Everything in my life was about to change. My father came back to make arrangements for my sister and I to live together in an apartment. I was happy to be on my own, however I would miss Aunt Fern and her family. They were my second family. They helped in easing my transition from Jamaica. They helped me to understand the culture. I remember Andre showing me how to dance American style to the rap song “The Show” by Dougie Fresh and Slick Rick. I remember Trudy-Ann giving me tips on how to dress. In Jamaica I dressed in what was comfortable and most of the time I did not care about matching. Here it was called “roll calling”. She would not be seen with me if my clothes were not matching.
Aunt Fern taught me a lot too. She taught me how to bargain shop. I will always remember the hours we spent in Kmart running from blue light to blue light for price cuts.
The “teaching” was not just one way. Even though Aunt Fern’s children were born in Jamaica they did not grow up there. They yearned to learn about the culture. A few books on Jamaica were in the house and Aunt Fern occasionally cooked Jamaican food. I was their real “educator” on Jamaican culture. Aunt Fern and Uncle Wade spoke “proper” English so I taught them some “patwa”. They sounded really funny trying to speak “patwa” with an American “Tweng”. On occasion when I was talking about things I used to do in Jamaica Aunt Fern would join in. The children would be surprised hearing her speak about Jamaica. She barely spoke about Jamaica. I think she and Uncle Wade resented the fact that the politics of the 1970’s forced them to leave Jamaica. I remember telling them about fruits and foods that they could not find in Miami. I was going to miss them. Even though they were a phone call away it seemed like it was final.
On the day I moved Aunt Fern gave me a hug and reminded me that I was always welcome. Uncle Wade told me if I needed to fix anything I should call him. Cassandra and Trudy-Ann cried. Andre put on his best Jamaican patwa “Link yuh latah”. It was perfect “patwa” and even sounded like he lived in Jamaica all his life.
My new freedom came with a car. My father bought a second hand car. It was a 1987 Nissan SX automatic. It was slow but it was a car. I had more than enough practice with Richie’s car driving around Miami. Aunt Fern also loaned me her car a few times after I “chauffer” her a few times. She wanted to be sure I was a safe driver.
With the new freedom was the constant lecturing from my father. He gave me a few speeches on responsibility and about budgeting.
The apartment my father settled on was in Hollywood, in Broward County. It was close to Broward Community College. It was close to Aunt Fern even though she was in the other county.
The apartment had 2 bedrooms and was on the 3rd floor of a 6-story building. I was off a main street that led to Broward Community College. My father and I bought most of the furniture as stores Aunt Fern recommended. She also helped us with buying the household items.
Before I moved out she had me buy many of the items in the months leading up to my move. She gave me cooking tips and also showed me how to run the laundry. All my life in Jamaica we had a helper. When I came to Miami I had Aunt Fern. I never had to do any chores. I was not looking forward to doing chores and cooking. My father stayed a few extra days to get things settle in at the apartments. We agreed that my sister would get the master room as it had its own bathroom. He gave me one last lecture before he left for Jamaica.
The first few days were awkward. It was strange with no one around. I got used to cooking egg for breakfast and bully beef & rice for dinner. I got used to all the chores etc. It was just not having someone around that I could not get used. My phone calls to Mary-Ann were longer. I just did not want to hang-up. We had a real date that week as I now had a car. It felt good to be able to pick her up and drop her home in my own car. I picked her up and we went to a movie. She came to the back to the apartment. She loved the place and the idea that we could be totally alone. She could not stay. She had to go home. I was disappointed. I could not wait for my sister to get here. I would have some company.
One week after my father left my sister, Suzanne, arrived from Jamaica. I picked her up at the Miami airport. She was really excited about being on her own. We stayed up late catching up. I took her to the mall a few times that week.
On one occasion we met Mary-Ann there. I got the feeling Suzanne did not like her. I told her about Mary-Ann on her last visit. I did not tell her she was white. There were a few white Jamaicans at her high school, Immaculate Conception and one her best friends was white, I think she was a little surprised? I also gathered attitudes in Jamaica changes some as Suzanne was engrossed with rap music and “Yo MTV Raps”. Rap was changing more to blaming the “man” and the rift I encountered between black and white was not being expressed in the music. I remember her asking me on her last visit if anyone white person had called me the “n-word”.
The honeymoon between my sister and I would be over in a matter of 2 weeks. I realized I was doing everything. She did not know how to cook or even lift a broom. We had visited the coin laundry across the street where I showed her how to do the laundry. She refused to do it. She kept saying she was afraid to go across the street by herself.
Most days when I came home from work she would be in the same chair, I left her that morning. She would be watching MTV or BET. Some mornings she did not even get out of her room. She would not lift a finger to wash a dish. I was her personal chauffer, cook and “helper”. School would start in 2 weeks. I could not wait.
Suzanne kept saying she was bored. She wanted me to take her to a different mall every day. At night she was on the phone with her boyfriend in Jamaica. She mentioned him on her last visit. He used to attend St. Georges College and was now at UWI. He called everyday and she would not walk around with the phone waiting on the call.
She has changes so much. This was not the person I grew up with 4 years ago in Jamaica. We really did not know each other anymore. She was spoiled, selfish and fickle. She did not seem to understand that we were now responsible young adults and had to act like it. We had responsibility to not “run” the electricity all day make long distant calls and eat out. If it were up to her we would have Chinese food or McDonalds every day.
I thought paying bills, chores and cooking would be the biggest adjustment. Living with my sister was the biggest adjustment I would have to make moving out from Aunt Fern.
It got worse when her selfishness started to affect my relationship with Mary-Ann. My sister hung up the phone on her. Mary-Ann had called at a time when Suzanne was expecting her boyfriend to call. Suzanne told her she was expecting a call but Mary-Ann insisted. Suzanne told her to call back and before Mary-Ann could ask what time she heard “click”.
Mary-Ann was angry. She had an argument with her parents and really needed to talk to me. I was really upset and confronted Suzanne about it. She brushed me off and went to her room. She closed the door and turned on loud music. I knocked on her door and asked her to turn it down. She ignored me. I was steaming mad.
I kept thinking it would get better in four more days when school starts. She would have something to do with her time. I could not wait for school to start.
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