Sep 24, 2011

The Magic Orange Tree

Once upon a time a little girl lived in a small village in Haiti.  She lost her mother and then her father when she was seven years old.  Not having any family living close by, she was sent to live with her godmother, who did not have any children. 

The godmother was bitter and cruel because she did not have kids of her own; so she became enraged when she learned she was to take care of her newly orphaned goddaughter.  As soon as the child began living with her, the godmother decided the child was burden and she would get rid of her.


The little girl was very “chetif” (small) for her age for her age.  Still her godmother made her fetch water from a source located three miles away from the village.   She made her cook, clean, and fetch firewood too. The godmother was so mean she only fed the child the leftover scraps from what everyone else had eaten.   When the little girl made “sòs pwa” (bean soup) the godmother only let her lick the pan.  When she made rice with beans, the little girl was only given the “graten” (charred rice at the bottom of the pan).  The child was malnourished, physically abused and neglected. 


The little girl’s situation was deplorable yet she never complained, never rebelled or acted out.  She knew she was an indentured servant; as such, she did as she was told, she kept her mouth shut, and never looked her elders in the eye. The villagers knew of the child’s misfortune so they gave her the name of “Ti Soufri” or Lil’ Martyr; as only a martyr could endure the cruelty the child was subjected to on a daily basis without complaints. But the child submissiveness drove the godmother crazy thus made her even crueler. 


One morning the godmother got up and got dressed.  As soon as the child heard her moving, Lil’ Martyr scrambled up from her “nat jon” (grass mat) where she slept on the floor.  She brought water for godmother to wash her face, and then waited in a corner until needed. When godmother was ready to leave she said to the girl


“Ti fi (little girl) I am going to the market today.  I will be back when I can.  While I am gone I want you to mop the main house, sweep the kitchen and fetch some water for tonight’s cooking.”
“Wi marenn (yes godmother),” The child responded shyly then she disappeared into a dark corner of the kitchen.


Lil’ Martyr’s tummy rumbled but she was too shy and too afraid of her godmother to ask for food.  She had not slept well the previous night as she went to bed with a nearly empty stomach. Then she remembered the trick Haitians often use of sucking on a piece of sea salt to suppress hunger.   Once godmother left, she ran to the kitchen in search of some sea salt to eat.   Alas, her godmother had placed the gourde of salt on a high shelf where she could not reach it.  A single tear escaped the corner of Lil’ Martyr’s eye. Then she quickly wiped it away with the back of her hand then went back to work.  


She began washing dishes; then she cleaned the kitchen, then she fetched water. By midday her godmother was not back and she was not able to find anything to eat. So she tied a piece of rag around her waist.  Lil’ Martyr grimaced a smile twisted with serious hunger pain.
“If I do not eat something soon, I will break an half or pass out!” Lil Martyr said out
loud.

Lil’ Martyr dragged her feet as she walked toward the main house.  As soon as she set foot on the stoop, she noticed a basket filled with ripe oranges on her godmother’s dining room table; her mouth watered at the sight.
 If I take one, she thought, will my godmother be mad at me? Perhaps, she meant to give me an orange before she left but forgot, she argued with herself.   I’ll eat one, she finally decided. 


Lil’ Martyr closed the gap between her and the oranges; she took an orange ate it slowly, slice by slice.  She savored every little bit, and if the peel had not been too sour she would have eaten it too.  When she was done eating, she saved the orange seeds in a braid of hair.  Then she drank a lot of water, hoping to stay fuller longer.  She sat down on a rock in the kitchen and waited for her godmother to come back.


When her godmother got back later on that night the first thing she noticed was the missing orange. Her temperament changed; she looked at Lil’ Martyr then said
             “I had three oranges here before I left, and now one is missing. Do you know what             happened to it?”
“I… ” Began Lil’ Martyr
“You took it ‘ti dwèt long’ (little thief).”
“I am so sorry.  I took it because I was so hungry. I thought you meant to give me one but forgot…” she said in a small voice while gazing at her dusty little bare feet.
“That’s your excuse for taking what does not belong to you.  I did not mean to give you anything you little thief. Why would I give you one when you are worthless to me.  You talk as if I should be thinking of your needs. Who do you take me for - your mother?  I am your godmother, child, not your mother!”


Mercilessly, the godmother grabbed a “rigwas” (leather riding crop) and whipped the child until her back bled.  Then she kicked her out of the house.  


  “I fed, clothed and gave you a place to stay and now you steal from me!  I can’t tolerate a child that steals from me.  Go and don’t ever come back.  Scratch that, bring me back my orange and I’ll let you stay here again.”  On that note the godmother went inside and locked the door behind her.
            “I am doomed!” Lil’ Martyr thought.
Lil’ Martyr left her godmother’s house and roamed the moon lit streets blinded by tears.  Filled with despair she took a trail leading to the village cemetery.  She looked for her parents’ tomb; when she found it, she fell on her knees and began crying “Why did you leave me? I am just a child, mama; I can’t survive in this world on my own.  I”, she sniffed, “need you right now…please help me!” Exhausted she fell asleep in the tear-moistened dirt in front of her mother’s tomb.  


The next morning she got up disoriented, dirty and hungrier than ever before. The sun was high in the sky and blinded her. Then she remembered that she needed to produce an orange for her godmother or she would never be able to go back “home” again. Her heart sank in her chest.  She sat up, hugged her knees, and began crying again.  While surveying her surroundings she noticed a small orange tree was growing where she had rested her head in the tear-moistened earth before her mother’s tomb.  Lil’ Martyr frowned, then she said “Hey little orange tree, I do not remember seeing you here last night.  You looked lost and afraid like me. I am going to take care of you. But, you can’t stay here people might step on you. I am going to transplant you to a safer place.”  


Lil’ Martyr grabbed a stick, dug out the little orange tree, and transplanted it to a far corner of the cemetery.  She looked at the tree and said, “You will be safe here, but if you were stronger and taller you would have a better chance to survive. I am going to sing to you because Mama used to sing to me when I was a baby; she said it made me grow.   You are a baby now so I am going to sing to you maybe you will grow big and strong too.”  So Lil’ Martyr put her heart in soul in this little song. 


Ti pey zoranj,
Pouse, pouse, tip ye zoranj
Ti pey zoranj,
pouse pouse , tip pye zoranj
Belmè pa manman!
Ti pye Zoranj grandi, Bopè pa papa
ti pye zoranj grandi.

(Little Orange tree,
Grow, grow and grow.
Sweet Orange tree, orange tree
Grow and grow and grow,
Orange tree.
Godmother is not mother
Orange tree.)


As the little girl sang the tree began growing.  It grew and grew; it practically shot out of the ground. Lil’ Martyr grew big she could not believe her eye.  “So it is true when you sing to tree and people they grow!” The girl stopped singing when the tree was about her height. Then she switched to a different verse.
Ti pye zoranj
 Fleri, fleri tip ye zoranj (2 fwa)
Belmè pa manman! Ti pye zoranj
Ti pye zoranj
 Fleri fleri tip ye zoranj.

(Orange tree,
bloom and bloom
Orange tree, orange tree,
bloom and boom
Orange tree.
Godmother is not real mother,
Orange tree.)

Fast as lightning the tree was covered with white sweet smelling blossoms.  As soon as the child saw the flowers she smiled. She sang fervently and frantically this time. She guessed that maybe the tree was following the instruction from her song.


Ti pye zoranj
Donnen tip ye zoranj donnen (2 fwa)
Belmè Pa manman
 ti pye zoranj
donnen tip pye zoranj

(Bare fruit  and bare fruit .
Orange tree, orange tree,
Barefruit  and bare fruit  
Orange tree.
Godmother is not real mother.
Orange tree)

 Within minute the tree was covered with plump ripe oranges. This time Lil’s Martyr clapped her hands while she sang.  She was now convinced the tree, her tree was listening.


Bèlmè ti zoranj
dousi, ti zoranj dousi(2 fwa)
Bèlmè Pa manman
ti zoranj
Dousi,  dousi
Bèl ti zoranj dousi.

(Ripen and ripen and ripen.
Orange tree, orange tree,
Ripen and ripen and ripen,
Orange tree.
Godmother is not real mother.
Orange tree”

The oranges turned bright yellow like saffron, and each of the branches bowed under their burgeoning weight. 


Lil’ Martyr stopped her singing, “I am so happy you are going to be okay.  I will leave but I will came back to see you every day. Now I need to go search for an orange to repay my godmother.”  She was about to step away when a branch of the orange tree lightly brushed her cheek.  Seven beautiful oranges dropped at her feet. She picked them up then said “Thanks!  One for mama, one for papa one for me and three for godmother!” 


Happy, she skipped over to her parents’ tomb.  She placed an orange over each tomb, said a little thanksgiving prayer and then left. She practically ran to her godmother’s house.  But she had barely reached the stoup when her godmother suddenly emerged from the house and started to scream at her:


“You’re such a terrible child!  Ha! You ran away just to make me go out in the dark and cold to come looking for you last night!” the godmother wailed, waving her hands toward the sky.
“But…” the little girl began, “you said I could come back only when I had the orange. See I got oranges for you!” She raised the oranges toward her godmother.
“Did you steal them?” she retorted. “You must have stolen them; you do not have any money to buy them, and people would never have given a wretch like you such good looking oranges.”


But Lil’ Martyr did not feel fear in her godmother’s presence anymore. She looked her godmother straight in the eye, and explained: 


            “These oranges are mine. A beautiful tree grew out of the ground where my
            tears hit the dirt next to my parents’ tomb.   When I sang the tree grew taller, and then bloomed. I sang some more, and it bore fruit.”

 Lil’ Martyr talked with such confidence her godmother felt provoked. She lunged at the girl; but her flailing claws dug into the oranges in the girl’s outstretched hand instead.  A shock wave bolted through her body as soon as she touched them.  She lost her balance and the oranges flew in the air.  She swerved and convulsed then tumbled from the edge of the stoup and broke her neck. 


Lil’ Martyr was freed of horrible godmother and she inherited all of the woman’s belongings – including her house. She never sold a single orange from her orange tree; however, she always gave them away to whoever was in need.

Mom Dieu protège Haiti

Mom Dieu protège mom pays  Au beau pays que mon cœur aime  Celui que j'aimerai toujours  Celui que j'aimerai quand...