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Petra

by Ann Wilder ©2001 

On the Carenage at the end of a Saturday, I sat down next to a young lady who was selling fruits. These came from plastic bags carried in her bucket. The fruits were picked from the trees at her home in Grenville. An adorable little girl, she had spent the whole of Market Day in St. George’s, as she did every week.  

Her name was Petra. She came to town on the bus. She talked about school starting up and getting books from the school library with all the clarity of her 11-year-old self.  

Darling Petra had one bag of fruits to sell at the end of that day. When a Grenadian woman came over to join our conversation and to purchase, Petra said the cost would be $2EC for the remaining bag. I had the feeling the woman was purchasing the last of Petra’s goods to help put an end to a long day for the child.  

Petra would not budge on the price. She would take no lower price. No splitting the bag. No getting rid of it before she walked to get the bus to Grenville. She was a hard bargainer. Petra is a special child, totally enmeshed in her cute and savvy self. 

I felt like I was viewing the last days of innocence. Petra was on the cusp of pubescence. Her status as a free-roaming child treads a dangerous road to extinction. 

I too, that same age in 1951, was free to go downtown on the bus for as long a ride as from Grenville to St. George’s. I would be taking saxaphone lessons in the city, taught by some dance band man making money on the side. I had time, unaccountable to others. I went to the library. I walked around every part of the city. It meant the world to me to have that slice of independence.

 I went to the movies. Inevitably, some man would sit down next to me and put his hand on my knee. I never told a soul about these times. I would refuse to leave because I had paid with my babysitting money. I would pick up the big saxaphone case and clunk my way into another part of the theatre. My heart was pounding, but I knew what to do. At no time was there trauma. It was what it was and I moved and if he had persisted, I would have told the usher. I could take care of myself. 

We were free-roaming children. We could scout the whole neighborhood on our bikes. We could explore the woods. We could dash around the yards at night. We could go over to the school and run around the track. We could take the bus downtown to our music lesson. We could sell the produce from our town in the city, or from door to door.

 Today, the aspect of free-roaming kids has disappeared or is disappearing. Our children’s cushion of safety has rolled into the history books. In a couple more years, small children like Petra will no longer be free to roam Grenada. One small indicator, one little clue, and one step back of each person from the other. What is to become of us when children can no longer run free?

             

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