Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My Cherie Amour

My Cherie Amour

by The Nighshift Chronicler

My cherie amour, lovely as a summer day. My cherie amour, distant as the milky way. My cherie amour, pretty little one that I adore, you're the only girl my heart beats for,how I wish that you were mine.

Stevie Wonder

I was blessed to have more than one Mama growing up. Because my parents emigrated to the NY while I was still a baby leaving me behind in Haiti under the supervision of my aunts and grandparents, it was not until I was five that I actually realized that my mom was my mother. Up until then the three women who you see pictured here, along with my grandmother who I’ll talk about in another post, were Mamas to me.

To this day whenever I go visit my aunt B.—the one kneeling—she never fails to remind me that she used to change my diapers, take me to the doctor for shots and nurse me back to health whenever I got sick. When she closes out her stories she walks over and either gives me a kiss on the cheek or a pulls me along for a hug before proceeding to tell me, “you’re my first son. You know that right?”

The answer is always yes.

I had gotten accustomed to Aunt B’s ritual by the time I went back to Haiti with her in 1990 for my first visit since leaving in 1981. So I guess I should not have been surprised when the other two aunts pictured here, Zizi on the left and Rosa on the right, told the very same stories that I had been hearing aunt B tell for years. And just like Aunt B. each time one of them finished telling one of their stories she also reminded me that I was her first son.

What I remember about growing up with my aunts however has nothing to do with coughing up anything and except for the time I fell asleep with a wad of gum in my mouth and woke up the next morning with gum matted throughout my hair and a pillow stuck to my head, I rarely ever recall crying in their presence. My memories are of them standing me onto my grandparent’s porch and proceeding to use me as a stand in to practice their imagined dances with the boys that used to battle for their attention after school.

At first they’d place me on the top step and stand on the pact on the right side of the stair case to dance with me. But as I grew they had to put me a step lower and it took more of an effort for them to snap me off the staircase at the end of our dance and sprint across the courtyard with me in their arms, tickling me and passing me along from one to another like a little cherubic baton.

But while danced, I played the role of Jean-Pierre, Jacques or whoever they decided was their intended suitor. Each aunt would take turns dancing with me—or rather dance as they held my arms, thrusting themselves into spins, all the while smiling at me as if I was the one leading our tango. After a while I couldn’t hold hands any longer and would get really excited, clapping merrily as they started dancing in a circle with each other, poking me in the belly after every three pirouettes or so—all four of us becoming more animated as the musicians on the little transistor radio really got into their song. Sometimes I got so excited hopping up and down, forever teetering on falling off and sacrificing a tooth to the tooth fairy.

Maybe it was because I never fell off that step no matter how close that I got to the ledge that made those moments seem so exciting, and had me hoping that they would never end.

It was probably because of the dances that I fell in love with Stevie’s “My Cherie Amour.” That song reminds me of those moments on the porch steps with my aunt-Mamas, being called Cherie, being loved. “My Cherie Amour” reminds me of when love was playful, instead of painful, when it was about dancing, teetering on the edge but never falling and being tickled in the end by the whole experience.

“My Cherie Amour” reminds me of these three women, my aunt-Mamas who rather than give up their youth to take care of me, instead decided to share it—spoil me with sweets—wads of gum that went to my head rather than mutating into cavities. These three aunt-Mamas made magic out of miracles and a believer out of me.


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