‘Till this day, people know Ma. My grandmother’s ice cream and fudge.’
“I grew up in Trinidad and my grandma was this strong woman who would put you in your place in two seconds. We’d go hunting, and it was so much fun. On our little hunts we’d go up in the trails, the cane fields, the cashew trees. She’d pick cashews, ‘cause when we’d go home, she’d roast them. And the smell and the taste of cashews you pick from a tree is incredible.
She’d stop and talk and then go to the next house. It was a really close-knit community.
“I grew up with her and coconut oil. She’d get the coconut and drink the water, grate the coconut, have the milk. And then the flakes, you’d roast them over the fire, and you get the oil. The most intoxicating smell of fresh coconut oil. She’d use it for everything — your hair, your skin. You had an earache? She’d put it in your ear. My grandmother would make ice cream, different Trinidadian desserts. And on Sunday she’d make fudge, everything fresh with her coconut milk. She had a cart and she’d go around the block. And by the time she came back home, everything was gone. We’d go with her and everybody called her Ma. “Ma give me ten of that!” And I mean she made money. And everybody waited for Sunday ‘cause Ma was coming. So, she had us and my cousins and we’d go with her, and I remember just watching. She’d stop and talk and then go to the next house. It was a really close-knit community.
“Till this day, people know Ma. My grandmother’s ice cream and fudge. She was such a character. My aunt was pregnant and wanted a coconut. My grandma said, ‘You want it? Hold on,’ and she climbed the tree at sixty-something years old. I swear to you, got the coconut for her! She used to tell us stories. She had these old folk stories that she told my mom, so passed down. And she’d sing and she would change her voice and be every character. Living in Trinidad, the electricity would go out a lot. So, when that went out, that was our cue. She’d light the candle and we’d sit around the candle and she’d tell us these stories. I remember when I was pregnant, I called her in Trinidad. I’m like ‘Ma, you have to tell me these stories’ and I recorded them. I have some that I started writing down ‘because I’d love to pass them on to my daughter.’”
Interviewed by Betsy Abraham