Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘origins’

One day I was walking through a parking lot with some groceries and I hear a small voice say, “Excuse me, excuse me, can you help me?” I pause and from around a big car steps a small woman, smaller than me and I’m not big. In short, she’d locked herself out of her car and she was barefoot because she’s just had her nails done but she stepped out of the car to pick up something and then the door shut and so on and so forth and her cell phone and purse were inside. Luckily I had my cell phone and so I called a locksmith who said it would be awhile and after asking her “would you like me stay with you?” she nodded emphatically and I just hoped that the scallops I’d purchased would be okay in the blazing sun. And in this age of COVID of course we were socially distant so that made it okay that she stayed in the shade of the car and I stayed in the sun of the parking lot. We bantered a bit and then she asked, somewhat shyly, “Where are you from?”

Now I am brown and she was a beautiful darker shade than me with a creole accent. And people with that accent “up here” in New England have often asked me that same question. Though corporate training sessions will tell you that is a politcally incorrect question to ask these days, I took no offense. I said what I always say, “I am from Virginia.”

She nodded slowly. And with a smile, I added, “I do have to tell you that that is not the first time I’ve been asked that question.” She perked up. “You see, when I first moved up here, there was a fellow I’d see on the greenline train every now and then who’d say to me every single time, “You’re from Dominica.” I’d say I’m from Virginia and he’d frown perplexed and just walk away.”

She laughed.

“I didn’t even know what Dominica was,” I admitted to her. “I thought he meant the Dominican Republic.”

She laughed again and described Dominica to me.

I then shared, “And when I was in the hospital with my husband one of the aide’s asked me, “Where are your from, girl?” And when I told her Virginia, she just shook her head and said, “Ah. You’re one of those brown people who don’t know where they come from.” She looked me over and said, “You just tell people you’re from “de island.” I asked , “Which island?” She just shook her head. “Just say “de island!”

The woman laughed again. She looked away and then she looked back at me. “I’m from Haiti. You look like you’re from Jamaica.”

I have never been to any of the islands. The islands of the British West Indies that were part of the Atlantic slave trade triangle. I don’t know specifically how my ancestors made their way, enslaved and otherwise, from Africa to the British West Indies to the southern British colonies of Virginia and North Carolina. I still think I am from Virginia, from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Moutains, especially at this time of year when both there and in New England the landscape is a riot of color as the trees change.

Where are you from? Such a loaded question. Such a gentle question. It all depends on who speaks the words and why.

Now this young woman in the parking lot also asked my name. She nodded. “Cynthia is a nice name but I am going to call you angel. God sent you to me. You’re my angel today.”

I opened my mouth but decided to close it and just smile.

Read Full Post »