It happened on a Wednesday, just as she had predicted and I wondered if the child was really telepathic. I smiled to myself when the email response came and immediately went into recollection-mode: memories flooding like a tsunami, in quick-rewind fashion, filled with imagery reminiscent of the summary scenes from my favourite reality show The First 48 Hours.
My daughter is only six years old but she has the memory of an elephant and an uncanny ability to see things in the future. Josh and I noticed from early on that Jamie was no ordinary kid. Of course, every parent thinks their child is special and tries to make distinctions that place them higher on the “kiddie podium” than the average tot, but for my husband Josh and me, it was never a matter of comparison.
Jamaica K. Kincaid was born five pounds and seven ounces and had the brightest shine to her eyes that I had ever seen in another human being. She was the child that we expected after trying for two years without success. Jamie, as we fondly call her, is the spitting image of her grandfather Joshua K. Kincaid (the Second) whose lifelong dream it was to own a timeshare in the Caribbean Island of Jamaica. A suburban American Kid from Mount Tabor, Portland, Josh Senior never ventured further than the Pearl District upstate in his formative years. But a honeymoon spent in the lovely land of reggae, sun and sand had him questioning his native roots and unnervingly convinced that he was conceived and birthed there in a previous life. It was for our fifth wedding anniversary, that my husband Joshua K. Kincaid (the Third), decided to bring his father along with us on our mini-vacation to that glorious island that he had last visited over eight years back for a business training event.
On the last day in Jamaica before we were scheduled to fly back to the US, while lounging by the poolside of the Jewel Grand hotel in Montego Bay, old man Josh approached me, standing in the direct light blocking out the rays of the sun gaping overhead. With the biggest grin on his face and the light reflecting sharply in his eyes, he said “Kay – I’ve had writer’s block for about fifteen years and for the first time today, I put pen to paper and wrote a letter to my first wife about what a beauty this place remains!!” He thanked me for being willing to let him accompany us on this “occasion of intimacy” as he put it. I didn’t understand why I was the one to be thanked but he gave me the now familiar rhetoric about us “women” and how we behave in a marriage and I laughed heartily at his diatribe that I could now recite verbatim. It was that look in his eyes, along with the happiness and contentment that he pulsated, which violently prodded me to finish what I had started before Josh and I became engaged. I grabbed up my ipad, opened the app, and started typing furiously.
That vacation would forever be etched in my memories as our family life pivoted from those precious days onward, as if everything in those moments was the genesis for all of life after that came to be. It was two weeks after our return home, while riding the bus, that I had my first episode of morning sickness. As if by premonition, I knew that a life had began to flutter inside me. The pregnancy test that I bought later that evening simply confirmed what I already knew in my heart. My Father-in-law came by the flat that evening to collect some magazines and I sat purposely between him and my husband Josh as I delivered the good news. “You have to name her Jamaica”, Josh Senior said. After all - we had stopped trying for months yet a special anniversary trip to his father’s favourite place to visit in the world had finally brought fertility and favour to our nest. There was no argument from me then, except for my shrill laugh and sober observation that no one knew the sex of the baby I was carrying. But somehow, these men knew that a little girl was in the making. One who would see things and bring luck and encompass all that we collectively held dear.
Josh had lost his Mom to cancer when he was only four years old. With no siblings, his father had done right to raise him alone until he remarried nine years later. His stepmother died three years into the marriage from a pre-existing heart condition that worsened rapidly in a short space of time. She had no children of her own. My husband, an only-child as a result, had lost the women in his life that were most important to him. So having a wife and a daughter was the next-best thing to getting that matronly love that he felt robbed of as a kid.
It was in my senior year at High School that I stumbled upon At The Bottom of The River. It was as if my life, up to that point, was speaking to me through a female author that I had never even heard of until then. Born the first girl to my parents and eldest of six children (all boys), my mother is a native of the twin island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, a migrant who met my father on the Logos – a Book- Ship Ministry which began in 1970 as part of a global Christian training and outreach movement called OM International. They met “over a book” she recollected when she first told me the story of their meeting. It was little wonder that five years later - after they were married and she gave birth to me, their first child- that I was “born” a lover of books and reading. I had a collection of books from Pre-K to Teenage Fiction that could rival any Children’s Library in town! Reading has forever been a part of who I am. But that day in the school library as I sat reading what I now call “The Book” was the day that I started writing my own story.
After graduating from Portland State University with a BSc in Psychology and minor in Communication, I took a sabbatical to travel the globe for a year on the Logos II Ship with my father. It was, as he said, a good way of showing thanks to the God who had protected and guided us a family from inception. That’s where Josh and I met as well. Now, this is not all as conspiratorial as it may seem! We didn’t meet “over a book” like my parents did. But Josh was a volunteer at the port where the ship was docked when I reported for duty on my first day. He seemed overly eager and jovial and I remember rolling my eyes thinking he was such a preppy kid. But it was his smile and his eyes that remained embedded in my mind. So a year later when checking out a few books at the local library and the assistant at the desk looked up at me, I was pleasantly surprised that the preppy kid from the port was now a taller, leaner and even cuter guy working solemnly behind a desk at my second favourite place to be. And he remembered me!!
Everything about my life from that stage seemed to be one big series of coincidences. From Josh’s introduction me to where I learned his title was Kincaid (while two of the books I was borrowing from the library that day were from my favourite author bearing the same Title) to our daughter being conceived on an anniversary trip to Jamaica, I was always anticipating the next best thing, while neglecting the first best thing on my journey.
Jamie started talking early. She was just four and a half months when she said her first words – “wuv yoo”. I expected her to have a natural affinity for reading, like me. Til then, it had not manifested but what she brought to the table was just as fascinating. We noticed it when she was three years old. While reading books to her, she would finish the story by telling me what would happen in the end – and she had never heard the story before! We chalked it up to the mundane and predictable nature of the story books (After all, Dr. Seuss - the Cat in the Hat - he just might be quite trite, right?) Then, came the premonitions that flew out of her mouth innocently but would come to pass shortly after. Like the time she said “Papa’s not feeling very well”. She was referring to my father who would video call us every Saturday morning. It was a Friday evening while building puzzles on her playmat that she blurted this out suddenly. I had asked her why she would say that and she said it was because he hadn’t "called on the video" that day. “But it’s not Saturday yet honey” I explained. "Papa will call us in the morning". “Oh...” she replied looking bewildered. But, strangely, my father did not call the next morning as was the norm. Around 1:30 in the afternoon, I became worried and called him myself. It’s when I learned that he had a dizzy spell earlier and had fell while stepping out of the bathtub. He took a tablet for the headache that quickly ensued and had fallen asleep until then. He sounded so groggy and confused that I instantly knew he was not okay. It was a series of medical tests later confirmed that he had a mild stroke that day and we subsequently hired a part-time nurse to stay with him and care for him for a few weeks.
It was the first time that my father was sharing his space with a woman since my mother had moved back to Trinidad to take care of my ailing Grandfather four months back. Mom insisted she should return home but Dad was convinced that it was a "spell" and his health would be back on the upswing with some healthy eating and a period of rest. Jamie was four years old when that happened and my father never managed to video call again as he died of a massive heart attack a week later.
I had already "put the pen down" then, and could not pick up it again. The loss of my father was very hard for me. I continued to read to Jamie all the time as books and reading were always my first source of comfort. And my daughter somehow seemed to despise reading on her own. The Christmas before she turned five, on Christmas Eve night, I was reading to her before tucking her in to bed when she looked at me and asked “Mom, did I steal her name?” “Steal whose name?” I asked her mock-innocently. After all, I had never mentioned the name of my favourite author to her before, or even read to her from "The Book" or any of her namesake's titles. Yet, as luck would go, one of Jamie’s gifts that lay neatly wrapped under the Christmas Tree was a copy of Party: A Mystery – a new title by the author that was one of her new works in the children's fiction genre. I was very certain at that point that Jamie had never heard of the author, born Elaine Potter Richardson, who rightly shared her name. It was also one of those eerie things about my daughter that we had kept to ourselves – the fact that I stumbled upon and fell in love with the writings of a person whose name my future daughter would adopt. The next day, after opening her presents, we saved the book for last. Jamie was immediately caught by the sight of the book as she spotted her name boldly printed on the front cover. That was the day she learned the story of her name, the story of our lives, and, unknown to me at that time, the story of my story.
It took me the next four weeks, after returning from Jamaica that year of our anniversary trip, to finally put my writing together. To get the story I had started complete. We had left Jamie with my mother while away on that trip. Mom had returned from Trinidad with my Grand Dad after my father passed and she was the only person we trusted to care for our little girl. Mom was always asking Jamie to tell her what was coming next as she tried to down-play Jamie’s gift of foresight, chalking it up to a game. My daughter loved this little interaction with her “Grammy” as she would be asked to predict things that were easy to foretell, making her feel like she had magic powers. The thing is – those times when Jamie knew before hand what would happen next, were moments when such information was not being solicited by anyone!
I was so caught up in finishing the story when I returned that I had stopped reading to Jamie. She spent more time than usual with my mother as Josh and I were both unusually busy – he with a new investment deal in the shipping company that his father worked for many years ago and I with my thesis for my Masters in Ed Psych and, of course, the "pen" that I had picked up once again.
One Saturday evening, while Josh and I sat on the back porch, taking in the light breeze, watching Jamie play with our pet Cheshire named Emma, I told Josh that I was nervous about the agent’s feedback. I had finished what I started. I had hired an agent to review my work. I had emailed the completed writing. And I had not heard anything in over a week. Just then, Jamie ran over to us and said, in a sing-song voice “It will happen on a Wednesday”. Immediately the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my heart skipped a beat. Was this another one of her premonitions? Josh laughed heartily as she Jamie ran off again behind Emma chanting “the craw killed the pussy”. I looked at him dumbfounded at this reaction to what obviously might have been another unprecedented prediction but what also seemed to evolve into our daughter possibly repeating the lines of some dirty song that she may have heard on the airwaves. “You don’t remember that song?” Josh asked. Apparently, as Josh recalled, his father used to sing a song whenever he spotted a cat. "Craw killed the Pussy" is a traditional song that was passed on from the older generation of Kincaids who were originally from Scotland. I had a vague memory of Josh and his father singing some lines to that effect the first time Jamie reacted to seeing a cat which had walked across the window sill of the kitchen while she sat in her high chair eating Cheerios. She had only been about eighteen months old then, how could she remember the words? Josh insisted that he had sang that song to her many times whenever Emma popped in on them suddenly from her one of her periodic escapades. “It happened on Wednesday” was a line in the song and so coincidentally, Jamie was just singing it at the very moment when my troubled mind was subconsciously seeking reassurance. At least that’s what I told myself then.
Four days later, my phone pinged. I was sitting in the office, searching online for new books to add to Jamie’s collection which had begun to rival mine, when I glanced casually at the phone to see who was messaging me. My heart began to thud loudly when I saw the red ‘M’ icon signaling that an email was just sent to my personal inbox. The subject of the email was “Query Letter”. It was the Agent finally responding to my submission. I picked up my phone, said a silent prayer, then tapped the email open. It was the moment of truth, the only time I would acknowledge that what I had started was truly complete. The Agent’s feedback was that my work was “really good” and that he had a few publishers in mind that we could target to get the printing started. I was beside myself with excitement and could barely contain my joy as I glanced up at the wall calendar that hung above my desk. I wanted to record the day, to mark it down as historic – the day I wrote my first book. It was the 17th of June 2020, and it happened on a Wednesday, just as she had predicted...