Tuesday, January 16, 2007

We Took Granny Meg to Jamaica

Well, she wasn't a grandmother at the time, only a prospective mother-in-law. And ever since she's returned, she's spotting Jamaicans everywhere. She's become a veritable "bredren magnet." To hear her tell it, Connecticut has become "Little Kingston." It's rather sweet, actually.

From the work crew who waterproofed her basement to the gentlemen who replaced the gutters on her roof, she always spots a Jamaican in the bunch. And pops the question: "Are YOU from Jamaica?" she'll ask. And then she's off, talking about her son-in-law and her beautiful granddaughters and her own visits to the island. They, in turn, are typically dumbstruck, but delighted to hear her story.

There is occasionally, however, that one Lost-in-Translation moment.

Granny Meg owns a small summer home on the coast of Maine, a cozy cottage nestled in a pine grove, just a stone's throw from the ocean. Popham Beach has been our summer getaway since the early 1960s and it hasn't changed much over the past 40 years. Hell, it hasn't changed much since the turn of the century.

There is one paved road into town which dissolves into a dusty dirt road as it approaches the coastline and winds through the pine trees. There is one restaurant, Spinney's Seafood, one general store, Percy's, which now also serves fried clams and burgers; and one post office, one library, and that's about it. Oh, and the remnants of Fort Popham, at the mouth of the Kennebec, where the river spills into the Atlantic Ocean.

The beach is huge, one leg of it hugs the roiling Kennebec River, and then makes a 90 degree turn at The Point, where it then receives the waves of the Atlantic. My husband calls it an "original beach." Often strewn with driftwood, it is huge, typically quite empty, and offers spectacular views across the bay and to outlying islands. The water is a deep dark blue, like the darkest blue crayon in the coloring box.

And in the 40-odd years we've vacationed at Popham Beach, I have never seen a black person. Not ever.

But Granny Meg IS the bredren magnet. And when she stepped out of Spinney's one crisp fall day, she was only somewhat surprised to spot two large black men, both sporting huge, red-gold-&-green knitted tams, standing in front of Percy's General Store. They were eating ice cream cones and taking in the view.

Now, Granny Meg is a tiny woman. She used to be  5'6" but is now about 5'4" and weighs only about 95 pounds. She keeps her white hair cut short, has icy-blue eyes, and always walks with a quick, determined gait. Spry is the word that comes to mind. And when she spotted what she knew to be the tell-tale sign of a potential Jamaican, the tam bulging with dreadlocks, and in his majesty's color palette, she made a beeline for the two men.

"One was old, grey and grizzled," recalled Granny Meg, adding "but the other was quite good looking!" As she approached the two she waved and said, "Good Morning!" I imagine the two dreads glanced over their shoulder to see who this little sparrow of a woman might be talking to. Finding themselves standing all alone in front of Percy's, they realized this almost-ancient-tiny white lady was speaking to them.

"Marnin'," one of them answered. They continued to lick their blueberry ice cream cones, inspecting her with suspicious curiosity.

"Are you two Ra-stahs?" she asked, pronouncing it much like you would say ratchet, or raspberry, a loong drawn out raaaa-sta. They blinked, staring at her, dumbstruck.

"Yah mon, how you know wi a rasta?" the older one asked.

"Well, I could tell by your hats, of course," smiled Granny Meg. I'm certain the bredren were not particularly pleased to be recognized as rastafari simply by their choice of headgear, rather than, for example, their intrinsic oneness with the Most-High.

"My son-in-law is a rasta from Jamaica," she continued, "He and my daughter and their beautiful little girls live in New York City."

"New York City is a very bad place," the younger one said, still not quite believing they were even having this conversation.

"Why are you here in Popham?" asked Granny Meg.

"Wi come fi look 'pon de sea," answered the elder, which made perfect sense. There couldn't be a sea more different from the caribbean than the rich dark waters of the Atlantic off the coast of Maine.

"Well, do you live and work here in Maine?" asked Granny Meg, delighted to have made two more new Jamaican friends.

"Yah mon, we work wid de opper," said the younger man.

Well, now it was Granny Meg's turn to be dumbstruck.

"The opera?" she repeated. Or, at least, thought she repeated. "Well, hmmm, do you both sing?"

The bredren paused for a moment, exchanging glances. One of them shrugged, and said, "yah mon, sometime we sing."

Granny Meg was intrigued but perplexed. She'd frankly never heard of an opera company in Maine, let alone one that might have singing roles for Jamaican dreadlocks.

"Well, uhh, what else do you do with the opera?" she asked.

The elder looked at her and spoke slowly, as if to someone who might not be altogether right in the head and said, "When di opper ripe, we pick dem offa da tree."

Granny Meg, you are priceless..............


Anonymous said...

margrata is beautiful god bless her.

dinahmow said...

I thought you were still away. I have some back-reading to do!
What a rich vision I have of this exchange...thankyou

Albert W. Seguin said...

Thank You for this interesting and great story about Meg. She certainly deserved the trip to Jamacia,as she likes to travel. I know she found it to be a great place, and interesting being out in the middle of the Carribbean. I have been there twice myself. I liked the art work of her on the front page.I can say that I have known her for almost a lifetime. We met at the third grade of school.Meg, your the greatest, and still beautiful too. I am glad you had a nice visit to Jamacia , and liked it also. Your good friend, "Al Seguin" Known to you as (Abby)