A Woman-Child in Jamaica


At 10 years old I was called into the living room by my mother and my grandmother. “Hurry up an’ sit, chile,” my grandmother said, her command like a hand pressed against my back, shoving me forward onto the plastic-covered sofa. After a moment of silence, my mother spoke. She told me she never again wanted to see me dancing and playing in public as I had been that morning. I was confused. I did not know that practicing my cartwheels and splits on the long veranda warranted such reprimand.

My mother had enrolled me and my little sister in dance classes and never minded our practicing before — even if we leapt into furniture or crashed into a captive audience of red hibiscus, bougainvillea, eucalyptus and ferns. Rudy, the yard man, would pause to give a brief applause before returning to whack at the weeds with his machete under the mango tree. “You’s no longah a likkle girl,” my mother explained to me, her eyes fixed on the small bumps on my chest visible in the thin blouse — two raisins that had appeared overnight.

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