During our early childhood it seemed to me that my younger sister Aminta was more cunning than I had thought. I would notice that she would often quietly disappear from my company to find some place to be all day long. In the meantime, I would make myself available to my parents-to mother actually- when she would decide to stay at home and then to my father’s needs when he came home from work in the evenings.
Even at that tender age I often felt overwhelmed by the events at home. A loner with no one to really talk to, however, I felt that I at least had Aminta; that is, until a sickly baby sister came home to us, it seems- to die.
Up until then our activities had followed an erratic pattern of being home for spells while all the other children were at school and then we would be sent to some neighborhood English School for a fleeting moment. By that time we had been dragged away by our parents from every loving situation that had offered any kind of nurturing and protection. Alone by day and sometimes part of the night, we kids would find ourselves running off somewhere in the neighborhood often from our bickering and quarrelling parents.
During this tumultuous period in our lives we were not even aware that our mother had been pregnant and had given birth to a baby girl. In fact, the first time we would even become aware that we had another sibling was when the baby, almost a year old, had come home from the hospital where she had remained since birth.
Now, this is hard for present day parents to believe given our cramped living quarters but when you consider that we, at no time, had been spoken to about the infant nor had been taken on visits to the hospital to see her, you can readily see how this could occur to two totally innocent children.
I remember the day as clearly as if it were yesterday when we awoke to find that we had a baby sister by the name of Lidia at home. We were both, soon enough involved in helping to cure our little sick baby sister.
The baby seemed to be in constant agony because she cried and whimpered incessantly, her breathing forced and irregular. Nothing neither we nor my mother did seemed to matter and my mother, Rosa, was at a loss to discover what ailed the infant.
On occasion some neighborhood Westindian women, whom I did not know, came by to suggest home remedies to give the child. Things like the juice extracted from squeezing onions and other old herbal remedies. Although my mother tried them, nothing helped and for me it was God’s own loving kindness that filled us kids with a ray of hope that our baby sister would some day be all right. I took it upon myself to keep vigil most of the night going over to her little crib and consoling her by just stroking her constantly- a gesture that seemed to work- until she would finally go to sleep.
One morning I began playing with her as I would do with any other kid, while my mother held her in her arms. I kept calling to her gently by her name for the first time. “Lidia, Lidia look Lidia,” I repeated over and over. Suddenly she turned to me and beamed the sweetest smile, as if to say I recognize you all. That had been all the reward we needed and we were so happy that day to be able to get her, at least from time to time, to pay attention to us kids. It would also become one of the happiest memories of my life while living with my parents. From that day on Lidia seemed to take to Aminta and me and she would let us fawn over and play with her for hours.
We started to sleep together in a large crib bed which was ample in size for the three of us. The mornings soon became a wet affair because my sisters would urinate all over us. The problem was that living where we did made it sort of impossible for us kids to climb down out of bed and go way back to the restrooms to relieve ourselves, the back of the building being where the bath and toilet stalls were located. I guess it never occurred to my parents to provide us children with little chamber pots that might have solved this problem temporarily. All of these inconveniences would tell on us children eventually as we had to endure the lack of foresight and maturity on the part of our young parents.
It was, however, on one of those mornings when we all slept late, that I noticed a terrible change. I had gotten into the nightly habit of sleeping cuddled up close to Baby Lidia to keep her as warm as possible. This terrible morning, however, I awoke to my parent’s sombre pronouncement, “The baby is dead!” Without saying a word to either one of us my father then comes and brusquely yanks the baby from my embrace. That sole act would be the last and only moment of “consolation” my parents would offer us kids.
This story continues.