The old people say

Whenever my grandparents and my mother wanted to make a point, issue a warning to someone or dish out advice, they had hundreds of Creole quotations, sayings, proverbs, maxims or aphorisms which they would use as if these were God’s commandments. One expression I particularly disliked was, “If you blood doe take a person, have nutten to do with dem.”

I used to argue that was absolutely ridiculous because the blood had no way of making any such assessment. Years later, when I had to interview applicants to join my theatre company, once in a while, I would get this gut feeling that such a person would not be able to toe the line and in many cases, it turned out to be true. My old folks were right about this blood thing.

Still, I would put it this way to the applicant, “If you don’t hear from me in three days, it means that I can’t take you in right now but at some other time.” Of course, “some other time” never came because, “My blood didn’t take the person.”

“ ‘See me’ and ‘Live with me’ is two different things.” From my experience that one is so very true. How well I remember some students who fell in love at secondary school, married shortly after leaving school and divorced or separated after a few years. One past student who did just that, told me, “You know, is not only kissing and hugging up and loving up that does keep a marriage together. Rachel was an angel at school but she turn out to be a real miserable hellcat. We just couldn’t make it.”

I never heard Rachel’s side of the story but if I wanted someone to play the Virgin Mary she would have been my first choice. Believe me, there are more “actors” off stage than on stage. Some people have so many “faces” that it is unbelievable. We only know the “face” they present to us.

Time and again, my mother used to say, “Always find something good to do. When you waste your time, you wasting your life. Read a book, tell stories, make something. Be busy like a bee because ‘The devil does find all kinda evil things for idle people to do.’” Everybody knows that the letters in ‘lie’, ‘evil’,, and ‘idle’, are all found in the one word, ‘devil.’

There is good advice in these sayings, “Doe interfere with husband and wife business;” “Doe trouble trouble till trouble trouble you.” “Doe spin top in mud;” “Doe put fowl to watch corn;” “Is the back-answering does bring the row;” and “You might regret your words but never your silence.”

We are consoled with quotes such as “Every bread have they cheese;” “De longest road have a end” and “One day for Peter, one day for Paul”. Persons who are looking for others to repay them , used to say “I go scratch your back and you go scratch mine.” Now you also have sayings to warn social climbers like “Cockroach have no right in fowl party” and “Doe hang your hat higher than yo could reach.”

Some Creole quotations are meant to evoke damnation on others. A common one is, “Yo go dead like a semp with you two foot up in the air.” Whenever I heard that one, I wondered if the bird really died that way. Last year, in a school yard in Valencia, I saw a dead semp and sure enough, the little yellow bird was on its back with its legs straight up.

The preacher advised his congregation, “If you can’t sleep, don’t bother to count sheep, just talk to the Shepherd.”


"The old people say"

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