Tonton Lena(rd)

He almost always came at night. Just in time for supper…porridge or chocolate with bread or sometimes something fried. I hated when he had to leave early. But I always grew glad when he was around…
He is the first thing I remember getting me close to storytelling. He talked about sanpwel, lougawou, lwa, manbo, ougann, legliz, nann dlo, cafe, jadenn, mon…and all those other things about Lakay. He would also mention Port-au-Prince, an deyo, la plen and so on. He also lauged a lot, at his own stories, not in a conceited way…not at all. Most of his tales would have a moral and though I didn’t like most of them at the moment (seed of rebellion and selfishness), I know they were worthwhile. I wish I remembered more of his stories, had him around longer, though I don’t regret all of us having moved on. I am grateful Tonton Lena was a friend of the family. The Surinamese neighbors, young boys who thought they were owners of the land and of whoever stepped on it called him nicknames. I found it disrespectful. He was old, but still worked the land…left his country to chache lavi. Did he find it? I doubt it. Maybe he did, but not the way he wanted too. I figure he produced ‘sel’ out of what he had, where he came from, so he could press on. And that’s why he could give my parents, my siblings and me the lavi he gave in the form of stories, knowledge and patriotism. Lena, I’m not very sure, but I think he fell ill and was sent to Haiti, where he died soon after. Or maybe he died in Suriname but was flown over….they say they found money he had buried. Maybe he buried the money during the Surinamese civil war, when soldiers would come in and steal or humiliate people in their houses. So many greats die grim deaths…But this old one made things alive in me, so he lives on.

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