By Margaret Mae Maria Irish
“This is a strong story.” – JUDGE
Skipping season at Montego Bay Primary School began subtly probably with three friends playing with a piece of rope in a corner and little by little, different skipping gangs would pop up all over the asphalted playground, until every inch was swallowed up.
We sang different skipping songs such as:
One, two, da-dee
Buy wan TV gi-mee
Mek me watch Bonanza, Bonanza, Bonanza!
We played ‘One lash, two lash’, jumping in and out quickly, before the determined student at either end lashed the back of our legs with the rope.
My favourite skipping game was ‘Pepper,’ which started slowly but speeded up forcing us to skip like the wind. I was the best ‘Pepper’ skipper, agilely shifting from foot to foot, until the swingers grew tired.
The rich students bought their skipping ropes from Woolworth, but we the poor children used discarded wires or plaited the lining from the soft drink corks into a rope, and skip and skip until it broke.
Rich or poor, the rule was No one was left out! Taking part in a skipping game was inevitable as getting a beating after failing Miss Green’s math test.
One afternoon after the final bell, my classmates and I ran to the playground, determined to skip before leaving. Dahlia Young was the only one with a skipping rope.
Everyone adored her light skin and thick, long permed hair which guaranteed her privileges such as presenting bouquets to speakers during school events. Once, at the market, I spied her in her dad’s car. I dropped my basket, jumped up and down, waving and screaming ‘Dahlia, Dahlia!’ She examined, firstly, my short natural hair, then the basket, and turned away. I was heartbroken.
But she had to notice me now because at school, I was the best skipper.
She positioned everyone except me.
‘I’m not playing?’ I asked her.
‘I just don’t want you to play.’
This time she didn’t even look at me.
The whole world went quiet.
I picked up my bag and walked out of the school, bawling.
I bawled as I walked past infant school, Charlie’s Bar, Miss Gloria’s shop and Michelle and her mother and her mother’s mother selling cigarettes and fruit on the sidewalk. I was still howling when I opened the tall iron gate and trudged up the stairs to the tenement apartment where I lived.
‘What wrong with you?’
My mother stood at the top of the stairs, hands on her hips. I stopped crying and told her about Dahlia Young.
Softly, she ordered me to eat my supper and go straight to bed.
The next morning I woke up, turned and saw a Woolworth shopping bag lying on my bed. I grabbed it, reached inside and took out a skipping rope!
I gobbled down my breakfast and ran out of the apartment all the way to school.
It was Friday, so school ended early. We tramped to the playground and as usual most of the children ran over to Dahlia to play with her skipping rope.
I unearthed mine and lo and be-old it was longer than Dahlia’s skipping rope!
As soon as they noticed the difference, Dahlia’s fans left her and huddled around my rope marvelling at it.
She marched over, pushing through my crowd of admirers.
‘Where you steal this from?’ she demanded.
‘My mother buy it for me!’ I retorted, straightening my shoulders and placing my hands on my hips.
Dahlia backed away slowly out of my sight.
I raised my new rope. ‘Let’s play pepper!’ I commanded.
And the games began.
Author’s bio: Margaret Irish is the winner of the inaugural Teachers Lead by Example Prize in the Wadadli Pen 2014 Challenge. She says, “I am a Jamaican who has lived in Antigua since 1998. I taught history at the Antigua State College and now teach English courses at the ABIIT. Fourteen years ago I founded an after-school programme that teaches primary age children reading and spelling and other core subjects. At this stage in my life I am critically assessing how my upbringing, in particular my relationship with my parents, have shaped my character, mentalities and life patterns.”
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