“Brown skin gyul, stay home and mind de baby…”
My three-month-old son looks at me with apt attention as I sing my heart out, changing his nappy. I can tell he is absorbing every word as I sing-croak-sing…
“Brown skin gyul stay home and mind de baby…”
I try desperately to remember the rest of the lyrics to this lullaby I dredged up from the back of my dusty old memory bank, hoping I won’t have to make something up that ended in “lalalala bahaha booo cacapoopie,” (my go-to lyrics).
“I’m going away on a sailing ship…and if I don’t come back…”
Oh good! I am getting somewhere. He continues to stare at me with avid anticipation, not blinking, mouth open…
”Get it out mum, get it out!”
“Throw away the damn baby.”
Oh god oh!
It wasn’t until I had my son that I realised the effect my Caribbean heritage would have on his upbringing. I am surrounded by Australians. I’ve learnt to adapt to their lifestyle, their culture, their language and their over-politeness. I thought I would be blasé about his exposure to his Caribbean side and I never expected the little tug of sadness that came at the thought of him not growing up in Trinidad.
I didn’t know I would want him to know what it was like to drive along the Manzanilla coastline counting the coconut trees as they bend towards the sea.
I didn’t think I would want him to stand with me on the wet grass of the Savannah, waiting patiently for a coconut to be opened.
I never imagined I would want to buy a bucket and shovel for our first trip to Maracas to build a sandcastle.
I ache at the thought that he may never get to see West Indies play on their home ground.
It is a sadness I never knew would come.
I grab this responsibility of mine to introduce him to his motherland and with every one of my ancestors standing beside me, I feed him pieces of us everyday, little by little .
“Hello popo, who vex yuh up so?” My husband looks at me, puzzled, while walking backwards to the front door.
I can see the question scrawled across his face: “What de ass is Popo?”
He doesn’t know I hear him whispering “Ent” to my son at the midnight nappy change, the only word in his Trini dictionary.
“Stop calling my son fat!” screams my husband.
“Look at that bumsie, leh meh kiss it up.” My son worries about my sanity, while accepting my decision to proceed with a fart in my face.
Motherhood is a challenge by itself. Adding multiculturalism takes it up a couple notches into borderline crazy. My goal as a mum is to ensure my son knows where he comes from. He was born Australian to a Trinidadian mother.
I want him to embrace both sides of his heritage and hope that he will recognise what a gift it is to be Trini with a pinch of Aussie.