Places | Migrations

My Grandmother’s Patois and Other Keys to Survival

​Patois was our secret,​ allowing us to be in the English world and ​then escape to Jamaica through language.

My grandmother saw an opportunity for herself. Arriving with one suitcase, fifty Canadian dollars, and a desire for a better way of living, she settled in the West Toronto neighborhood of (pre-gentrified) Trinity Bellwoods, preparing for my then-three-year-old mother, who was back in Jamaica, to join her.

My favorite stories are the ones from when she was very young.

She was given the nickname “Bad Penny” for how often she misbehaved. In one instance, my great-grandmother sent her to the market to buy mangoes. On her way home, she began to get hungry, so she decided to suck out the fruit and juice from one end of the mango and replace its insides with small pebbles. When her mother found out she was, understandably, not impressed. My grandmother and I cackle at the thought of her getting away with it.