Jamaican Childhood

Dem yah school pickeney nowadays

Nuh know wah childhood mean,

Aftarall dem have all sorta computa

And calculata machine.

Memba in days gone by

When wi haffi count wid icicle stick?

Memba how much tamarind seed u did haffi save

Fi cyarry bright bright Monday mawnin fi avoid gettin lick?


Grade 1 wi learn how fi write joinin up,

Grade 2 wi learn bout a “wee little mouse”

Grade 3 wi practice di golden rule,

And tun Brownie fi clean people house.

Grade 4 Evan Jones teach wi bout

A rich banana man,

Grade 5 everybaddy walkin to evening class

Wid Common Entrance book in dem han.


Di government used to send new box every year

Wid all sorta readin’ book

Wi read bout “Zachariah dumpling head”.

And one name “Look, Peter, Look”.

My favorite one was “The Fat Girl and The Mango”

And anadda bout one ooman who change har skin

Then Ali Baba and di Forty Thieves

Was di one wi couldn’ stop readin’.


Rememba di Chrismus show at di Parish church?

Wid wi makeshift angel wings?

Memba when wi used fi mek Chrismus cyaad

Fi wi mommy, daddy, and wi siblings?

Memba April Easta paaty and den di May pole dance?

Memba when wi use fi have only one day

Fi wear dress up clothes and wi jeans pants?


Memba when you finally got a full size exercise book,

And yuh first numba two pencil?

Memba when yuh madda buy yuh first protractor?

And you get you owna stencil?

I cannot forget my blue First Aid in English

Nor mi orange Student’s Companion

Dem teach mi nuff tings bout general knowledge

And help me to be a betta woman.


Memba how wi used to play ring game before class

Ah talk bout “I am in a well”?

Or when school gyal used to run afta school bwoy

Wid dem uniform strap and belt?

Memba how wi couldn’ wait fi hear di break bell

Soh wi could’a run wid wi fifty cent,

Goh ah school gate to Ms. Elaine stall

Weh asham and suck suck sell?


123 red light was fi mi favorite game,

Followed by di one bout di ramgoat.

I was always di brown girl in di ring,

A show motion and a kin up my mout.

Memba how wi used to do di 24 bounces?

And everybaddy own a Chinese skip?

123 Aunty lou lou,

Everybody jus ah turn and dip.


Dem deh days pickeney was bright bright bright

Wi neva have technology but wi learn.

Wi neva need no video game nor computa

Fi teach wi how fi discern.

Wi used to tell Big Boy stories

Unda di Tilly lamp

And Anansi story put wi to bed and

Wi laugh til wi belly cramp.


Wi neva need no cable nor noh BET;

Fi mek wi dead wid laugh

And di only colored screen me did know

Was when JBC sign off!

Animation was di monkey face

Mi used to show mi bredda

And di only karate kid was me and him

When wi was fightin each adda.


Wi used to kin puppa lick outta door.

And tek Juicifruit box mek ball

And rounders was di schoolyard game of choice

That included one and all.

Sports day was filled with pure excitement

Everybaddy waan big up dem house!

But when time come fi evening devotion

Di whole school quiet lak a church mouse.


But nowadays ten-year-old gyal pickeney

Drop book fi baby carriage;

And twelve-year-old boy waan drink rum

And fifteen-year-old ah chat bout marriage.

Fi mi days, wi neva dream bout dem tings

Wi would’a prefer romp til morning come.

Wi play hopscotch and dandy shandy

And tek water bucket mek drum.


Ah wah dis life ah come to?

School boys ah run fi pick up gun

Pickeney noh waah be pickeney no more

Imagination is no longa fun.

Mi pleadin wid di parents of today

Teach di pickeney dem some culture fi mi please

Dem ah di beacons of tomorrow

Tell dem fi relax and enjoy some cool breeze.


Jamaican school days full ah vibes

And if dem miss out pon dat dem losin nuff!

Teach dem how fi play di schoolyard games

And nuh fight and gallang soh rough.

Mek dem know fi be strong and proud

Of dem lignum vitae and blue mahoe.

Jamaican people full ah pride

Let all the school children know.


Dem yah school pickeney nowadays

Ah di future of dis lan’.

Mek wi tek dem from in front di tv

And raise dem wid wi own two han’.

And when di pickeney dem enjoy dem childhood

Happy we all will be

Jamaica land of beauty

Will remain Jamaica strong and free.



© Kerri-Ann M. Smith


About the author

Kerri-Ann M. Smith

Dr. Kerri-Ann M. Smith is an author and educator. She is an Associate Professor of English at Queensborough Community College, CUNY. She is a patois translator, a wife, and the mother of two beautiful little girls. She is a senior writer for jamaicans.com.