By Alvin Peters
One of JoJo’s favourite things to do, ever since he was little, was to sit and talk to his grandfather while he made kites. The man behind those strong, confident hands not only made the best kites in the neighbourhood but also gave honest and good advice.
Those conversations always ended with his grandfather handing over the kite with a twinkle in his eye saying, “Here, a little something from me to you”.
This was also accompanied by his grandmother handing him a small bowl of sugar cakes, coconut drops or fudge to take home. Whenever his grandfather snuck a piece into his mouth, he was jovially chided by his grandmother who said that he should be watching his ‘sugar’. He would retort cheekily, “I have been getting the best ‘sugar’ for forty-six years of marriage now and those doctors, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
JoJo’s grandmother would then feign shock, playfully hit her husband on his arm and kiss them both before heading back inside.
Years later, he missed witnessing those banters and the sweet treats, but their love of Mama Sylvia and making kites made their bond stronger.
Today, however, JoJo was not his usual self. He tried his best to hide it but his gloomy mood did not escape the keen eye of his grandfather. Papa Joseph asked if everything was okay.
“I guess,” he replied reluctantly.
“How’s the vacation so far?”
“You know you can tell your Papa Joseph anything.”
“I know, Papa.”
“So, let’s try again. How’s everything?”
JoJo looked at his grandfather. Hoping to find the will behind the answer that he already knew, he decided to tell him.
One day, he met a new student at school, Edmund. He introduced himself in his usual friendly demeanour and stuck out his hand. Edmund responded shyly looking to the ground.
Before he could ask Edmund where he was from, some of his friends appeared. They looked hard at Edmund. They told JoJo that Edmund was from The Shacks. JoJo was troubled. He knew that was the name that was used to describe the fishing community of Ocean Village. He heard people say that only good-for-nothing people came from that place.
Should he risk his popularity with his friends for someone he hardly knew? From that place? What would his family, his grandfather, do? What would they say? Doubt swirled inside him like a kite with a broken compass in an angry wind.
JoJo looked at Edmund. He didn’t believe what they said. Then again, they were his friends. Besides, he didn’t want to end up alone like Edmund. And with that, he left Edmund behind. JoJo’s friends patted his back in approval.
As the kite was nearing completion, his grandfather asked, “Do you think what they said was right?”
JoJo did not answer.
Papa Joseph put the finishing touches on the kite.
“Are you going to abandon Edmund like your friends?”
“What do you mean?”
The way his grandfather questioned him was strange.
“I mean you won’t give him a chance?”
“Papa, I want my friends to like me and besides no-one in the class likes him. He’s always so quiet and anyway he’s from The Sha…I mean Ocean Village.”
He winced when he almost said that name.
Papa Joseph said softly, “And only good-for-nothing people come from The Shacks. Hmmmm?”
JoJo winced again wishing he had never heard that name.
“That’s what my friends say.” He didn’t look at his grandfather.
“So,” Papa Joseph said still checking the kite, “people from that place don’t deserve your friendship, your kindness?”
JoJo blurted out, “Why is this so important to you, Papa?”
The old man stopped working on the kite. He turned and placed his steady, confident hands on JoJo’s shoulders and looked straight at him. “Because that is not how your parents raised you. Because that is not what Mama Sylvia and I taught you.”
JoJo was about to speak, but his grandfather continued his voice almost breaking, “Your grandmother is from Ocean Village.” JoJo stared at him in surprise. Mama Sylvia is from that place. How can this be?
Papa Joseph gently touched his grandson’s face, “Why we never mentioned it before? Because where she came from mattered to others but never to me. Some people said that it would be wrong for me to marry her. They didn’t know her like I did. Her beauty, her wisdom, her laugh made me smile.”
He chuckled to himself, “To think what I would have lost if I had listened to them.”
JoJo recalled the wonderful memories of his Mama Sylvia. He agreed. Papa Joseph continued, “I lost a few friends, even a best friend, but it was one of the happiest moments of my life when we were married.”
JoJo thought for a while and said, “I’m not sure what to do, Papa.” After a moment, Papa Joseph said, “I cannot promise that your classmates will remain your friends but giving Edmund a chance is the right thing to do.”
“And will you be proud of me?”
“Always!” Papa Joseph exclaimed.
A few days later, on a breezy, sunny afternoon, JoJo was with some friends flying kites. He saw Edmund sitting alone on the bench then looked at his friends. He thought about what his grandfather said.
Slowly and nervously, he reeled in the kite. He wished he had his grandfather’s confident and steady hands. He walked past his friends towards Edmund. They stared at him dumbstruck.
“What yuh doing?” one said.
“He’s not one of us,” said another.
“Yeah, he from…”
JoJo abruptly turned in their direction, “It doesn’t matter!”
Then he said calmly, “It shouldn’t matter.”
He turned around, took a deep breath and continued walking. He believed in what his grandfather told him. He remembered the love Mama Sylvia gave to him.
To those wise grandparents.