Moms tend to do that, you know? That whole “unsung” thing. They leap between tall buildings in a single bound, save the whales, and establish world peace all before breakfast without expecting so much as a single hand clap of applause to acknowledge their efforts. And over the years I’ve learned that our mothers aren’t limited to the sweaty emotional chick we met in that bright room our first day on the planet. They sometimes appear later in life out of nowhere, swooping down to save us from danger, or just make us a sandwich, when our birth mothers aren’t available. That’s precisely what my friend Cass’ Aunty Coral did. She showed up at the airport our first day in Trinidad and without asking permission, established herself as our mother for the next 8 days whether we wanted one or not.
Hospitality doesn’t adequately describe what we experienced while staying with Aunty Coral. As soon as we arrived from the airport her husband, Uncle Len, went to the back room to finish making the bed. Not “refreshing the linens” making the bed, but putting on safety glasses, revving up the saw, cutting up some wood and literally making the bed. Just for us. (insert open-mouthed blank stare of disbelief here)
From picking us up from our first party at 5 AM, to spending the entire next day running errands with us, they did so much in the first 24 hours of our arrival that we started to feel like we were imposing. So we devised a plan. Our second night we planned to walk to the party so Aunty Coral wouldn’t try to leave her house at midnight and take us. When we were ready to leave we simply told her “our ride is here.” Now, I don’t know what it is about Moms but their BS meter is extremely sensitive and can pick up the slickest tricks in the book. When our “ride” showed up, Aunty Coral opened the door and walked down the stairs with us, I assumed to open the gate to the car port downstairs. To our horror, she kept walking, casually chatting with us all the way out to the driveway. That’s when the stuttering started.
“Uh..um, well, I-I mean Mel, um, you think, um, maybe he’s like down the street?”
“Yeah Trace, he’s probably like um… I thought he was…you know..”
“Guys he’s probably just…you know like…late you know? You….um, like traffic?”
Aunty Coral kept a straight face but I’m sure she was cracking up inside as she remembered trying to pull the same stunt in her youth. She slyly told us, “Okay well I’ll just wait with you till he comes.” Mel and I look at each other like FOR REAL? What is this 10th grade? How is she gonna hold us hostage like this? We are grown! Good and grown. I mean who does she think she is anyway? I’m about to tell her about herself because this right here is out of control, and furthermore….
“What ya say, Tracey?” she called out from the back of the driveway.
“Oh nothing Aunty Coral, Mel was saying he’s not too far,” I replied, trying to hold my composure as my respect for my Trini Mom battled my desire to just scale the fence and make a mad dash down the street. 30 minutes passed and Aunty Coral was cool as a cucumber, doing a little yoga while we snapped photos and tried to mask our foiled plan. Our ride eventually came and not a second before did she open the gate to let us out into the street. At that moment I realized this woman was not playing. It was not a game, and our devious shenanigans were not happening on her watch.
Throughout the week she protected us, fighting traffic to pick us up from fetes at dawn, giving us medicine and tea for our deteriorating bodies and laughing with us when we came in stumbling and telling stories from the night’s festivities. Having done carnival for decades when she was young, she enjoyed reliving the experience, making suggestions for our costume remix and requesting mini fashion shows as we decided on outfits for each fete.
The only time I saw Aunty Coral upset with us was on our last day. Right before we left for the airport, Cass gave her a card and when she felt how thick it was, her attitude immediately changed. Her pursed lips, furrowed brow and steam coming out of her ears clued me in that we had crossed the line and violated a serious Mom Commandment – “Thou shalt not buy my love.” She told us the best things in life are free and and threatened to call Cass’s Mom and tell her that her daughter had no home training.
Instead she tucked the money away and told us it would be waiting for us when we return next year. Despite our pleas for her to go buy something nice or pamper herself, I’m confident that money is right where she put it and that next year she’ll try some trick to sneak it back into our luggage. But even if she gave it back it wouldn’t matter because no money could amount to the love she cloaked us in for 8 days in Trinidad. Experiencing Carnival with the wisdom and love of her virtual motherhood was worth more than we could ever sneak into an envelope and I hope that in transcribing my appreciation into this post and sending it to her that she understands how grateful I am not for what she did, but for who she is. Thank you Aunty Coral 🙂