he was being ignored in spite of his unbelievable bandit performance, he decided to attack his little friend Moina, our female cat. At last, the poor cat was forced to hide inside the closet. But Mikko was still not satisfied. So when I tried to intervene, he turned toward me to hiss at me like a snake.
“Mikko, you better stop it!” I yelled back. But he was way too angry. So he turned around to say,
“Meowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww – get the hell out of here!
For the first time I was really scared of my cat, but I couldn’t show him that. So I stared back at him and yelled:
“MEOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW – YOU BETTER STOP OR I WILL TAKE YOU THERE MYSELF!!!”
I did such an unbelievable performance, that Mikko froze for a few seconds; while he stared at me, he then ran to hide under the bed.
Well, I’m not certain what really drove him away – between my roaring tone of voice or my horns?
But one thing I was certain of, “Cats can see demons.
When my sister who’s a nurse mentioned my father is reflecting dementia symptoms, I completely refused to believe her. Of course I was in denial! I didn’t want to remember my father as the helpless elder he had become; I would rather see him as the sound minded engineer he once was.
During the past two weeks, I’ve been in charge of his meal, while my sister takes charge of the grocery. I’m enjoying spending quality time with my father. We eat and chat, but whenever he dosed off to sleep, I focus on my writing.
One morning after I asked him for his choice of meal? He specifically requested for some eggs, which I prepared to his liking. In fact, he even gave me a compliment, which is rare. My father can be a harsh food critic.
“How is the egg Papy?”
“Very good! Just the way I like it!”
After he ate two eggs, once slice of bread, one banana, half a cup of V-eight, quart glass of milk; he munched on a bag of hot chips, which my daughter had brought him a couple days ago. Then, he grabbed his phone, which led me to believe he was searching for a number. About two hours later, he was still searching.
“Papy, are you looking for a phone number?”
“No, I’m waiting on you for, for, the, the food!”
“What food Papy?”
“What do you mean by “what food? You haven’t served me my breakfast!”
“Papy, you just ate your breakfast!”
“Me? I just woke up, came to sit on the table to wait on you!”
“Ok Papy, what would you like to eat this morning?”
“He thought for a second, “What do you have here? Whatever you have!”
“Would you like some eggs?”
“Ok, give me that!”
So after I prepared two eggs, toasted some bread, add some fruits… I placed the plate in front of him;
He stares at me for a few seconds, then laughed hysterically:
“Are you suffering from dementia? You just fed me! I guess I should be taking care of you, instead of you caring for me!”
Although my heart was aching, the incident was too funny. So I laughed my heart to tears.
On that same day, when my daughter came to see him, after she kissed him she asked:
“How you doing Grandpa?”
He answered: “Your mother is losing her mind, fed me breakfast twice, I haven’t had a bite to eat, since this morning!”
My father was known to be a character. I always admired him for his ability to reason, his sense of humor and realism. Unlike the jealous and unreasonable fathers, who lived in our neighborhood, when it came to matters pertaining to boys and girls, my father was not shy in understanding. In fact, he had such a remarkable ease, all our friends were comfortable around him. Young and old were welcomed to our house after church, to enjoy his sense of humor, while we sat around the table for our Sunday soup.
“If a young man shows interest in you girls, you must invite him to your house, and introduce him to us. A young lady should never permit a young man to court her before he meets her parents; he may fail to show her due respect.”
Of course, my step mom thought differently. “Boys should not be welcomed till the girls are much older!”
“What are you talking about?” My father would answer her. “They are girls, and regardless, boys will flirt. I would rather they do it here!”
So I was fourteen when I received my first letter from an admirer. In fac,t I was home sick during that whole week, and honestly had no idea about the boyfriend and girlfriend world. I thought people just grow old and got married. But somehow, this boy from my class had fallen in love with me. Till this day I try to recollect what gesture I might have done, to draw his attention. Apparently, when he did not see me at school, he decided to write me a letter, which he gave to my younger sister.
The letter was a declaration of his passionate love for me. Looking back, I think he must have been one of King Solomon offsprings because his letter pretty much had the same verbiage as the “Song of Solomon.” The love languages displayed in the letter were like a foreign language to me of course. I recalled my older sister reading it while laughing her heart out. After the long love poem, he would ask me “If I could be his girlfriend?” Thank goodness I was wise enough to answer him: “Thank you for your letter, but I’m too young to have a boyfriend.”
Because my letter eventually fell off my sister’s notebook, so my Stepmother picks it up and asked her:
“What is this?
My younger sister said, “after I swallowed the cup of saliva swimming in mouth, I answered:
“I am asking you what is this?” And you are asking me, “What’s that?” I said “WHAT IS THIS?”
“It’s, it’s a letter to, to.” She swallowed another cup of saliva before she says, “To a boy!”
“Is that right! So we’re paying all that money to a private school, so you can learn how to write letters to boys, AT YOUR AGE?”
“This is not my letter Mom, it’s my sister’s letter.”
“Oh! So now you are a mailman who delivers letters to boys?”
Of course, my step Mom called me. But, any attempt to reason with her was of no use. Telling her ” I did not encourage the boy to write me,” was like pouring a cup of water in the ocean. It did not matter to her. Her logic: “Boys had no business writing me, I had no business answering them, and my sister certainly had no business carrying the letter. So she placed the letter on my father’s pillow for him to scorn us later.
Meanwhile, both of my sisters had diarrhea, and could not relax. I was peacefully taking a nap.
My older sister feared that my father would claim, “She was the one setting the bad example since she was older.”
My younger sister on the other hands, feared my father would say, “She was too young to follow our footsteps.”
My thought exactly: “I did not ask God to make me beautiful, and I certainly did not encourage the boy to write the whole freaking chapter from “The Song of Solomon,” so I had no ground to worry.”
Finally, after my father called me: “What is this I hear you are writing letters to boys?”
“Papy when you were a young man, and you wrote a letter to a young lady for the first time, did she encouraged you?”
“Papy answered “Absolutely not!”
“Exactly! So if I answered the boy, “ I’m too young to have a boyfriend! What did I do wrong?”
“Papy shook his head, then said: “Well done! Go back to your room.”
My Stepmother was furious. After she fussed and fussed: “You are not going to discipline her? She’s encouraging boys to write to her. “The girls should not have any boys showing interest in them at this age, so you are spoiling them!”
“I have four girls, for whom I’m spending my wealth to care for them, paying a chauffeur to drive them back and forth to a private school, so they can obtain the best education; though Am thankful to God they are not looking like a Rottweiler dog; if boys don’t start writing letters to them now, out of all men, I would be the most to be pitied!”
I love Catholic schools. I think their academic standards are excellent, although I still question some of their religious beliefs. Yes, I respect their worldwide excellence in contributing not only on an academic level, but charitable as well. Furthermore, I have to admit, while my siblings went to Catholic school during most of their academic training, I on the other hands went there, during some of my academic years. Honestly, one day I could not stop myself. I felt obliged to squeeze the wrath out of one particular nun. That’s when I asked her the following question:
“Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?”
Yap! She was one of my elementary school teacher. Her name Was Sister Marie, but I called her “Sister Morte,” which meant in French “Sister Dead”
“What did you say?” She answered me. So I repeated:
“Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed THIS MORNING?”
“Venez ici – Petite impertinente!” Meaning “Come here you little impertinent!”
I did not budge. “Come here – I said!” As she slightly raised her voice.
“Not with that ruler in your hand Sister! Remember, last time you hit me so hard, the palm of my hand turned as red as a plum tomatoe. Yes, it was swollen for two days, just because I wore a blue SOCK instead of WHITE!”
So, as she proudly raised her chin, she said: “The prowwww-per uniform code is “Whittt’e shirt. Naaaa-vy blue skirt. AND “white,” Yes “WHITTT’E Sock!” But, you were wearing BLUE sock, and today, you are still wearing a BLUE SOCK!”
So I answered her in the same tone: “Well Sister MORTE, do you remember that I Aaaaaam a chiiiiiiii-ld and, this is what the sorcière (meaning witch) caring for ME, gave ME to wear this morning? For all I know, you both are probably sisters!”
“Young lady, you must not call your mother a witch.” By then she was trying to grab me by my ear.
So I started playing jump rope between the chairs, so she could not catch me, while I answered her: “For your information, I was not referring to my mother, because she lives in New York, while Im here in Haïti, with another hateful woman. I BET you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you? “Since you are stuck between these four walls, like you were in jail, where you deserve to be!”
“Ok young lady, I’m taking you to the principal office!”
“Good! Because I don’t want to be in your class anyway!” Then, I ran out of the class before she could catch me.
She took a short cut and met with me near the garden where I was standing admiring the flowers. As soon as she saw me, she straightened her posture, raised her chin in the air, made her look like a flat iron board, as she walked passed me. She occasionally turned back to stare at me, by then I was hoping on one leg, while I held the other leg with my hand. By the look she gave me, I could read in her mind; “as if she thought of me as the child from hell. But couldn’t bring herself to say it, for fear she would see a reflection of herself.” So I kept on hopping. Annoyed, she finally turned toward me to say in a calm voice:
“Young girls must not hop like this, so walk properly!”
So I replied “And dead nun should not walk with their chin up, a fly may come and hide inside their nose!”
So I kept on hoping. Then I saw another bush of pink roses. They were so beautiful, I felt compelled to at least touch them. While I admired them, I also cut a handful to make a bouquet for Sister Claire. She was my favorite nun, and she was not only beautiful but pleasant as well. But when sister Morte noticed I was cutting the flowers, she yelled, “Leave the flowers alone!” So I turned to her and said:
“Because they are not here for you to cut, but to beautify the school yard – Petite impertinente!”
“Excuse me Sister Morte, but If you were a true nun, you would understand that God created these gorgeous flowers not only to beautify the schoolyard, but for me to give them to my favorite sister, and it’s not for you either! And I bet you will never get some flowers because you are too mean!”
Just as I was shaking my little head, with my butt pointing behind, I sensed a presence. When I turned, it was my favorite priest, standing with his arm crossed over his fat stomach. Then he said: “Another feud between you two?”
“Good morning Father Bald head!” I shouted with a smile.
But she greeted him without a smile “Good morning father Pierre.”
Father Pierre pleasantly answered, “Good morning! And good morning to you both! But what is going on between you two again?”
As she held both of her hands together, as if she was about to say a prayer, she promptly answered, “Father, I highly recommend we transfer this troubled child to a more suitable school.” Furthermore, I strongly recommend some major penance for her as well, or I’m afraid she will be a lost case.”
Father Pierre turned to me with a questionable stare, awaiting an answer. Thankfully I had just watched the movie Dracula for the first time, so I had a whole bucket full of new expression. I held both of my hands together just as she did, like I was about to saymy prayer. Then I answered him:
“Father Bald head, I think you should return Dracula’s wife back to him. If not, Sister Morte will suck all the children blood from this school!”
To be continued