Ms. Helen & Ms. Irene

When I was a little girl and while my mom was in school, I distinctly remember two ladies that always were around me. They were in school, too, or, like my own family now, supporting someone who was. Ms. Irene and Ms. Helen. Ms. Irene gave me the little girl that would be my ballet and brownie buddy. A friend and memories that always make me giggle. She taught me to stop sucking my tongue and saying inkay insteady of okay. She had those Little Debbie Star Crunches on hand all the time and I was always so envious of Senami for having a personal Star distributor. She is from Benin and I thought she was like an African queen, her face is so beautiful. She was definitely a woman of a movement that said women could do anything, even move across the world with a a little one to start a new life to continue her education. Another queen in my life was Ms. Helen. At that time I had more of a Jamaican accent than anything, only being in the States a few years by this point. Ms. Helen's sweet honey southern voice was absolutely the most comforting and melodious sound I could hear that would move me outside of my own mother's voice. She was a teacher to me before she became a teacher to others. She had this way of making me feel like being a little girl was a gift from heaven and that with the right attitude and infinite amount of love, I could be anything and anyone. It was she that first introduced the little Jamaican girl to homemade fried chicken and homemade banana pudding. The woman could cook like no one's business. She would teach me about life over the little things like letting me know that taking time in the little details is an honorable thing. Noticing them in children is even more honorable. "You know, in all my years, it is such a blessing to see a little girl help me so much every time she visits. You set the table so beautifully. Thank you." When you're a little kid, and an adult says thank you, as if you're an important person even if you are a little thing barely reaching the table...Well, it's just something you always remember. And her husband is like this soft-spoken man that just amazed me at his gentleness. He was really tough, but really patient. He didn't have to raise his voice much to get you to move. And having a car full of screaming kids so many afternoons just has to be nerve-wracking. I only have one in the car and I swear my nerves are splitting like hydrogen atoms. But I never saw it in any of these faces. I always saw a smile. My mother and father chose amazing women, amazing people, as friends. They've, of course, moved in different directions with their lives, creating homes for themselves and their families. But they still share visits or phone calls down memory lane and they still treat me with the same absolute sweetness I remember from a child. I'm sharing this memory because my mother sent me pictures of Ms. Helen and of course my heart smiled along with my face when I opened the email. I always just go down memory lane when I see her. She's just a great woman. And I think when I recognize how fortunate and blessed I have been in my life from the very beginning, I have just say it aloud. Even if there are people in your life you don't see every day or only made a glimpse of an appearance in your long, long life, people have the power to impact it nonetheless. And for moments when I want to focus on the negatives that surround me, I shine memories like the ones these women gave me. Honestly, they are my first memories of America that really stick. I remember very little of living in Florida and I have little to no first memories of Jamaica. So when my parents were forging a life for themselves and we started out in student housing just a little off Emory campus, my brain was imprinting some of the best memories of the best people one could meet. We were very lucky kids.


  1. I LOVE THE LITTLE DEBBIE STAR CRUNCHES, INKAY!!!!! i still buy them when i am in need of comfort food (and not already having a fat day).

  2. Total comfort food!


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