Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Trini Tuesday-Nanzo



In September 1993 our family moved to Trinidad. Long time readers of this blog may remember the first year and a half of this blog when Trini Tuesday posts sharing vignettes, history, or cultural tidbits were a regular feature here. Newer readers might not have any idea part of my heart still lives in Trinidad.


When you pick up your entire life and move to a foreign country you go wondering whether or not you'll make friends, whether or not people will accept you. You go knowing you are leaving family behind you. If you are open to new people and accepting of them and if you are fortunate to find others who are open and accepting you find friends. If you are truly blessed you find someone whose heart is big enough to welcome you as one of her own; you find not just friends but a whole new family who draws you into its loving embrace.


In Nanzo, our family found that big, open heart. We were first introduced to her son Dean and his wife Petal, who became our closest friends. Their girls were playmates for Diana. They were the folks who most helped ease our transition during our earliest days in Trinidad. Early on Dean wanted us to meet his mom. She greeted us as warmly as anyone could and insisted we call her Nanzo, which was what all her family calls her. As we became acquainted we realized we had met her briefly during an earlier visit to the island. She was delighted to make this discovery as it meant she could dispense with some formalities. You were only a guest in Nanzo's house the first time. Dean and Petal became quick and true friends but Nanzo being the family matriarch very much set the tone for the entire family to welcome us. Every holiday, every family event, countless Sunday dinners we were included as one of the family. I was taught some of the finer points of Trinidadian cooking in Nanzo's and Petal's kitchens and in time some of my American dishes were requested as part of the family meals. Diana was dandled, watched, soothed, and swatted on the bamsee when needed because she was one of theirs too.


Nanzo was a first generation Trinidadian since her Hindu father immigrated from India. She told the story of how when she was born he wanted to kill her because she was not a boy. He had to be reminded that he was not in India but in Trinidad where he'd be hauled off to jail for committing infanticide. Nanzo never told this story with a trace of bitterness directed at her father but instead with a laugh that he could hold such views and with a peace in her heart because she said she knew instead her Heavenly Father had good plans for her because He saved her physical life and later saved her spiritual life. Nanzo didn't just talk faith, she lived it until it oozed out her pores but never in a holier than thou sort of way, just in the deep, love your neighbor as yourself way that counteracts any accusation of hypocrisy and embraces everyone. She lived it in a practical way that meets the needs she sees around her every day, not a pie in the sky way.


Nanzo quickly took to introducing Mr. Lime and me as her "white kids." Let me tell you, being included in family life is a wonderful gift. Being introduced in such an intimate way is a gift beyond measure. Nanzo had a tremendous sense of humor and an easy , bubbling laugh that echoes in my ears even now. I can close my eyes and see her big, dimpled smile with a gold tooth, her eyes shining brightly. When I got a little misty one day about being introduced that way she laughed and thumped me on the back saying this is a Trini family, we have all colors in our families, it's no big deal. Then Nanzo, who was Indian, told me how when she and her husband, who was a Dougla (African and Indian mixed background), had their last son the hospital tried to send them home with a Chinese baby. She protested that this was not her child and how could anyone possibly think he was. The nurse argued but when she persisted the staff told her to go pick the one who was hers. Now if you see her youngest son the family resemblance is undeniable but she often referred to him as her "Chinee baby" and told him when he misbehaved she could have had a nice quiet Chinee boy, always with a smile and a devilish gleam in her eye, never in anger.


If I was her white daughter, she was my Trini mom. She was a small woman with an uncommonly big and generous heart. The gifts of her heart were an unexpected treasure to find in my life when I thought I'd left family behind. Yesterday I got the news that on Saturday her great heart beat for the last time.


Rest in Peace, Nanzo. I will miss your hugs, your humor, your wisdom, your love, and your welcome when next I come home to visit.



Nanzo, forgive me for not having a better picture of you to put up here but you did love to fuss at me when I brought the camera out. It was only if you were cooking, which was serious business, that I could ever get a shot of you, because you wouldn't interrupt rolling roti to swat me away.










27 comments:

Malicious Intent said...

I am so sorry for your loss. She sounded like one special lady who gave unconditionally to those she loved and loved many. I think the photos are great, real, raw, and what she was all about. Not posed, fake, or forced. Cooking for your family is serious business!

Knew a guy in high school named Trinidad, we called him Trini. He is a well known police officer now...always on the news with big investigations. I forget his rank, but he is up there. Which we find rather amusing because he was such a sweet goofball in high school. But he did good. Good family.

I find it amazing how some cultures prize family above everything else...and then I look at mine and just shake my head. You had so many blessings from your adopted one. So glad you got to have those experiences and gifts from Nanzo. She was a gem.

Cocotte said...

I'm sorry too. What a fabulous woman.

Jazz said...

I'm sorry Lime. How lucky you were to have known her and been taken into her heart and family.

G-Man said...

Sorry Trini....(((BIG HUG)))

Michelle H. said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this loss. What a friendship you had! Huggage!

Beach Bum said...

I am so sorry for your loss. People like your Trini family keep my faith in humanity.

Every holiday, every family event, countless Sunday dinners we were included as one of the family.

Having dinner with a big extended family is one of the best things in life.

S said...

When I saw that first picture of Nanzo, I thought it was you. Yes, it's true, you do have pics of you in a sleeveless white or pink gown or dress, and you have that same braid, and I'll be damned, now that I see your brown skin mama, I see the resemblance!

I do know that special feeling of being included as a family member! I also am the white auntiji to a handful of Bangalorean and Hampi kids!

I know how much Trini is in your heart, and Nanzo too. She will always be there with you.

♥♥♥

Desmond Jones said...

Relationships like those are simply precious, and we can count ourselves privileged if ever we're blessed with one. . .

And I just love the up-front, matter-of-fact openness about race; man, I wish it could be that way here. . .

And of course, I've had my own occasion (altho not quite such a 'close call', I'm sure), to appreciate the gift of my own life, given my one-time status as an 'unwanted pregnancy'. . .

~Dragonfly~* said...

Nanzo was your Momma... you grew in her heart instead of her belly. And she grew in yours. (I have a couple kids like that.)

I am sorry for your loss, yet pleased that you were so blessed in life to have had her to look after you... both physically and emotionally.

NYD said...

I am so happy that you got to know such a wonderful person. She may have passed on, but because you hold a special love for her she will remain in more than memory.

I have "family" here in Lilliput. One of the happiest moments in my life was being introduced as a 'brother' I feel that maybe I will last longer that the time given me by my beating heart..

Ananda girl said...

Oh lime I am sorry you lost your Trnini mother. She sounds like a wonderful woman.

This also warmed my heart. I have a friend who's husband was from Trinidad and she taught me how to make roti... my children grew up on it. I will make some today in memory of your friend.

Craver Vii said...

Was Nanzo her first name or was it her nickhame? My father-in-law was called Pito (short for papito) by famiy and neighbors, young and old alike. It's a term of endearment that means "daddy."

Well, it is heartwarming to see how Nanzo has been such a rich blessing to you. What a precious trip you've initiated through memory lane today. My condolences to you and your family today, and may the Lord be your comfort as you say goodbye.

Mona said...

That kind of loss is surely felt!

I don't know why, but even till today ppl in India 'excel' in female infanticide. Or , when they come to know that it is a girl, they do not see the face of the baby till the 'initial shock' is over, which may last for quite a few days!

EmBee said...

So sorry for your loss... But on the bright side you can now talk to Nanzo at any time, day or night and for that, I'm sure she'll be pleased because I'm quite certain she's listening.

And I can't express how much I love this:
"Nanzo didn't just talk faith, she lived it until it oozed out her pores but never in a holier than thou sort of way, just in the deep, love your neighbor as yourself way that counteracts any accusation of hypocrisy and embraces everyone. She lived it in a practical way that meets the needs she sees around her every day, not a pie in the sky way."

What a lovely tribute.

Hilary said...

Oh I'm so very sorry, Michelle. It sounds like she was a gem of a woman. How lucky you were to have her in your life.. and you in hers.

Suldog said...

Michelle:

I'm so terribly sorry to hear of your great loss. I will say a prayer for Nanzo, and for you, as soon as this posts. God bless!

misticblu said...

Oh lime, I am sooo sorry for the loss but goodness, weren't you blessed!!
I feel blessed to have heard the story.
Maybe Trini tues could stay a while?

~Tim said...

What a lovely portrait of your Trini Mom!

{Lime}

secret agent woman said...

That's a wonderful tribute to your friend/surrpgate Mom.

Logophile said...

Awwa
what a gift to have had her and what a loss to know she is gone, even if it is somewhere better.
Hugs, honey

A wonderful tribute

Cheesy said...

Oh sweetheart I am grieving your loss right there with you. Hug the family and enjoy your memories.... that's the good stuff.

Kat said...

Oh Lime, I am so sorry.

BTExpress said...

My heart goes out to you. :-(

(M)ary said...

Nanzo sounds like a wonderful woman and from the pictures, I bet she was a great cook.

I am so glad you were given the opportunity to know her.

Cosima said...

From all you write about Nanzo, I think she celebrated life the way it should be celebrated. And those rotis she is expertly preparing in the pictures are the best proof :). Thank you for telling the wonderful memories you have of her.

Jocelyn said...

I'm saddened for everyone who was lucky enough to know her--and envious of them, too.

Fortress Guinness said...

Lime...i'll be honest, i often dont have time to go through all that you write on this wonderful blog...but just now i went through the last few posts and made time to read this thoroughly...i'm sad to hear of the loss of someone so close to you...i've had the same kind of welcome in various places around the world and it really does touch your heart and soul when it happens...it's a wonderful feeling...and as adopted kids maybe we appreciate this in a more special way than most...
i'm sure Nanzo will be smiling down on you from somewhere out there...xxx