A primer on Swahili names

2

Swahili, or Kiswahili, is a Bantu language and lingua franca in eastern and southeastern Africa. The Swahili, or Waswahili, people primarily live in Kenya, Mozambique, Congo, and Tanzania (esp. Zanzibar). Other nation-states where Swahili is spoken include Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Sudan, and Malawi. Outside of Africa, significant groups also live in Oman, Madagascar, Mayotte, and Comoros.

The first recorded documents in Swahili are from 1711, at the time written in Arabic script. In June 1928, an inter-territorial conference chose the Zanzibar dialect of Kiunguja as the basis for standard Swahili. Today, the language is written in Roman script, minus Q and X.

In addition to the familiar CH, SH, TH, and KH, other compound letters are DH, GH, MB, MV, ND, NG, NJ, NY, and NZ.

My unplanned secondary character Marjani Washington, her older sister Subira, and their little brother Zuberi were given Swahili names when they were born in the 1950s. Their parents wanted to give them names more in line with their ethnic heritage instead of blending into mainstream American culture. They also eat a lot of traditional African foods, use the relatively new word “Black” instead of “Negro,” and celebrate Kwanzaa. The women in the family wear their hair in cornrows, in an era when many African–American women straightened their hair.

A sampling of Swahili names:

Unisex:

Chuki (Born during a time of hatred)
Enzi (Powerful)
Hekima (Wisdom)
Imani (Faith)
Kaombwe
Makini (Strength of character)
Nyoka (Snake; much more common as a surname)
Shida (Suffering)
Tatu (Three; traditionally used for a third-born child)
Tisa (Nine; traditionally used for a ninth-born child)

Female:

Adhra (Apology)
Adia (Valuable gift)
Amondi (Wishes)
Anza
Asatira (Legend, history)
Asha, Eshe (Life)
Atiena (Guardian of the night)

Chaniya (Wealthy)
Chausiku (Born at night)
Dalili (Omen)
Fahari (Splendour)
Furaha (Happiness, joy)

Jana (Yesterday)
Jasiri (Courageous, bold)
Kadesha
Kamaria (Moon)
Kiah (Dawn)
Kibibi (Little lady)
Kiojah (Miracle)

Maisha (Life)
Mariamu (Miriam)
Marjani (Coral)
Mchumba (Sweetheart)
Mwanajuma (Born on Friday)

Naki (Traditionally used for the firstborn girl in a family)
Nashipie (Joy)
Nathari (Prose)
Nayfa (Benefit)
Nelah (Gift with purpose)
Nia, Nyah (Purpose)
Niara (Of high purpose)
Nuru (Light)

Paskalia
Sanaa (Artwork)
Sarabi (Mirage)
Sarafina (Bright star; completely unrelated to the Hebrew name Serafina)
Sauda (Dark complexion)
Shani (Wonder)
Skolastika (Orator, rhetorician)
Subira (Patience)

Tambika (Offering)
Tatanisha
Tuere (Sacred)
Wambui
Zawadi
Zuri (Beautiful)

Male:

Amri (Authority, power, command)
Athumani (Third one)
Dai (Demand)
Dunia (Earth, world)
Faraji (Consolation)

Hadithi
Harambee (Let’s pull together)
Imamu (Spiritual leader)
Isaya (Isaiah)
Jelani (Mighty)
Jengo (Building)
Jumaane (Born on Tuesday)

Khamisi (Born on Thursday)
Kibwe (Blessed)
Kijani (Warrior)
Kovu (Scar)
Mosi (First child)
Mulele (Man who runs quickly)
Mwenye (Lord, owner)

Nwabudike (The strength of a father comes from his son)
Sadaka (Religious offering)
Sadiki (Believe)
Sefu (Sword)
Simba (Lion)

Tendaji (Make things happen)
Tukufu (Exalted)
Yakobo (Jakob)
Yohana (John)
Zahur (Flower)
Zuberi (Strong)

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Sweet Saturday Samples

5

(My Hero’s Blog Hop post is here.)

This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples is from Chapter 49 of Little Ragdoll, “The Flight of Justine.” Adicia’s would-be husband Seth broke into the Troys’ apartment and threatened Justine and Tommy, and Justine was saved by the appearance of Mr. Straussler, who runs the bakery downstairs. After staying with the Strausslers and the van Niftriks, she’s now gone to Adicia’s friend Marjani’s apartment. Marjani’s very opinionated little brother Zuberi has already annoyed Mrs. Washington by assuming Justine must be a missionary and then using the word “chicks,” and now he’s feeling even more put-out by how he’s being asked to escort Justine down to Penn Station.

***

While Zuberi is ranting about Nixon and the Vietnam War, Mrs. Washington makes a fruit salad with apricots, mangos, peaches, oranges, and apples, black-eyed bean pancakes, and a stew with potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and chicken.  Justine’s mouth waters when she sees all the food being set before her.  She still isn’t used to having enough to eat at every meal, and being served actual food instead of some fly by the seat of one’s pants recipe like melted processed cheese mixed with hamburger meat and canned vegetables or chicken breasts wrapped in bacon and cooked in ketchup and orange slices.

Marjani and Subira come back while Justine is rapaciously shoveling stew and black-eyed bean pancakes into her mouth.  She guiltily puts her utensils down, embarrassed to be seen feeding herself like a pig by her hosts.

“You can go back to eating,” Marjani says. “We know all about the starvation rations your pitiful parents make yous guys eat.  Boy, your sister’s gonna eat like a queen from now on, since she married that cute rich boy.  I wonder if they’re having caviar and stuffed sea urchins, or some similar rich people food, for lunch right now.”

“I’m Subira,” Marjani’s older sister says, extending her hand. “I don’t think I ever met you.  I’m twenty-one and an incoming senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  Marjani’s going there as a freshwoman in the fall.”

“What kinda stupid word is freshwoman?” Zuberi scoffs as he flips through The Village Voice. “I’m all for women’s lib, but not for making up stupid words just so you don’t hafta use a masculine root.”

“I ain’t a man, or at least I wasn’t last time I checked,” Marjani says. “Why should I be called a freshman when I’m clearly a woman?  I’m glad that finally women are waking up and questioning all this so-called default masculine, androcentric language.  There’s no logical need to use a diminutive feminine suffix or prefix neither unless it’s absolutely necessary, like priest versus priestess or lion versus lioness.”

“A very excellent point,” Subira nods.

“So, Justine, I guess you came up here to ask me if I knew where Adicia went.  Well, you’re in luck, since she called me from her new house earlier this morning.  Did you go to see Betsy and her parents already?”

“I just got a taxi from their place after I spent the night there.  I was with Mr. and Mrs. Straussler, who run the bakery below our apartment, over most of Friday and Saturday after Seth broke into our house, threatened me and Tommy, and tried to beat us.”

“What! That evil degenerate came into your home and did that?  Why don’t he learn to pick on some people his own size?”

“With any luck, Tommy did him some permanent damage when he kicked him in the head with a roller skate.  Seth was tryna pin him down on the davenport to spank him or beat him, and while Tommy was struggling, he managed to land a really good kick.  Mr. Straussler came upstairs while this was going on, and managed to make Seth leave.  He said the cops called him at the bakery and asked him to get me out of that house.”

“I hope he’s arrested,” Subira says.

“Right now Betsy and her parents are papering Chelsea with flyers broadcasting what Seth is really all about.  They’re hoping to put him outta business.  I can’t imagine any sane person would wanna continue patronizing his store if they knew it was run by a convicted murderer.  At least Carlos wasn’t actually aware he was starting a fire or that twenty people died in the fire he accidentally started.”

Marjani goes over to the phone for Adicia’s contact information. “Adicia’s up in a place called Hudson Falls.  There’s a city called Glens Falls just to the west of it, maybe a couple of miles away.  She suggested you could get a Greyhound or train up there and then find a taxi into Hudson Falls.  They got a phone hooked up in their new house on Friday, only one day after they bought it.  And they bought a car yesterday.  Her husband’s onea the good rich guys.  He’s using his money for practical purchases, not flinging it around on stupid stuff like parties and sports cars.  It must be nice to have that much money. When you’ve got a lot of dough, it talks.  They’d probably still be hanging around in a hotel or cheap apartment if he didn’t have so much money stored away.”

“Zuberi, you’ll be walking with Justine to the bus station,” Mrs. Washington orders. “It’s not safe for a girl her age to walk around alone, particularly not when she’s carrying luggage.  It makes her look like even more of an open target.  Justine, how much money do you think you’ll need to cover the trip?”

“Oh, no, I can’t take your money away from you,” she tries to protest.

“How much cash do you have?” Subira asks.

“Three bucks, I think.  They might offer a discount ‘cause I’m only thirteen.”

“You’re going to take ten extra dollars just in case, and don’t bother trying to pay us back later.  It’s yours to keep.  Zuberi, you’re going to stay with Justine till she gets on that bus and the bus pulls out of the station.  Adicia obviously knows our number, so you’re going to call us once you get there.  You should call Betsy’s parents too, and the Strausslers.” Mrs. Washington goes into her room for her purse.

“I can take you over to Penn Station and get you on a train,” Zuberi suggests. “Sometimes it’s harder to find a bus that leaves past this time on a Sunday.”

“I hope I don’t get lost,” Justine says. “What if I have to change trains and get on the wrong one?”

“Zuberi can ask someone there to sit with you.  They have a service like that when younger people are traveling alone on an aeroplane.”

“Do you really think they’re gonna do anything some fifteen-year-old kid with an Afro tells them?  They might even think I’m kidnapping her.  I don’t think it’s right, but that’s still what a lot of folks think when they see a Black guy with a white girl.”

“I don’t care what they think when they see you as my escort,” Justine says. “All I want is to get on some train or bus somewhere, anywhere, that will take me to Adicia.  She must be worried outta her mind about me by now.”

“The justice of the peace didn’t flinch when I signed as onea the witnesses,” Marjani says. “Your cowardly thinking only holds us back from complete equality with the white man.  Change never happened ‘cause people just sat down and accepted the status quo.”

“And we don’t live in the South,” Subira says. “I don’t think they’re gonna do to you what they did to Emmett Till.  This is New York City, not Alabama or Mississippi.”

“My pampered sixteen-year-old brother could kick an intruder in the head with a roller skate,” Justine says. “I think you can do your part in looking out for me by taking me to a train or bus station.”

Zuberi puts down the paper in resignation. “Guess I’m outnumbered by all you chicks.  I’ll do it.”

“Zuberi, what have I told you!” Mrs. Washington shouts. “Girls and women are people, not ‘chicks’!”

Zuberi rolls his eyes.

Sweet Saturday Samples—Wedding Day

11

In this week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples, Adicia and Ricky are at the courthouse for their marriage, with the van Niftriks and Adicia’s old friend Marjani as witnesses. Earlier in the day, Adicia went to Macy’s with Betsy, Mrs. van Niftrik, and Marjani to pick out a nice formal dress for her wedding, household supplies, tableware, kitchen appliances, and wedding rings. Now her moment is rapidly approaching, and she makes an unusual request of the judge.

***

“Is it okay if we don’t kiss at the end of the ceremony?” Adicia asks, blushing. “I’m too shy to do something so personal with an audience.”

“Well, that’s certainly a request I’ve never had before.”

“My bride is very shy and old-fashioned,” Ricky says, putting his arm around Adicia. “She believes in saving personal stuff for private, keeping it only between the two of us.”

“I had a Jewish nanny when I was a little girl, Sarah, and she told me and my sisters about the traditional Jewish wedding once.  The bride and groom go to a room alone after the ceremony and kiss or touch there.  They don’t do something so personal and intimate in front of everyone, since that cheapens intimacy.  I think it’s more special when it’s something only the two of you share instead of displaying it for everyone and letting them be privy to such personal moments.  I usually look away when I see people kissing or groping each other in public.”

“You really are an old-fashioned bride.  Not at all like those crazy women’s libbers who think marriage is slavery and sleeping around is liberating.  I’ll be glad to perform your marriage for you.”

“Can we take pictures?” Betsy asks.

“Sure, go ahead.” The justice of the peace picks up the license to remind himself of their names. “Warrick Grover Carson and Adicia Éloïse Troy?”

“My fiancé goes by Ricky,” Adicia says. “I thought it was short for Richard or Eric when I first met him.”

“Wasn’t Adicia the Greek goddess of injustice?”

“My mother thought it was an injustice to have a fifth daughter, particularly since I was the fourth of four girls in a row.”

The justice of the peace shakes his head. “Very well then.  Let’s begin.  We are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of Adicia Éloïse Troy and Warrick Grover Carson.  Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman to love and support one another for all their days, for better or for worse, till only death can part them.  If anyone here has just reason for why they should not be joined in matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

Betsy takes a picture of them standing up by the desk.

“Adicia, will you take Warrick to be your lawfully-wedded husband, to love, comfort, honor, and protect him, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, and forsaking all others be faithful to him till death do you part?”

“I will,” Adicia nods, even though she feels horribly guilty for how she’s been reduced to marrying a man she doesn’t love and entering into such a serious bond as matrimony.  Then again, she doesn’t have to feel romantic or sexual love for Ricky to be true to the words of her vows.

“Warrick, will you take Adicia to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love, comfort, honor, and protect her, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, and forsaking all others be faithful to her till death do you part?”

“Yes, I will.”

After they repeat the vows after the justice of the peace, they’re asked to repeat the ring vows, “This ring I give you, as a symbol of my vow, as a token and pledge of our love, with all that I am and all that I have.” Adicia’s hands are shaking as she puts the ring on Ricky’s finger, hoping she doesn’t drop it and that it doesn’t get stuck on his finger.  She feels her throat tightening as Ricky puts the pretty plumeria ring on her finger, knowing that now there can be no backing out of this agreement.

For better or for worse, this boy from up the street, whom she’s only known for six months, is now joined to her legally.  They will have to live together as husband and wife after they leave the courthouse.  She hopes there’s truth in the words that say arranged marriages are often better than contemporary Western love matches, since they’re based on something more than fleeting physical attraction and lust.

“By your consent, both written and spoken, through the exchange of rings, and by the power invested in me by the State of New York, I now pronounce you man and wife.  Ladies and gentleman, I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. Warrick Grover Carson.”

Adicia feels numb as she shakes hands with the justice of the peace and Marjani and the van Niftriks hug her.  The justice of the peace, Marjani, and Mr. van Niftrik sign the license, and then Adicia and Ricky sign.  While the justice of the peace is mimeographing it, Betsy takes pictures of the newlyweds, and Mrs. van Niftrik takes pictures of Adicia with Betsy and Marjani.  When the justice of the peace comes back, he obliges them and takes a picture of the six of them together.

“Congratulations,” he says as they file out of the room.

As Betsy takes another picture of the newlyweds standing on the steps of the courthouse, Adicia feels like she’s just been robbed of her dream wedding day.  These are not the wedding pictures of a happy couple that she wanted to display in beautiful frames on the mantelpiece or wall.  These are pictures of a couple of nervous misfit kids who have no idea what they’re doing, people who haven’t even known one another for a whole year who’ve been joined together in the most serious commitment possible.  She doesn’t even have a bouquet to toss, and none of her family members are here.  Allen will probably hit the roof when he finds out Adicia actually married Ricky, the guy he dislikes so much.  But she’ll have to think about all those things tomorrow.  Right now she has bigger fish to fry than the long-term implications of this impulsive convenience marriage she’s just entered into.

Marjani

4

I was going to write about MacWriteII as my M entry, since that will always be my favoritest word processing program, but I decided to write about Marjani instead. I can always write about the old programs and why I far prefer them to the hideous Word, but I might not find a reason to write about Marjani. I also should spotlight more than just one character from the saga of the Troys, the Ryans, and their friends.

Name: Marjani Washington

Date of birth: 1954

Place of birth: Manhattan

Year I created her: 2011

Role: Secondary character

Marjani grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, in a three-bedroom apartment, with her parents, her older sister Subira, and her little brother Zuberi. Her family is a Black Pride family, but definitely not connected in any way to the Black Panthers, as Marjani would stress. She and her siblings all have Swahili names. Marjani’s name means “coral.” She, her mother, and her sister wear their hair in cornrows during a time when many African-American women were still straightening their hair or wearing wigs to try to look more white. They also eat a lot of traditional African foods, celebrate Kwanzaa after its founding in 1966, and use the new term Black instead of Negro. Marjani and Subira go to Howard University so they can be in the majority and feel solidarity at being among so many of their own people.

Marjani meets Adicia on the first day of junior high in September 1966, and from that day forward, Marjani is Adicia’s other best friend besides Julie. She never cares what her new friend’s skin color is, since all that matters is that she’s a nice person and a fellow outcast. They’re sisters in struggle, and Adicia’s white skin certainly never bought her any privileges because she’s a woman and poor.

Marjani was never a planned character in either my original outline for the story, nor in the additional details I came up with during the years it was on hiatus. (The character who became Betsy van Niftrik, for example, and her parents came into my head when I was going over the story in my head and thinking up new storylines and just getting more mature as a writer.) But I’m glad I created her, so Adicia could have at least one friend during her junior high years in Hell’s Kitchen. Her junior high experience was also based more than a little on my own, and I must admit that many of the African-American kids at my tough junior high were actually a lot nicer to me than some of the white kids.

Some favorite/typical Marjani lines:

“Would you like to eat with me?  I don’t have no one to sit with either.”

“We don’t use that word in our house anymore.  My parents explained that it seems offensive these days, after all those struggles we went through in the last ten years to get equal rights.  I know you didn’t mean no harm in using that word, though.  It’s not like it’s one of those other words like darky or coon.”

“That’s really weird for a mother to say that stuff about her own daughter.  It’s hard enough to be a teenage girl without having extra criticism and pressure from your own mother.”

“You don’t wanna look like those girls.  I’m sure mosta ‘em are dressing like that only to get the attention of boys, not to show off their bodies ‘cause they’re proud of how good they look and so liberated they feel comfortable in their own skins.  Like Dr. King said, there will one day be a world where we’re judged by the content of our character, not by our skin color, our sex, how developed our bodies are, or what we’re wearing.  People should be people and not stereotypes.”

“Your sister Emeline sounds really groovy.  She’s read about so much stuff and remembers most of it, and she’s open to just about everything, even if it’s from a different culture or religion.  She’ll probably make an awesome librarian someday.  Me, I’d like to go to college too, though not Vassar.  Maybe the same school Subira’s going to go to in the fall.  Howard University in Washington, D.C.  It’s a historically Black college, which my family likes.  Not that we can’t get a great education at a place like Harvard or Yale, but it’s nice to have the opportunity to be in a majority.  I guess it’s the same deal with colleges that are primarily Jewish or Catholic.  It’s not about only wanting to associate with my own kind, but I’d feel more comfortable in an educational setting where I could be sure I wasn’t being held down by white teachers who have nothing in common with where I come from.”

“They can’t force you to drop out.  You could just live with your brother Allen if they tried that stunt on you.  And they’re nuts regardless for thinking a girl in this day and age is supposed to drop outta school and marry some older guy her parents picked for her, and never make a living to support her family.  What use would I be to a future husband if I didn’t have an education and a job?  Sure I might do the housewife thing when my future kids are little, but no self-respecting Black man should be interested in a woman who just wants to do jack all day while he’s the only one working.  And what if God forbid my future husband died young or became too disabled to work like your brother Carlos?  I’d need an education and job skills to support the family in his stead.”

“If my family had followed that stupid logic, we’d still be working crummy jobs and letting the white man walk all over us.  And your dad wouldn’t have a labor union if his ancestors had just accepted the status quo.”

“My family ain’t involved with the Black Panthers.  We agree with some of their beliefs, but we’d never advocate violence to achieve respect and equality.  Education and empowerment are the key, not preaching hatred and violence.  Adicia is my sister in struggle, since capitalism and the establishment keep us down equally—me as a Black girl from a working-class family, and her as a girl from a poor family.  Only rich white Protestant men with money and the socially approved political leanings have historically counted for much of anything in this country.  You’ve been used and exploited by the system too, Mrs. Troy.  Why else are you a drug addict, a drunk, the mother of nine children, and trapped in dead-end, low-paying jobs and crummy neighborhoods?  If you’d been given the same opportunities as a man who comes from a family with money, you mighta only had three or four kids, been able to be a respectable housewife and then moved to a decent job available to women after your kids was all in school, not turned to drugs and drink for escape from reality, and be living in onea the uptown neighborhoods by now, maybe even in a real house you own ‘steada renting an apartment or tenement.”

“Self-preservation and protecting your family line are the two most strongest human instincts.  You’d be amazed at the crazy stuff some people have done to save themselves, or at least save their siblings, children, or friends who are as close as family when they knew they was going to die.”

“Trust in yourself.  When the time is right and a situation presents itself, things meant to happen, happen.”

“Maybe one day when I have a career, I’ll be able to buy myself some jewelry like that.  I ain’t like you.  I wanna buy my own jewelry and not depend on a man to give me expensive presents.  It’ll be nice if my future husband buys me jewelry, but I don’t expect him to drop serious cash on it if I’m equally capable of buying it.  I don’t even know if I want an engagement ring, or at least not one a guy buys for me.  I’d rather buy my own, so I don’t have that symbol of being bought and owned by a man.”

(When a saleswoman at Macy’s asks Adicia, Betsy, and Mrs. van Niftrik if Marjani is bothering them) “Boy, are you a racist.  Do you know it’s 1972 now?  Black and white people can be friends now, you know.” Marjani looks at her name tag. “We won’t be checking out at your register, Florence.”

“You can go back to eating,” Marjani says. “We know all about the starvation rations your pitiful parents make yous guys eat.  Boy, your sister’s gonna eat like a queen from now on, since she married that cute rich boy.  I wonder if they’re having caviar and stuffed sea urchins, or some similar rich people food, for lunch right now.”

“I ain’t a man, or at least I wasn’t last time I checked,” Marjani says. “Why should I be called a freshman when I’m clearly a woman?  I’m glad that finally women are waking up and questioning all this so-called default masculine, androcentric language.  There’s no logical need to use a diminutive feminine suffix or prefix neither unless it’s absolutely necessary, like priest versus priestess or lion versus lioness.”

“The justice of the peace didn’t flinch when I signed as onea the witnesses,” Marjani says. “Your cowardly thinking only holds us back from complete equality with the white man.  Change never happened ‘cause people just sat down and accepted the status quo.”

Sweet Saturday Samples

5

This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples again comes from Chapter 34 of Adicia’s story, “Changing Lives.” Adicia, her sisters, and their friends have come over to visit Lenore on the weekend, and discover some very exciting news.

Like Julie, my favorite Monkee has always been Davy too, and I also chose him because I thought he was the cutest. Had I discovered them at older than six, I’m pretty sure I would’ve chosen Peter as Ernestine and Girl have, but changing my favorite member of my first musical love would feel sacrilegious. It was like being kicked in the stomach to hear the news that Davy just passed away. There’s a blessing we make when we hear of a death, Baruch Atah Hashem, Elokeinu Melech HaOlam, Baruch Dayan HaEmet, Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Judge of Truth. May your memory be for an eternal blessing, dear Davy, and may your soul be bound up with the bonds of eternal life.

***

The first weekend in October, the girls arrive at Allen and Lenore’s apartment for their first visit since school began.  They’re very eager to hear all about the honeymoon Allen and Lenore took to Oyster Bay in Long Island the first weekend of September.

“Come sit down,” Lenore says, looking a little pale. “I haven’t been feeling so well lately, but I’m feeling well enough to show you our pictures and tell you all about our trip.”

“You’re not feeling well?” Justine asks. “I don’t want you to get sick again.  You can lie down on the sofa bed and we can sit around you as you show us the pictures.”

“You think you caught something in Long Island?” Girl asks. “Maybe you drank bad water or had fish with worms.”

“Does Allen know you’re not feeling well?” Ernestine asks. “I can’t imagine he would’ve just gone off to work had he known his bride wasn’t feeling well.  You know how overprotective he’s been of you since you almost died last year.”

“Enough about me,” Lenore says. “Why don’t you girls tell me about your lives first?”

“I’m here too,” Boy reminds them. “I hate being lumped together with all these girls.”

“Betsy turned us onto a really groovy new television show,” Ernestine says. “It’s called The Monkees and it airs on Monday nights.  Me, Julie, and Girl go over to the van Niftriks’ place to watch it.  We even got Baby into watching it.  She thinks they’re cute and can’t wait till we buy their album.”

“Baby’s really having her first celebrity crush?” Lenore asks. “She was just a little girl when I met her!”

“I’m nine now,” Baby says. “I was five when I met you.”

“Girl and I both like Peter best,” Ernestine says. “It’s like we share a brain.  And it’s the same way with how John is our favorite Beatle; we came to that choice by ourselves, without even knowing the other had made it.”

“I like Davy best,” Julie says. “I think he’s the cutest.”

“That was the same reason you picked Paul as your favorite Beatle,” Girl says. “I think they’re all cute too, but you should have a more solid reason for picking your favorite member of a group besides how cute he happens to be.”

“I don’t think I have a favorite,” Baby says. “I just think all four of ‘em are cute.”

“I wish I could watch that show,” Adicia says jealously. “My new friend Marjani’s parents would probably let me come over to watch it, since they have a television, but I don’t wanna walk alone after dark in Hell’s Kitchen.”

“What kinda name is that?” Lenore asks. “Is she foreign?”

“She’s a Negro, but she and her family don’t use that word.  They call themselves Black. That’s the new progressive word used by Negroes who are into their culture and equal rights.  She, her mother, and her older sister wear their hair in something called cornrows.  They look like tight little braids all over their heads, braided right against their heads instead of loose like Betsy’s braids.  They wear pretty colored beads in their braids.  She said their names are from a language called Swahili, which is used in some Western African countries.  Her name means ‘coral’ and her sister Subira’s name means ‘patience.’  Their brother Zuberi’s name means ‘strong.’  I don’t know if their parents have African names.  They’re just Mr. and Mrs. Washington to me.”

“They live in the tenement?” Boy asks. “I don’t remember you ever mentioning there was a Negro family there, though I know your mom hates that there are Puerto Ricans living there.”

“They live in an apartment about fifteen minutes walking distance away.  I’ve been over to their house a couple of times.”

“Wow,” Ernestine says. “How is Mother handling that?”

“I don’t think she even knows at this point.  All she knows is that I sometimes go to visit a new friend of mine who has a name that sounds a little funny.  Even if she knew, she’d probably grudgingly accept it like she accepts how Tommy always goes to visit his Puerto Rican friends on the second floor.  So long as we don’t bring our non-white friends over to the apartment, she’s okay.”

“Oh, Lenore, I got you and Allen a present,” Ernestine laughs. “It’s a single by some British group.  I thought of yous guys when I heard it, since it’s about a couple who meets the same way you met.”

“Someone actually made a song about a couple meeting at a bus stop?” Lenore asks in amusement. “Does the boy’s mother also accuse him of soliciting a hooker like your mother did?  I don’t know what kind of bus stops that woman has been hanging around if she’s so convinced the only reason to be there is to buy drugs or pick up girls of ill repute.”

“I think she’s smoked too much cocaine,” Adicia says.

“Excuse me for a moment. I think I’m going to be sick again.”

“Let me help you,” Ernestine says. “If you need to throw up, I can hold your hair back for you.  You’ve got so much of it.”

Lenore bolts into the bathroom and runs the water so they don’t have to hear her throwing up.  Girl and Ernestine rush into the kitchen to make chicken noodle soup, while Adicia puts some crackers on a plate and pours a glass of ginger ale.

“Are you gonna be okay?” Infant asks when Lenore comes back. “Why don’t you sit down and we’ll bring you some food as soon as it’s done being made.”

“Do you think it’s a stomach bug?” Julie asks. “I hope you’re not contagious.”

“I’ve been feeling really tired in the middle of the day, besides starting to vomit lately.  At least I’ve never thrown up when Allen’s home.  I’ve been having some weird dreams too.”

Girl looks at her with a slight grin. “Not that I was ever around her that much before she left, but I was five when my mother was pregnant with Baby and seven when she was having Infant.  I remember her getting tired in the middle of the day and throwing up a bunch.  She used to complain that morning sickness was the wrong name for it, since she didn’t only get sick in the mornings.  Do you think it’s possible?”

“I’d better not be.  That’s the last thing we need, after we spent a pretty penny on our wedding and just had a five-day honeymoon.  And I’m not even working now, though I did get my GED over the summer.”

“When did you last menstruate?” Ernestine asks. “For all anyone knows, maybe it really is a stomach bug, but you are newlyweds. I’ve heard stories of newlyweds getting careless with their birth control, since they no longer have to worry about a scandal if something happens.”

“August. But it’s normal sometimes to skip.  It’s only the first day of October now.”

“When in August?” Girl asks. “Can you remember?”

“Probably earlier in August.  I actually did forget my birth control pills when we went on our honeymoon—“

“What! How could you forget them, particularly when you don’t want a kid right away?  Were you thinking with newlywed brain?”

“I always keep them in the medicine cabinet, not my purse.  It slipped my mind to check the medicine cabinet for anything we needed to take.  This was during the last active week, and then came the week where you’re supposed to have your menses.  I just thought it was a little late in arriving.”

“Honeymoon babies are so romantic,” Girl says. “They’re like wedding night babies, a special reminder of how in love newlyweds are.”