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Dancing Dogs in the Moonlight

Growing up as a poppy seed in a weltered garden has its benefits. Poppy seeds have morphine and codeine inside of them, so they ease pain. I always wondered where the poppy seed turns to when they need to relieve their pain. Do they just continue to survive for as long as the amount of problems that they have to fix or do they die inside themselves until the horizons beam them down until they are weeds? Growth never ends. Learning how to become your own encyclopedia never stops from A-Z. Wisdom never fleets because through the hundreds of people that you will meet in your lifetime, you are always adapting to being a student but also a teacher. My teacher was my grandmother. My “Ninni” came to the United States in 1943 from Bermuda, or as my Ninni likes to call it, Somers Isle. Ninni was born in Smith’s Parish but moved with my great-grandfather and great-grandmother to St. George’s. In St. George’s, my great-grandfather, Dexter, was a seaman who worked on coasts from the Bermuda to the Cayman Islands. My great-grandmother, Elaine, stayed at home and raised my grandmother and her brother, Marcus.
My great-grandfather was an avid worker and believed that success paid off in the end. Therefore, his “hard as a bull” work ethic instilled into my grandmother from an early age. By the time, she was six, she learned how to sew from her mother and would sell hand crafted bowls and purses with her brother in the town square. My Ninni was 17 years old when she moved to Florida with her brother. Her father died of syphilis when she was 13 and her mother refused to adopt the American culture, so she sent her children on their way. My Ninni said the last thing that her mother said to her before she died two years later was,


“Poppy seeds thrive when the sun doesn‘t shine and when the water dries.”


Ninni and my Uncle Marcus lived in an all-black boardinghouse near Miami. They worked odd jobs in hotels and restaurants until my Uncle Marcus married a Native American woman and moved to her reservation in North Dakota. Ninni decided to leave Florida and moved to Phoenix, Arizona with her new husband, Francis. While in Arizona, my Ninni used the skills that she learned from her mother about sewing and opened her own tailoring shop.

The shop was successful for 25 years and by this time, she gave birth to my mother, my Uncle William, my Aunt Terrance, and my Aunt Trinity. When my Ninni moved from Arizona to California after my grandfather died and when her children grown, Ninni went through hard times. She tried to open a tailoring shop in Santa Monica but she could not afford to the upkeep of the shop and went bankrupt. Everything that she and my grandfather built was gone. Mommy told her to move in with our family in Connecticut. Ninni agreed but without argument. Ninni’s environment surrounded her in areas that were warm and sunny all year long and was not used to having four seasons. In her rocking chair at our home, she would rock back and forth and say,


“I cannot stand this blasted weather.”


Her natural electricity would awaken during the summertime and the ruffle of wrinkles that lined up her face would disappear when she heard that it was the first day of summer. Even though the summertime meant jerk chicken barbeques and ear-pounding reggae music, it also meant hard work in the garden. Ninni made her own garden in our backyard and it became the centerpiece of her existence. She grew lilies, roses, tulips, carnations, daisies, sunflowers, and her favorite flowers, poppies. I used to work with Ninni in her garden to about 10 at night. Ninni was proud of her garden and always explained why she connected with the garden.


“Come ‘ere now, I hav’e to ya’ a storay. When I was a little girl, my fadder and mommie used to tell meh, “You have your own dogs dancing in the moonlight, ehn.” I loved sewing and would sew all night. ‘Dem say it to me one night when I was 12. I remembar’ tinkin’, “What ‘da h*ll in all of St. Peter’s Church did sat mean?” I did not understand ‘till now. It took’n your Ninni 74 years to fig’ure out what it mean. D*mn shame, I’mma 86 now. ‘Dem was sayin’ that I found some’ting that made me happy. Some’ting got me up. Then I taught about what ‘em mommie told meh about the poppy seeds. I got ‘frough a lot of dark days. Like she say, “Poppy seeds thrive when the sun doesn’t shine and when the water dries.” Now, I ‘tink, I wouldn’t of got ‘hen ‘frough ‘dem days wit’ out me dogs dancing in the moonlight.”


Ninni died a month later from unknown causes. At her funeral, while I watched my mother’s soul go into the casket while my Ninni’s went back to Bermuda, I think I know why she died. She found her dogs dancing in the moonlight. It was not a surprise in a world where poppy seeds thrive when the sun does not shine and when the water dries. I could not feel the warmth of tears streaming down my face because they were never there. I could not cry because my tears would be useless here. My tears better served for growing Ninni’s poppy seeds.



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