August 11, 2011 § Leave a comment
From a friend: “Your story (about Luvenia Duckett) reminded me so much of my grandmother’s maid. Her birth name was Lena Barton but she changed it to Nadema Nathara when she converted to Islam. She never attended services as far as I know but she did avoid pork. She lived with my grandparents starting when she was 13 or so. Her mother and her brother moved from the south with her in the first decade of the 20th century. She could read and write but very little. When she did write more than a sentence, it was always in Iambic pentameter. This fascinated my mother. She was an excellent cook and house keeper. She would come up to the summer cottage with the family. They had a separate house for her that had electricity but no plumbing. When they travelled, my grandfather would only stop at restaurants that would serve her as well.
When my grandparents sold their house they bought her a small house of her own. The she would come and help my grandmother and my mother a few times a week. She lived a long time, outliving my grandmother and my mother. After my mother died, Nadema would come to the cottage every summer for her “vacation” and help us. The help consisted of occasional sweeping and doing the dishes, and bossing us around. She would never come and eat at the table with us in the house, in spite of many pleas. However, we (Don, Ann, Mary, an au pair, and Nademma) all went on a day trip to Ottawa and she had a great time. Travelling with the elderly and kids works out because they tire at the same time. Eventually she sold her house and moved to an apartment and was taken care of by her brother’s wife. She died a very old lady.”