© 1982, 2011 Norman Samuda Smith

Woman is featured in Britannia’s Children – A Collection of Short Stories by Norman Samuda Smith

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The front-room was a mess, empty glasses were scattered about.  Most of the cake, all the curry goat and rice and fried fish were devoured and the paper plates lay about on the table which earlier was beautifully decorated.  Her family and long time friends had gathered to celebrate her sixtieth year and her husband Samuel along with their sons David and Paul collaborated to manifest the festivity.  The last of the party guests were leaving while Ivey stood in the front-room gazing at her birthday cards.  She could hear their muffled voices and their ripples of laughter in the hallway, as they cracked jokes with Samuel at the front door.  Ivey drifted over to the fire-place and picked up David and Paul’s card:

 ‘To the best mom in the world.  Of that we have no doubt.

May all those sweet and meaningful dreams come true.

We love you.

David and Paul xx.’

Ivey smiled as she began to read a few more and didn’t notice Samuel when he crept into the front room.  He stretched and yawned loudly.

                “They gone,” he said, “…Yuh comin to bed?  We’ll clean up dis mess t’morrow,” he was now massaging her shoulders.

                 “…Mmm, dat feel good,” Ivey sighed, “…I’ll be up in a minute.”

                 “You alright?”

                 “Yes, yes, I’m fine sweetheart.  You gwaan up, I soon come.” Ivey patted his hand.

                 “Alright, good night then.”

                 “Good night Samuel.”

As Ivey continued to read more of her birthday cards, her youngest son Paul entered the room munching on a large piece of her birthday cake.

               “Ahh, mom!” he said surprised, “…I thought you gone to bed.”

                “No, I’m still awake as you can see.  The cake nice don’t it?” Ivey’s tone had a hint of sarcasm.

Paul chuckled, “Yeh man, it sweet,” his chuckling stopped immediately when he glanced at Ivey’s frown speculatively, “…you alright mom?”

                 “Yes, yes, me alright, why?”

                 “Nuttn.  Is just that yuh look miles away.”

                 “Oh, I was just thinkin of de party.”

                 “It was a cool party enit mom?”

                 “Yes it was very moving Paul, and I thank unnu for dat.”

                 “No problem mom.  You deserve it.”

                 “So who do all de cookin?  Yuh Auntie Florence?”

                 “Nah man, Dad did.  I never know he can cook.”

                 “Well now you know it wasn’t me all de time who cook yuh dinner.”

Paul smiled and sat across the room facing her, munching and swallowing last bits of his cake.  He licked the icing from his fingers then rose to his feet.

                 “Well mom, that’s me done, I’m gonna turn in now.”

                 “Ok darlin’.  Before yuh go up, play dat record again fe me nuh.”

                 “Which record?” Paul’s eyes swept over his mom’s face through his furrowed brows.  Ignoring his examination Ivey replied, “Yuh know, dat one about de woman.”

                 “Oh yeh!  Now?”

                 “Yes, now.  I want to hear it.”  Ivey watched his eyes widen with concern.

                 “Ok.”  Paul drifted over to the stereo, his gaze returned to her again, before he searched through his selection of vinyl’s eventually finding the twelve inch she requested.  He turned on the stereo and placed the record on the deck, then placed the arm on the spinning disc and set the volume to a reasonable level.  The crackling of the record’s surface hissed through the tannoy speakers.

                 “Night Mom.” Paul sauntered over to her, leaned forward and kissed Ivey’s forehead.

                 “Good night darlin’ and thank you.”

Ivey sat back in the sofa, sighed and listened again to the fullness of the lyrics…

‘Woman staring into space

She’s wondering where her life has gone

Dreaming of the land she once came from,

so far away across the sea;

home sweet home

Getting old now

Got to be moving on

Ain’t getting’ any younger

Got to go home

To rest her soul in peace in love

And the memories

Of when she was young…’

…Ivey originally came here to be a nurse or study to be a Mid-Wife.  Every time she was within touching distance of knowledge, life got in the way and she was side-tracked.  She finally settled and got her first job as piece-worker in a big clothing factory.  Although she had the talent to sew and make clothes, she hated it but had to love it for the money’s sake.  She was earning £3.00 a week in the old currency of Pounds, Shillings and Pence, out of that she had to pay her rent, buy her food and put a few pennies aside for the gas and electric meter.  So she hardly had any money left to spend on herself.  Even so, she always managed to send money back home to her parents to help them and pay back, bit by bit, her passage here to ‘England’s Streets’.  She lived in one room with three other West Indian women.  One was from Nevis, one from Barbados, the other from Trinidad, she was from Jamaica.  It was bad living she recalls, they had to share one bathroom with four other West Indian women who lived in another room down the hallway of the same house.  They got in each other’s way when they wanted to use the kitchen, but they were good times…

               “…We was all in our late teens to early twenties then and bwoy, de man dem would chase we like crazy!”  Her eyes had a burning faraway look in them, gazing into a vacant space, staying there.  Almost wishing that, in that spot, those days were back, there!

Samuel, the man in her life came forward:  “…I have no intention of goin out on a date with you,” she told him in her ‘speaky-spokey’ cheeky way, but she fancied him really.  He was persistent, that kind of chat didn’t discourage his advances at all.  Nevis, Barbados and Trinidad found their men too, Ivey got married, so did they.

A month after her fourth wedding anniversary, Ivey gave birth to David, who favoured her in every way.  She and Samuel moved from one room into a house, they bought a car, more money was coming in, not a lot, but they were getting by.  Then Paul was born seventeen months later.  Paul’s pregnancy was a difficult one.  Ivey was continuously sick; she was always in and out of hospital with complications.  Her labour wasn’t any better; it was bad, seventeen hours.

               “…Get ready for the caesarean!” the doctor said.

               “No, don’t cut me!  He have to born natural like me first one!”

With one final effort from Ivey, Paul was born natural.  She and Samuel mutually decided after that wicked experience, they would have no more children.  Six months after the birth of Paul, Ivey heard the tragic news that her parents died back home within days of each other.  She was so weak, she didn’t have the strength go to Jamaica to witness them being buried.  With a mixture of bitterness and love, Ivey strove through the hard times.  She grabbed her chance to become a Mid-Wife and worked hard to see that her sons grew up happy and they did.

Ivey is a grandmother now.  She couldn’t believe it when it happened, it was so quick.  Once her little baby David, now he and his wife to be Sharon are mother and father to baby Luke.  In the church at the christening, she knelt and prayed asking God to allow grandson Luke to grow wise and strong and for his parents to guide him in the right way with wisdom, love and understanding.  Then as the congregation strolled down the aisle to where Luke’s head was dipped into holy water, she rivets her eyes on a woman.

               “Kiss me neck! Is Nevis!”

They felt like shouting and jumping for joy, but being in church they saved it until the service was over.  When they were outside, they ran to each other like two crazy wild horses, embracing.  Bitterness was cancelled out, only love remained.  Forty five years had flashed by, now Nevis and she were sharing a grandson.  How strange is destiny, how strange…?

…The record came to an end.  Ivey hoisted herself from the sofa and drifted across the room to switch off the stereo.  She nodded her head and smiled…

               “…Is about time me and Samuel book a holiday,” she whispered, “…and go to Jamaica to visit we family.  Forty years is too long.  Is time we go.”


*All rights reserved.  No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the writer Norman Samuda-Smith.*


One Response to “FEATURED STORY”

  1. I remember that Reggae song’s lyrics. It would have been set at about mid 70’s yeh? Who sang that??

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