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I longed for a mother with a scarf on her head and a skin so dark that I never would have to be afraid at night again that the sun would ever burn me" (350). It is this sense of personal shame of having a white mother, caused by the teasing of her peers, that perhaps drives the daughter's longing to travel to Surinam someday to meet her extended family and learn of her black father's roots. "… I began to think about everything, about who my parents were, about my mother, about where my father is from, about what I am, about who were are together" (349).
Her parents are reluctant to allow their daughter to go, but finally give in when it is the summer of the grandmother's eightieth birthday. The father and daughter make the long trip to Surinam. "I knew that we were flying away from the country of my mother and -- to rid me of my frightening dreams -- toward the country of my father" (352). However, it is interesting to note that on the plane the daughter listens to a voice recording her mother left for her on her Walkman: " 'My darling, whatever you may experience in your fatherland, do not forget that there is also a woman who has given you a motherland!' "(352). This expresses the continuing dichotomy that the daughter feels between wanting to live the life of her extended family and ancestors in Surinam with her desire to remain a part of her mother's American family as well.
Once arriving in Surinam, the father takes several days to re-visit with friends (and even one woman) that he has not seen in the thirty years has neglected to come back to his roots. However, when the daughter finally has the opportunity to meet her grandmother, Roemer's language conveys that the young girl instantly loves her grandmother, Ouma, in what feels like an unconditional manner. "I immediately loved her, so totally different from my Grandma in my mother's country" (356). This instant connection between grandmother and granddaughter is different from Marshall's and Danticat's stories on the importance of extended families in African-American culture. It also serves to explain the conclusion of the story, which has the grandmother on her eightieth birthday assigning all her property and possessions to her granddaughter, instead of to the son who has not visited her for thirty years. In this way, the bridge between generations is crossed, and the granddaughter's future becomes even more complicated by the implied decision she will have to make between living in Surinam or returning to her mother in America.
Roemer ends her story with the daughter reflecting on her mother back in America. Ultimately, although happy to be with her father's people and with her grandmother, the image of her mother is unable to be erased from her mind. "My thoughts of my mother were like crumbs of happiness that I stepped on with my own shoes as if they were firecrackers" (360). For a moment, the reader wonders what decision the daughter will make about where she will lead her future life: will she remain in Surinam or will she return to her mother in America. "Even if I had to suffer my whole long life, all my heart and all my body would belong to a black person -- just like you Mama, Amen!" (360). From this powerful concluding statement, we understanding that even though the daughter may have made the choice to connect with and remain with her extended family in Surinam, she will always remain connected to her mother. Thus, the important interconnection of both immediate family and extended family is preserved.
Danticat, Edwidge. "Nineteen Thirty-Seven." The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories, Ed. Stewart Brown and John Wickham. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 447-456. Print.
Hunter, Andrea G. And Robert J. Taylor. "Grandparenthood in African-American Families." Handbook on Grandparenthood, Ed. Maximilane Szinovacz.. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998. 70-86. Print.
Marshall, Paule. "To Da-duh, in Memoriam." The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories, Ed. Stewart Brown and John Wickham. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 159-168. Print.
Roemer, Astrid. "The Inheritance…[continue]
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