Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Win Is a Tribute to Doubtful Immigrant Parents Everywhere
I was talking to my mom on the phone in the wake of this year’s parade. I don’t know how long it’s been since she attended, but I’d guess a couple decades. The Labor Day Parade is a young person’s affair: you dress up, and you dance until your legs are jelly. I only have vague memories of that time.
“Mommy, I need to stop and get out. I’m gonna throw up.”
“We soon reach,” she urged. “Just hold on nuh man. If you feel sick, open a window. You will be fine.”
“I can’t open it,” I said, as I struggled with stuck revolving knob. The livery cabs had manual knobs that took eternities to turn.
Cracked blue vinyl seats condensed slimy hugs around me in those summer car rides. The pine freshener dangling from the rear view mirror swung to my dizziness. I was always nauseated and burning in cars. September mornings on the Parkway reminded me too much of that. The parade could be fun but I hated the onset of school, the clanging echoes and thunderous speakers. Music was private, and my family had taught me to be quiet and good. That was Jamaican to me: proper, proud, and pious.
“Look how dem pose off in a the likkle skirt deh.”
My mother was commenting on the other Jamaicans. They were her age but seemed younger with blazed orange and blonde perms. Their waves ironed flat and gold teeth gleaming, they were the object of chastisement and disdain. They looked like the dancers and love interests in the Buju Banton videos. The neon spandex they wore was well ahead of its time.
From mother’s tone I gathered: We weren’t better but we spoke English the way the Queen intended. (That Queen has since died, along with my beliefs about what to do with that colonial tongue.) One of my dangerous aunties dressed colorfully, and I loved her for it. The Parkway gave her the space to show out where she couldn’t within our apartment walls.
“Show them how you do the dance, Andrew. Gwan and move yuh waist.”