by Margaret Sullivan and Nelcia Marshall Robinson
Of the girls in our age group, in the village, I found myself often at the home of Miss Emma, taken home by her daughter Jennifer. I enjoyed Miss Emma’s company, mainly for her stories of her childhood, which filled my eager ears, and equally for her delicious offerings of roast breadfruit with either herring or salt fish, and best of all “The Fire on Top”, or ‘Dough Boy’.
This was a heavy round bread made from a mixture of flour, coconut, lard or butter, and spices. It was baked in a covered iron pot on a coal pot or firestones. Coals would be placed as well on the cover of the pot. The result was an evenly baked, brown Dough Boy – mouthwatering and filling. When Jennifer discovered my love for this sustaining food, she harassed her mother to ‘make a doughboy for Nel’.
Jennifer had an Aunt living at Rilland Hill, near to my home, and she would come to visit her. I would be following Jennifer half-way home, and she would then ‘follow me back’. I would always end it by walking all the way to Questelles, and branching off to visit my friend Margaret.
What conversations we had – all about ourselves. The pony combs and clips in our hair, the pleats or gathers in our skirts, and what we would wear to the Christmas Party. I remember the year we bought black cotton for our skirts, and a quarter of yard of red to make an apple as an appliqué. We were confident a village seamstress would give us some strips of green to make the leaves. That was the last year we saw Lafay – a schoolmate who was jovial and always singing, and whose Mother took delight in having us gather at her house. Years later we discovered that Lafay had gone to Trinidad, and emerged as the Mighty Prowler, a calypsonian of distinction who became Calypso Monarch. When he returned to St Vincent he did not remember me.
Jennifer emigrated to Canada and has succeeded in building a successful life as a Canadian Citizen. She and Margaret live in fairly close proximity to each other. I am quite amused that these two important women in my life are far from me in Canada. Their love and loyalty, however, is not hindered by distance.
Margaret told me in awe-struck tones that during a conversation with Jennifer, she discovered that Jennifer was planning her Funeral, down to the last detail. I thought, there is Miss Emma’s training. In her conversations with me, Miss Emma had always mentioned her preparation for sickness and death. In fact she was prepared for Life, and so is Jennifer.