Something to Chew On

  • Kids fighting leaves me feeling irritated and simply rotten. All that discord destroys the peace of the house and puts everyone in a foul mood. I wonder how can my children dislike each other so much. Then I rememb-er when I was young. I fought with my sister all the time. We just did not get along. “How did you resolve it?” asked my husband. “I don’t know. We grew up.”

It was nineteen seventy something. Times were hard in Jamaica. All the wonderful goods from America had stopped coming in and supermarket and pharmacy shelves were bare. My mother worked for the airlines so she’d go to Miami and bring us those coveted first world treats like Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks cereal. We complained that the cereal from the Caribbean tasted like cardboard. Once mom bought us a pack each of grape flavoured Bubble Yum. I rationed mine, biting only half and saving the other half. I hid the pack in my drawer. One day I went into the bedroom I shared with my sister and opened the drawer. My bubble gum was gone. I knew who the culprit was. The thorn in my side. She’d eaten her Bubble Yum within hours. She later told me she didn’t think I would notice the gum was missing. To say I was angry is an understatement. I railed at her, threatened her life. I reminded her for years after, that she’d committed this offence.

Years later when I had my first child and my sister was working for BET, she came to Jamaica to visit. She opened up a very large suitcase on my bedroom floor and there inside were packs and packs of grape flavoured Bubble Yum, Twizzlers and jelly beans.

“These are for you,” she laughed. “I hope this makes up for the time I ate your bubble gum and thought you wouldn’t notice.”

We sat on the floor and ate Twizzlers, jelly beans and bubble gum for hours, reminiscing about our childhood and growing closer.

I am the eldest of three girls. I am blessed to have a great relationship with both my sisters and I hope my children will learn to get along and want to be around each other as adults. After all, who else but a sibling would be honest about how I really look in that dress, and sometimes know more about me than I know myself. And so, I tell my son, “one day, you’ll realize how much you love your sister.” “No I won’t,” he says. Silently, I say, oh yes you will.

While writing this blog, I called my sister.
“You know those yoghurt covered raisins you had in your pantry over Spring Break?”
“I ate them.”
“All of them?”
“The whole box?”
“Yeah. Did you notice?”
“I didn’t notice,” she said laughing.

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a horrid thing. I’d never experienced it before, at least never so badly as now. My fingers used to run quickly over the keyboard, darting clicks of inspiration, and the words would appear. I’d be satisfied. Even if the writing wasn’t perfect, I’d edit until satisfied. Sometimes days would pass by and the writing wouldn’t come. But it passed. I always had the confidence that the words would flow again. This past year has been different. I’ve opened up the computer and stared at the blank screen in misery. I’m like a well that was once full and is now bone dry. The stories that came so easily have abandoned me. I still write in my mind, but once I open the computer, my fingers sit poised for action, ready to dart. I close my eyes in despair as the truth sinks in. There is nothing to work with, like a carpenter ready to build without wood or knife.

I wonder the reason for this. Is it that I’m so mired in parenthood, my mind filled with all the little responsibilities parents have to think about: have you done your homework? Why not? Where is your lunch box? You left it at school again? You need money for what? Where do you need to be dropped? And on and on it goes.

Is it because I now live in Canada: a safe place where people obey the laws and things run more or less by clockwork, where I’m content and the majority of people lead uncomplicated lives? I’m not saying Canadians are boring but the news headlines in Jamaica were enough to inspire many a story. Have I relied too much on stories and not enough on good writing? After all, one of my favourite writers, Canadian Nobel prize winner for literature, Alice Munro, writes about Canada and her stories hold me spellbound. I re-read her books over and over again.

Perhaps I’m so busy that my creative mind has been pushed down so far that it is unreachable. My mom came to visit in June. She pointed to a grassy area next to a highway near my home. “Look at the field,” she said in delight to my daughter. “There are so many shades of green, white green, grey green, I can count ten shades of green. An artist has to notice the landscape around them.”

I glanced briefly at the field before returning my eyes to the road. “I don’t notice the greens,” I said. “I barely notice the field.” I gripped the steering wheel and made a left turn. My body felt tight and there was a dull thudding pain over my eyes. I was rushing to take my daughter to dance. We were late. My eyes were narrowed, my heartbeat fast, my breathing shallow. I was on the road but barely noticed the other cars around me. I didn’t see the landscape at all. It took all my concentration to converse with my mother and focus on the road. I wanted to breathe but there was a constriction in my chest. I have to slow down, I thought fleetingly. I have to notice the shades of green.

This, I think, is part of the problem.