Adinah, the compassionate drama queen of Barton
When Clifton 'Packiman' Rowe drove into Adinah James' yard at Barton,
St Elizabeth, on Wednesday, January 12, it was with much excitement. He tooted his horn loudly, and shouted, "Fish man! Fish! Fish! Fish!"
I anticipated Adinah coming through her open front door, but Packiman drove past her house and headed to the big, clean backyard. He stopped at Adinah's feet under a big naseberry tree.
Adinah stood akimbo with a broom in her hand. I was nearer to her, and when I saw her face, I smiled. It hasn't changed a bit from when I first saw it onscreen. She spoke in the Maroon documentary, Akwantu: The Journey, and I was impressed with her engaging storytelling styles.
When she saw us she smiled mischievously and said in a gravelly voice, "Onoo see how onoo ugly? Dem ugly, eeh!" and grinned, showing two bottom teeth. I laughed. I knew I was in for a treat, and Adinah did not disappoint.
Packiman, her cousin, in his exuberance, lifted Adinah from the ground. The diminutive Adinah was not pleased. She wriggled out of Packiman's arms and turned to me. "Is who you and what yuh carry fi mi?" she asked with much bravado.
I told her how I knew of her existence. And she laughed. Her eyes twinkled. After she and Packiman spoke briefly about family matters, the stories started.
Adinah's mind, facial expressions, gestures, and intonation went into storytelling overdrive and my camera and I were ready to listen. It turned out that there are two distinct sides to Adinah's personality. She is fearless, fiery, saucy, and straightforward, but she is also full of compassion and goodwill.
She is no walk-over and spoke with much drama of the time when she was young and another young girl, Frances, went to her yard to accost her. Adinah inquired as to why Frances was in her yard.
Among other things, Frances said she had gone to "tear up" Adinah, who was cooking at the time. So she covered her pot and went to be torn up. But poor Frances didn't know she couldn't go to a lioness' yard to fight and keep her pride. When the fight was over, Frances was left stark naked for all to see. "Inna mi yard she come, enuh, sah!" Adinah exclaimed.
Frances went to the Black River police to get justice. When they arrived, Adinah warned them to tread carefully, for they too could be thrown down. When they found out what had happened, they reprimanded Frances for her effrontery and drove her out of Adinah's yard, the same yard I was in. It's a lovely piece of fruitful flatland juxtaposed against the Santa Cruz mountain range.
A male teacher, too, was to feel Adinah's wrath. She said she was boxed by another female student. She defended herself, and the teacher beat her. And quick, quick, the teacher's tested glasses and white shirt were on the ground.
Adinah's reasoning? She went to learn, not to be murdered. The teacher got no satisfaction from Adinah's mother, whom he visited in his undershirt. She agreed with Adinah.
But Adinah's fearlessness has not overshadowed her humanity. She has no children of her own, but she has taken care of other people's. 'Burden bearer', she calls herself. She has been caregiver to many family members and relatives; some have even died in her hands.
All her siblings have predeceased her and so have her aunties, uncles, and parents. Her father died when she was very young. But he seemed to be still busy in her life. She said once when a fish vendor went by honking his horn that she saw her dead father running from behind the house to greet his friend, the fish vendor. Yet, she wasn't afraid.
Another time when her father's first son was being buried, she saw her father dancing around the brother's grave in excitement, welcoming him into the other realm. I looked at her with wide eyes. It was a chilling moment for me.
The man, she said, even followed her to a dance in another district and waited until she was ready to leave.
And I could have stayed all day listening to Adinah, but Packiman and I had to leave. There will be other visits to Adinah James, the drama queen of Barton.