Brenda stops by this afternoon. She has Little Thing, Kervin’s baby granddaughter, with her. Brenda is wearing a blue jean skirt and Little Thing has on jeans and tennis shoes. I know they’ve come for a visit, and I know why: Kervin has told them about the pencil sketches I made yesterday—one of Little Thing and Shandeira and one of Kervin. They are on my refrigerator and Brenda admires them. She thinks I’ve made Shandeira too beautiful, but the baby is ‘just right’, and she likes the way I’ve caught Kervin squinting out of one eye, as he so often does.
“Miss Judith,” she says, you can make money, somebody wants you to draw a picture of them. They pay good money for that.”
I tell her the drawings are hers if she wants them. I will put them in mats and send them over to her for her house. She beams, and asks me if I will make one of her, once she has her hair combed better. I say, of course I will. I explain that I don’t want to try watercolors, though: I am just not sure how to reproduce the beautiful shades of skin that are all around me on this island. I need more lessons to do that.
Brenda sips her tea and we chat about her background, growing up as a part of a farming family with eleven children. Her mother, when she wasn’t caring for babies, was a missionary. Her father was a farmer who liked his liquor too much. “But he never once pounded on us kids or on my mummy,” she says. “We would all line up under the tree in our yard and peek out up the road to see if he was coming home. We loved him a lot. We never once didn’t have shoes, or lunch to take to school, or food in our bellies.”
It seems Mummy was the matriarch, however. She was very tough on Daddy when he was drunk; nobody was allowed to help him get to bed or clean up after himself. Daddy brought his bad luck on himself, and he would have to work his way through it.
He had every chance to get straight, too. I am sure he was often reminded that the Lord would punish him for his weakness and one day, Brenda says, the Lord did just that: Daddy was hit by a milk truck and knocked high in the air and into the ocean. He survived but was always crippled, with pins in his leg and other injuries. He didn’t, however, get with God until one day when he was swimming he began to sink into some quicksand, and it took several people to pull him out. The message became clear. Daddy turned to the Lord.
Brenda’s siblings are scattered everywhere: some live in Nassau, some in Tampa, and there is a sister in Atlanta, where Brenda visited at Christmas. Kervin had many brothers and sisters as well, but now only he and his sister remain. Kervin has children from another woman, and he is a grandfather. Three of his grandchildren live with him, including Little Thing because their own mothers don’t really want to care for them. Brenda is their mother now.
Apparently, the whole family is enjoying its new computer. Over the weekend, Brenda played many games of solitaire, and won four times. Shandeira is good with the computer—she learned to use one at school, and goes to the library to do her homework. And of course she knows how to play games and has taught Brenda some of the ones that came with the laptop. Brenda also found a Kung Fu dvd someone had, and she and Kervin watched a movie. Once my cable internet is hooked up, I promise I will download Open Office for her, and Kervin needs a checkers game.
We marvel over how much Kervin, Mr. Macho, is enjoying the computer. He was a little offended that he has to log in as Brenda, but I told him when he got really good we could set him up with his own name if he wanted. I don’t think that day is too far away.