Rice, rice, rice
Rice tastes nice
Rice tastes nice
The silly ex-tempo refrain to an _ice-rhyming song I sing with my children. But, the truth is I have a long relationship with rice. I tell my students that as a child I felt sorry for the grain. I grew up in Trinidad and almost everyday I ate rice and something: rice and peas, rice and baigan, rice and cabbage, rice and pumpkin, rice and fish, rice and lentils, rice and baghi, and rarely, rice and chicken. My mother could bend any side to go with a mound of gleaming steamed white rice. I was a picky eater who refused most of what she cooked, but I always felt sorry for the rice. Either I'd eat a poor dinner and leave almost everything on my plate, which was ok because the rice had company, or I had to eat every single grain of rice including any that might have fallen off my plate. I couldn’t stand the thought of a lone grain of rice lost without its rice brothers and sisters wondering where they'd all gone. Undiagnosed OCD, I know, but look at me now. The winding parallel for my students, which upon unpacking probably doesn't hold, is to not waste their words. Whenever they do an in-class writing activity and I ask for volunteers, the poor-lost-rice-story is guaranteed to coax a few of the reticent to share. Come on, I say, if you don't read that paragraph, that sentence, those words are going to die forever. Don't let your good writing be wasted rice.
So, for the sake of keeping rice together, here's an essay I wrote a few years ago to coincide with the publication of my first novel. I only submitted to one publication and they rejected it and it's been sitting like left rice on my hard drive for almost four years. Brother, go find your brothers. It's long, but now at least it's seen the light of day:
A Member of the Family
From the beginning Liz, my son’s babysitter, tidied my apartment each morning before she took him out on their daylong excursions. She straightened shoes, washed the breakfast dishes, and made the bed. Part of me (a big part) liked this extra help, but my conscience was appalled. I asked her to stop. She shrugged over the sink. “Is not a problem at all, Miss Gracy. You do for me; I do for you.” I’d also been trying to stop her calling me “Miss Gracy.” Liz, of course, had no way to know how the sight of someone performing unpaid domestic work in my own house whooshed me back twenty years to what was hands down the most demeaning job I have ever had.