Friday, December 5, 2014

For Mother Velvet, Wherever She Is

by Jean Roberta

The womb is the most mysterious part of a woman’s body, IMO.

(I’m not sure what is the most mysterious part of a man’s body. I never had a brother or a son, so all my experience of male anatomy is associated with sex. Even though I’m not – ahem – completely ignorant of how things work, it all still seems foreign to me. If uncanny events in the lives of men have a physical basis, men need to tell those stories themselves. But I digress.)

At age eleven, I had a dream about seeing a dead body, covered with blood, with a note in its back. The note said "Thursday 19." Two years later, on Thursday, November 19, I had my first period.

However, the prophetic dream seemed less ghostly than something that happened later. I was sitting in the back of the family car, age sixteen, on a long family trip. My two younger sisters were staying out of my hair, temporarily.

I had paper and pencils in various colours. To write or to draw? I decided to write a poem. Focusing on my stream of consciousness, I saw a bolt of black velvet cloth, slowly unwinding on its own. I was an avid seamstress, and I would have loved to have a theatre-curtain’s-worth of velvet to make into a spectacular dress, or maybe a trendy pantsuit. Somehow, though, I knew that this velvet wasn’t meant to be cut. I had a strange feeling in my guts which I later identified (years later) as contractions of the womb. I wrote a poem I called “Mother Velvet,” writing down whatever came into my head.

About a year later, I decided that I was too old and mature to write nonsense poems that didn’t really mean anything, so I tore the poem up and threw it away. It disappeared into
the ether.

I was more adult (or so I thought) when I used the family Ouija board with my younger sisters. We all asked questions about our futures. We had moved to Canada from the U.S., and I still wasn’t sure where I would spend the rest of my life. I asked the Ouija if I would marry. It said yes. I asked where my husband would come from, and it spelled out “velvet.” This answer reminded me of my stupid poem (surely a sign of latent insanity), and I decided that the ouija was refusing to answer my question.

At age 22, on a year-long stay in England, I met a Nigerian, Pepple Ikiriko, who told me that his mother, Velvet Charlesba Amachree Ikiriko, had been known in the Niger Delta for her beauty while she was alive, but she had been gone so long that he couldn’t remember her face. He told me she died while giving birth to a baby who would have been his younger brother, had he lived. As far as I could figure out, Mother Velvet was about thirty when she left this earth. Pepple said her parents grieved so much that they passed away soon after her. (Apparently Velvet was a young widow with one son when Pepple’s father, Karibi Ikiriko, brought her into his polygamous family.)

In due course, I sponsored Pepple into Canada as my fiance, we married, and I had a daughter I named Elizabeth. (Her dad named her Opukioba, after an ancestor of his.) Somehow the name “Velvet” didn’t seem appropriate, but Pepple gave this name to his next daughter, born to his next wife. Read on.

I was a single mother, living in a co-op for low-income single parents with my four-year-old daughter Liz (or Lizzie-bean, as my family sometimes called her). I had made her sleep in her own bed in her own room, instead of with me in the double-bed-sized sofa-bed in the front room because I was restless.

It was December, just a few days after Lizzie’s fourth birthday.

To be precise, I was having PMS, or the pre-menstrual heebie-jeebies. I couldn’t rest, I couldn’t sleep.

I knew that Pepple and his next wife were expecting a baby at any time, but I didn’t really care. I wondered how that marriage could work, but it wasn’t my problem. I was better off where I was than married to Pepple, who had turned out to be a jealous drunk.

Gahh. It felt as if a huge fist were wringing out my guts, over and over. I now knew that I was feeling contractions, not to be confused with any sexier feeling. The womb is not the vagina (or pussy, honey-pot, whatever.) It was not under my conscious control.

Since I couldn’t sleep anyway, I got up and brought a thick towel to my bed so as not to leave bloodstains on my sheets. Somehow I knew that my period was coming at any moment, and when it did, my womb would calm down. So I sat and watched between my legs.

The blood came with a gush, and I was relieved. For some reason, I looked at the little clock on my side-table. It said 1:00 a.m.

The next morning, I called Pepple to see if there was any news re the baby-to-be. He told me that his wife Maureen gave birth to a baby girl at 1:00 that morning, and they named her Velvet.

Several years later, I bought a hard-rubber holiday ornament in the form of a Kwanzaa angel in a long dress (with little hoop earrings in her ears) holding a candle-holder with seven candles in it. I think of her as Mother Velvet, and I hang her on my Christmas tree every year.

By now, Pepple is only a memory (since December 30, 2006, when his heart literally gave out), but his descendants are alive and well. My daughter Liz has a husband and two children, and her half-sister Velvet has one daughter that I know of. I hope their grandmother Velvet is around them in some form, and that they give her joy.

My womb has slowed down considerably. No blood, no more babies. I assume it won’t be giving me any more messages from the Beyond, but I can never be sure.



  1. Jean:
    If there is any human organ that crosses the time space continuum it would have to be the womb. It is indeed a mysterious organ. After all, it is the place where the genetic code of two people , extending back to the dawn of humankind is combined. Certainly there are memories locked into the double helix which come forward, if only briefly.

    What a strange odyssey. Maybe the poem will find its way back to you. Look in the cloths dryer, that's where one half of dozens of pairs of my socks have disappeared.

  2. You've shared the Ouija board story before, Jean, but not these other events. Quite amazing.

    Blood ties us together - family and strangers. Women are intimate with blood; we almost take it for granted. It tells us where we are in our cycles and in our lives, which are divided into before the blood, during the blood, and after.

    Men don't have these signals, this unwitting communication from the flesh. Does that mean they're more disconnected from their bodies? Mention is often made here of the differences between men and women, but this has to be one of the most fundamental.

    1. I happen to be quite connected to a certain part of my body, no matter how I try to pull it. ;>)

  3. Seriously great story, Jean. Life can be truly amazing.

  4. Our bodies are truly amazing, and in may ways beyond our control. Many years ago a friend was pregnant at a time when I wanted a second child bit was not in a position economically to have one. For the entire month before her son was born, I bled, all the way from one ordinary period to another. As soon as I learned about the birth, my body settled back into it's always slightly random cycle, Nothing paranormal about that experience--my subconscious (or semi-conscious mind was at work. My friend and I hadn't actually seen much of each other recently--they'd moved some distance away--so it probably had nothing to do with the way women's cycles often co-ordinate when they work or live together, likely from pheromonal scent signals, but it's still an illustration of how our wombs interact with our emotions.

    1. In the run up to the conception of our #1 my wife and all the young women in her office fell into the same monthly cycle. I understand it is a common phenomenon.

    2. In the bar business, I worked with lots of waitresses. they'd all cycle together after working in a place for a while. I learned to expect it. Plus, like to echo JP's sentiments below. Man, did we luck out. ;>) Of course, we've had to listen to a long, thick shaft of muscle for direction.

  5. This will sound very self serving - but when I read this kind of experience I am so glad I'm not a woman. I have many female friends and some of the things they have to go through, monthly, or later in life for many years, makes me gasp with wonderment.

  6. This story is awesome. Thinking about who your messages seem to have been from is really interesting, too. It makes sense to me (narratively, I suppose) for a man's mother to take an interest in the future mother of his firstborn. It sounds as if the last incident along these lines was when his new wife gave birth?

    (For all that I've talked about not officially believing in this, I am trying to figure this one out... heh. But I think the reason is that it captivated me so much.)

  7. Thanks for all the comments, everyone! Please forgive me for being so absent from this blog for so long. I've been overwhelmed with school-related stuff. I do appreciate your attention.


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