Around 500 Babies: Myrah Keating Smith

Footsteps thumped down the path, and she heard them before the child’s shout, “Miss Myrah!” By the time the sharp bang on the door rattled the shells hanging in the window, she was already up and reaching for her bag. Ignoring Andro’s sleepy complaint, “Who is it, mama?” she fumbled for clothing. “Hush, now. It’s just Elijah…it’s Purdy’s time.” Her bones ached a little, but when didn’t they, when the island breeze shifted in October? Purdy was young and strong, and the baby had been kicking for months. It would be fine. Dress pulled over her head, bag in hand, she set off after Elijah on the path. The moonlight was dim, but they’d traveled this so many times, they both knew every twist and every rock…

Ma’ho Bay on St. John’s, recent resorts wiped out by Hurricane Irma. Photo by kajmeister.

When I was in St. John’s on vacation two weeks ago, our tour bus rounded a steep corner, and the guide barked out in his island lilt, “This is our beloved MKS, the Myrah Keating Smith Hospital. Myrah was a midwife on the island who delivered over 500 babies…”

…and I thought to myself, there’s probably a lot more to that story.

It’s a week after International Women’s Day, but it’s still Women’s History month! Even if all I have is a little Wikipedia entry, I can read between the silences. What follows is mostly truth, with a little fictional speculation on my part to bring it to life. Clearly a remarkable woman!

African Names, Danish Legacy

Myrah Keating Smith was born in 1908 and raised on Lovango Cay, a small spit of land next to St. John’s island, all at the time part of the Danish West Indies. What were the Danes doing there? A little side trip is necessary as explanation. By the time the Mayflower was floundering into Boston and the Spanish were spreading over Florida, the Danes were itching to get in the action over in the New World. Everyone was grabbing up Caribbean islands — French, British, Spanish — and the Danes wanted in on the lucrative sugar crop. They knew how to sail, too, and they “discovered” that St. Thomas and St. John were “uninhabited” (other than the people who already lived there), so the Danes claimed them in 1672. Originally, the settlement they created was two Danish men yanked out of a Copenhagen prison.

Continue reading “Around 500 Babies: Myrah Keating Smith”

Just Dance

Children do it instinctively. Babies do it, even in the womb. Young lovers look into each other’s eyes and already know how to move together, while septuagenarians will shed arthritic knees and aching backs to glide out on the floor without thinking. But it’s hard for a lot of the rest of us Grownups to just get out there and dance. It’s been a part of every culture around the world forever; maybe we’re just out of practice.

Me, age 4. Took 50+ years to learn moves again. Photo by my dad.

I have just finished floating about the Caribbean on a giant ship,  with no Internet, so no travel blogs until now. Besides which I have been too busy dancing, sometimes to a DJ in a club, occasionally with a group or at a lesson, and the rest of the time just in my head.

This is a revelation to me because from the time I was an adolescent to just a few years ago, I gave up dancing. Like many people, I was just too self-conscious that even having taken lessons, I couldn’t “do it” right. Then I took up Zumba after I stopped working full-time: problem solved.

Regular readers and friends know that I play a bit of pickleball, which is a cult, as we are well aware. Pickleball players talk about it all the time, but the folks in my Zumba classes do it just as often and enthusiastically. We have our favorite teachers and get there early for their sessions; we miss them when we’re on vacation. And once you start, you don’t want to stop.

Continue reading “Just Dance”

Unwinding The Turban

This is an older post, but with little Internet on my trip, I still think this is relevant. Find Your Tribe, whether it’s Sikhs, Olivia cruisers, writers, lesbians, historians, tax practitioners, accountants, or all of the above–whatever floats your boat.

I watched a young man unwind his turban a few days (now years) ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind, even while cruising around in a boat full of lesbians.

These are opposite ends of a spectrum yet so clearly related in my mind. Diversity is on the rise in America and worldwide, yet increasingly under attack. More than ever, we must seek to understand those who are different and accept those differences just as we share and experience our own.

Continue reading “Unwinding The Turban”
%d bloggers like this: