© Please note: Glenda Mae Green owns the copyright for the dissertation below. You may download and print one copy for educational purposes only. These pages may not be duplicated, distributed, redistributed or republished in any manner without express permission from the author.
On Thanksgiving eve 1989 a petite 20-year-old walked into my
office for the first interview. Jade had graduated from high school
two years before, recently returned from a year of college in
France, and was then a sophomore psychology major. Before the
interview began, she regaled me with the delightful and sometimes
catastrophic mechanics of preparing for a field trip to South
Africa the following week.
Jade had worked with me for three of her five high-school years. She had heard about my plans for this study during a class which I had taught and she had attended almost two years before. Coming to campus for the American Thanksgiving weekend, she expressed delight that my research plans were finally being implemented. She intimated that she would not mind being included in the study. Eagerly, I agreed to include her. The tape recorder, however, was not as compliant. Hers is the only interview at which I recorded every word by hand. Eye contact, in consequence, was not a constant. The relationship that we had developed over the years, however, overcame what might have been a problem.
Jade's parents divorced when she was about 4 years old. She is her mother's only daughter. Her mother remarried sometime after she and Jade emigrated to Canada.
Our Own Little World: Mother-Ties
The close bond between Jade and her mother is apparent in much of her dialogue. Jade recalls her early childhood.
When I was small, it was just the two of us. We did everything together. Go to the zoo. Go to the sea wall along the coast. She'd take me to her work place. She did everything with me. When I was younger, we were all the other had. We had our own little world. She was the only one I interacted with.
In 1997, Jade's stories and photographs continue to illuminate the mother-ties of her early childhood. Pulling out a small black-and-white photograph of herself as a little girl with head tilted to one side, she explains her asymmetrical pose. "My mom tells me that when she wanted to take this picture of me, she tilted her head and said, Smile for Mommy.' And then, she said, this is what I did. I think it's so cute."
Jade shares no high-school stories reflecting the mother-bond. She does, however, reflect on her mother's insistence on schooling. "She emphasized school and getting an education. She was always encouraging or pushing me to do good in school. Get A's and stuff like that."
When she was accepted to the university of her choice in the United States, her mother and stepfather moved to the university town to ensure that Jade need not live in the residence hall, a lifestyle she had grown tired of, having lived in residence for all 5 of her high-school years.
In the 1997 interview as Jade grapples with her memory bank to find a story which reflects her mother as the perfect mother, she lists her parent's strengths instead.
One of the things I admire about my mom is her perseverance. I think coming from her background . . . she struggled a lot to raise me. Made sure I had a good education. I admire that she didn't give up. She persevered even when it was tough. And it was hard. She was tired and exhausted, working. She still kept on. I admire her for persevering. Even when it got hard, she didn't give up. She kept on.
Jade makes no reference to her mother's second divorce but
talks instead about the lessons she learned from her mom. "One
thing I have learned from her is to stand up for myself. To persevere.
. . . If she got pushed back a bit. OK." Jade sips at her
drink, then continues. "And she kept going, you know. I liked
that. She was an example to me that I could do whatever I set
my mind to do."
Thinking back on her mother as role model, Jade notes, "Sometimes I say, I'm my mother's daughter. I'm gonna persevere. I'm not going to let so and so tell me that, put me down, or something like that!"
Ethnic Identity Awareness
In the 1989 interview Jade reminds me that her mother is not
Black, so she calls herself mixed. Delighting in her multiracial
identity which combines to effect the skin tone she describes
as "café au lait," she lists her ethnic componentsPortuguese,
Amerindian, Asian-Indian, and Black. Amused, she recounts the
typical "What are you?" encounter of a first meeting
with her college peers. "When people ask, Where are
you from?' I say I'm Canadian. I know what they really want to
know, so I play along. Then they ask, What's your background?'"
Moving to my point, I ask her what it means to be Caribbean. With a glimmer in her eye, she answers almost instantly. "That I'm not dry. That I have a spice for life." Later, she writes an addendum to her transcript: "That there are spices in my food!"
Jade begins to talk nostalgically about her homeland and the happy years she spent there. The pull of her homeland is only strong enough to create beautiful memories. "Our house had fruit trees in the backyard . . . , beautiful nature. I remember watching the sunrise, the sunset, the lights of the fishing boats way out on the sea. I remember the taste of the fruit. I'd like to return to visit, but it's not a compelling need," she tells me.
Almost reverting to my college teacher mode, I tell her about Louden's immigrant stage typology (described in chapter 3), and then seek her opinion on her classification by Louden's stages. After a moment, Jade nods to confirm her personal recognition of the stages and suggests that the precocious-independent seems most appropriate for her. She hastens to add: "But I have a greater respect for my parents. What they think is very important to me."
Describing the preparation for emigrating, she portrays her anticipation through a melding of her voice and her mother's eyes. "We were looking forward to a better place though ours was a beautiful landin terms of education and economics." The mischievous child-rhetor comes through as an addendum. "We could get bubble gum." Her grin reflected the delight she experienced more than a decade ago.
She tells her "Coming to America" story which supports her classification in Louden's typology. Recalling her first memory, she says. "It was January 10. We arrived at my aunt's in New York. We saw snow and I played with it. I rejected the mittens they
gave me. I remember being amazed at the cold. The trees didn't have leaves. I knew then that everything was going to be different."
Eight years later her self-description involves her revised self in terms of her metaperceptions of her ethnic identity.
If I feel that because I am a woman of color, people aren't gonna listen to what I have to say, or what I have to say means absolutely nothing, it's gonna come across that way. If I come across as someone who has something important to say, then my interactions, you know, with people just as people, people interact with you naturally. If I come across feeling not up to par, it will come across that way. It really depends on what you feel inside. What you think makes the difference. And because I don't think being a woman of color brings me down a notch or something like that, I don't think I come across that way.
In my journal, I note, "Jade has come to accept her foreignness as an asset (Kapka, 1995) to her interpersonal relations, particularly at her work sites." To bolster her meager paycheck, she also worked as a part-time sales clerk in an upscale women's fashion boutique. She recalls, and I once observed, that many of the returning customers often asked for the tiny curly-haired woman who seemed to know so much about coordinating outfits "just for me."
She tells me about her recent decision to maintain her ties with her heritage by compiling proverbs from her homeland. "I love them because I love what they say." I am reminded of what she said in her 1989 interview: "Everyone keeps a bit of the motherland inside."
Settling on the straight-backed chair, she shares a few of her favorite proverbs. I note that they reveal the saliency of internal locus of control, intentionality, and foresight. "When yuh see rain on yuh neighba step, prepare yuh house." Her favorite proverb epitomized my perception of her: "Action speak louda than voice." Another proverb, "Yu see sumt'n in de day, tek fire stick, look fe it a' night," gave me pause. Jade's interpretation when she came into my office the next day, "acknowledge that this is what's going on," did not help. My dulled perception needed more assistance. When she mailed back the verbatim transcript, her elegant cursive penned an explanation which uncovered the true meaning as she saw itcareful, solitary scrutiny is essential to planning. "Face up to reality. First impressions require more investigation. Take the time when you're alone."
As the interview winds down, the recorder stops. The tape has run out. About to fetch another, I hear her continue talking about her role models. I revert to the note-taking mode of 1989. She concludes with a wistful note which made me swallow. Hard. "There is one woman I wish I had known. My maternal grandmother. She was a respected landowner in her village who would feed the needy. She didn't have a formal education but her everyday living was an incredible testimony. I wish I could have sat at her feet like you did with your grandmother." I had not remembered that she and her mother were often frequent visitors at my mother's house.
Later that evening, I wrote: "There is something that I had taken for granted: my grandmother's stories. Jade showed me what I suspect many daughters of immigrants miss in their formative yearsa maternal grandmother and the stories that connect them to a lingering legacy: the Motherline."
Her Seed Story
Jade's seed story reflects the mother-bond which seems to have
come naturally to her from early childhood. She recounts a story
her mother told her about a time when she was 3 or 4 years old.
In the story are hints of the empathy that imbue her life today.
She told me a story about one time when I was little. It was Easter Sunday. We both wore hats to church, and the frilly dress, and everything. And we were walking down the road. Either from the bus or something. But we were walking down the road. The road had a trench beside it. The wind blew her hat off, and it blew it into the trench. And she's like, "Oh, my goodness." And she kinda ran after her hat but then it went too far into the trench so she couldn't get it. And when she turned around, apparently I'd taken my hat off and thrown it into the trench too. And I said, "It's OK, Mommy. Mine's gone too."
At that moment little Jade-as-mother had taken on the role
of comforter, soothing the distress her mother reflected. The
gaps in Jade's storying intimate similar soothingby omission.
She makes no mention of her mother's second divorce. She makes
only passing reference to the struggle her mother endured to put
her through high school and college.
Jade describes herself in 1997 as a comparative reflection of her mother. "I don't see myself as overtly happy, sanguine, WOOH [emphasizes with tone her phoneme of an outgoing nature]. She likes everything big. But that's not me."
Showing her picture collection, Jade brings out a portrait of her mother as a very young woman. "This picture of my mom," she muses, "I've always loved how she looks in this picture. Not that I wish she would be like that, but this is when she was younger. I've always loved it because it's kind of like a Mona Lisa smile. Not a big grin thing. Just a Mona Lisa smile. She looks very sedate." She stops to correct herself. "Not sedate, like a Mona Lisa. A sort of a smile that makes you think there was something behind her. It wasn't out there, spoken. [She] communicated it softly or silently."
In that nostalgia-driven moment, Jade captures the meaning of her signature maxim, "Walk softly but carry a big stick" which is discussed below. When she mailed back the authenticated transcript, Jade had written beside that description. "Simple and elegant. A time when she was like that." The implication that times have changed remains a silent subtext.
Education: A Watershed for Success and a Conduit for Travel
Jade had spent some time in school in the Caribbean before
arriving in Canada. In the 1997 interview, she reflects on the
sense of peace and order that she experienced at a school that
her mother felt was important for her to attend. "Because
we were not Catholic, she had to enroll me when I was born so
I would get a place there. She wants the best for her daughter.
This school had a nice group of kids. And it was a very good school.
A very good place for kids to go."
Jade considers her own evaluation of the school.
I always thought of it as a very beautiful, calm, quiet and serene place. It had beautiful gardens; was very quiet. The furniture was Victorian. The nuns were so proper, so ladylike and perfect kinda thing. I wanted to be a nun because of the beautiful place, the nice gardens. It was such a wonderful place, kinda like a refuge.
Talking about the difference in schools from one country to
the next, Jade talks about her early school experience in Canada.
"The teachers watched out for me. I was quiet and shy. The
kids were different. There were no nuns, no uniforms. They put
me back a grade."
Jade recalls a poignant memory of discriminatory labeling at school. She recalls her powerlessness to do anything about a personal injustice. "I was in grade 4 or 5. A kid punched me in the stomach. They treated me differently because I was . . ." She seems unable to go on. Visibly summoning up courage, she continues, ". . . because I came from somewhere else. I stood there. I cried. My friend helped me." She has no recollection of any school personnel coming to her rescue.
Her helplessness did not become learned, however. "As I got older, I started fighting back more. Became just as aggressive. When they called me [names], I called them [equally disrespectful ones]."
Not all her school stories leave negative impressions. When I ask her, "If you could do anything without failing what would that be? Describe a typical day in that scenario."
Jade pauses to reflect. "A typical day? When I succeed at chemistry or physics! Oh, my goodness! Well, that would mean that I understand what the teacher was saying. One thing that stands out in my memory in Mr. P's physics class. That was in grade 11." The tones in her voice mandate a playlet script.
Mr. P: What is the source of energy?
(People said things like water, heat, electricity. Stuff like that.)
And I, quietly, under my breath: The sun
Some people snickered.
Some guy in front of me, I think it was C said. "She says, the sun!"
Mr. P: Well, she's right! She's exactly right!
Turning to me, Jade explains. "The one time I got something
right in physics class! Chemistry and physics were just not things
I could relate to. That was stuff I never did well at in school."
There was jubilation in her voice about a tiny remembered success
almost a decade ago. Jade notes that despite this account of an
affirming high-school science teacher, she had no secret yearning
to venture into the hard sciences. Echoes of "She's exactly
right!" urged her to continue her search for success in her
choice of a majorpsychology.
Jade applauds her mother's insistence on higher education. "My mom always emphasized education." Her mother, as she tells it, used education as a protective and preventive device. "She'd say, You can go a long way if you have an education.' She said, I never got to do a lot of things because I don't have a degree. You can get a better job. A better-paying job. The people you meet will have important things to say'."
Even when she went to school in France, Jade and her mother's relationship remained tightly intertwined. She illustrates with this story.
When I was in France, my mom wanted to buy this dress but it cost $100 and she wanted my opinion, so she didn't buy it. And then I went shopping one time and I saw three pairs of shoes that fit me. I don't usually find shoes my size on sale. And I knew she couldn't see them, but I had to know her opinion so I called her. I had all the information ready for any questions she'd ask me. I wanted her blessing.
Describing her social support network at college, Jade lists four special people. Her mother tops the list. "My mom is very much a part of it. My supervisor at workshe's in her forties. I have two close girlfriends."
In Jade's stories, travel and school are inextricably intertwined. In an E-mail response to a question about her greatest learning experience, she shared this sacred story.
The trip that catapulted my first learning experience was a trip I took with the choir to Mexico City when I was in grade 12. A couple of my friends and I were walking down a street near our hotel. We wanted to get rid of the few Mexican pesos we had left. We saw three children (ages three to seven, eldest was a girl, younger brother, baby sister) selling dolls on the sidewalk. They wore dirty torn t-shirts, shorts, or dresses. They themselves were sooooooooo dirty that the dirt had become a dark layer on their skin. I was drawn to these children. I reached out to give the eldest sister money. She would not take it. I could not believe it! If I were in her place, I would have grabbed the money and run! I tried a couple times to give her the money, but she would not take it. I tried a different approach. I gave her younger siblings the money, then I offered money to her. She accepted it!!!
What a lesson in sharing that was to me!! I will never forget it. Being in such close proximity with those children, I realized that I could easily have been one of them. I could have been poor, dirty, without a home, begging on the street. I wondered, why was I so lucky? How much more was expected of me?
Jade is exuberant when she talks about her school-abroad experience.
"And when I went to Collonges, I finally got the chance to
[go to Europe]." As noted earlier, she had spent 3 months
touring South Africa on a field trip. Returning home, she took
a detour to Copenhagen by herself. "I prayed that God would
protect me. I must be honest, I thought it was quite a presumptuous
prayer, and took the night train to Copenhagen with only a chocolate
and an orange in my backpack."
Right after she graduated with her master's degree, Jade volunteered to go overseas for a year as a missionary teacher.
The trip has been the epitome of learning experiences for me. One Sabbath I went to the largest refugee camp established thus far in that country. It was home to approximately 25,000 people. As we drove through the camp, I saw children running around half-naked and covered with the red dirt characteristic of Rwanda. I saw women comforting their severely malnourished babies. Those scenes really impacted me. The thought came to my mind, next Sabbath I will be back home in the U.S., sitting in a huge church with people, some of whom their greatest worry that morning was not having the exact matching shoes to go with their new dress. After all that I saw in my eleven months, I had changed. I was no longer one of them. How could I fit back into their world, when I measured the cost of an item by how many pairs of children's shoes it would buy? Tears came to my eyes. I asked God why He had allowed me to experience the two polar ends of the world. The seed had been planted. I would have to return. At sometime in my life, I had to do something.
For Jade, it was travel that provided her with her greatest learning experiences. "It taught me things no book, teacher, or course would ever teach me. There are still numerous countries to visit. There are lots more lessons to be learned."
Personal Vision for the Future
At 20, Jade had a clear vision of her future. She would become
a child psychologist, get married, and have three or four kids.
What was essential was warm family relationships. She explained:
I want to be happy. Whatever I do; I want to be happy doing it. I want to be a mother and friend to my children. . . . Have a very good relationship with my husband. . . . Get along well with my in-laws. . . . No family squabbles. . . . I'm very idealistic, I guess. I want to have a home where other kids can come and enjoy being there.
Her acuity sharpens with the decade. In 1997, having attained
at least two of the pieces of the puzzlea master's degree
in psychology, and a husbandJade refines her dream:
Eventually my husband and I will live overseas. I would love to work with other women, encouraging them, teaching them how to raise their children, run a little businessthings like that. What gives me warm fuzzies is encouraging young women so that they [can] take care of themselves. They can do whatever it can be for them. As long as they know they are free. Free inside. Regardless of what they are doing. Staying at home; raising children. That's success. I would like to encourage them to reach their goal. To realize [their dream of] success.
The Picture Show
On July 15, 1997, Jade arrives at my house with a package of photographs culled from her mother's collection, her own album, and her husband's files. She has been married for less than a month. A phrase which is constantly on her lips, simple but elegant' is an apt description of her persona. She now describes herself as petite, with thick curly hair, and crooked eyebrows. Reluctant to verbalize her personality strengths, she resorts, at my prodding, to listing them on the back of the transcript I later sent her for a member check. Noting that she always thought of something to say long after the interview was over, she scribbled. "Friendly; care about my friends; supportive; not extravagant; try not to draw attention to myself; dependable."
"What do you see when you look in the mirror?" I ask her at the start of the interview to quell the breathlessness I hear in her voice. She hesitates, and only responds a month later when she returns the revised transcript.
I guess when I look in the mirror, I see a young woman of color who wants to represent Christ; have a close relationship with Him. A woman that is unique. I am petite; a rainbow of ethnic backgrounds. I am a woman who is the product of the sacrifices and struggles of other womenmother, grandmother. Someone who was fortunate to have a home full of love.
My journal jottings noted how precisely this description captured her essencea
petite, beloved, God-led ethnic woman.
Jade's definition of success is unequivocally gender-specific.
Interpreting success as an independent woman who can take care
of herself, Jade elaborates: "Any woman who can stand up
for herself; not a person that any man, or other person, can push
around." She pauses to take a breath. "If she has a
job, she can buy her own car, take care of herself. To me, that
is a successful woman. She is self-sufficient. Regardless of what
she does, if she can take care of herself, to me she is successful."
In her definition of success, Jade's imagery and praxis intersect as she remarks sotto voce that this interview "put breath into words she had thought about but not in a sentence." She elaborates with simple elegance. "My view of success is not climbing a ladder. It's maybe walking down a road. It's not vertical so that this stuff is lower than the other one. Success is be-ing. Success is living a simple, good life."
Moving to the more personal level, Jade continues. "To me, a degree or a
position . . . My goal is not to be like CEO or things like that. Achieving more [is not success]. It's like peace of mind. Being content with who I am." In her revision of the 1997 transcript, her elegant scrawl postulates, "Each success you have builds upon the one before."
She becomes more inclusive as we work on her horizontal graphic (Appendix G) which is more symbolic of the natural ebb and flow of the current she alluded to earlier than to a staircase. "It's more a continuum. It's not going up and down. It's a continuum. I think successes just build like a day-after-day thing."
As she extends the pole to make room to write more, she adds. "Each success builds upon the one before." After more tangential conversation, she returns to her definition. "Success is just day to day. Being content with who I am. Being happy where I am at the time. Being at peace inside."
When she mailed her revised transcript, she included a note with a maxim she had just seen in a catalog at her office. "I found the perfect metaphor for my definition of success," she wrote. "I felt it was what I tried to say in all the attached ramblings: Success is a journey; not a destination'."
Describing her personal journey, Jade begins with her starting point. "It's being born in a way. Learning my ABC's was one step." She pauses again to instruct me.
I think you have success all along the way. The little successes along the way is what adds up to being successful. It's not the big one at the end. It's the little ones along the way that make up for the other ones along the way. None is more important than the other. Learning my ABC's was important when I was 7. It was not more important than me earning a bachelor's degree at 22. They are inter-relational. They all tie in. They build on each other.
In the 1997 interview, Jade's photographs, her chart, and her stories illustrate her success development. They fall into two categories. Most are school-related. The others are reminders that she has been bitten by the travel bug. Picking up a picture, she remarks fondly: "This is a picture of my mom and me when I graduated from college. It was more like success for both of us."
With uplifted eyebrow I seek an explanation. She complies.
I think it was a success for me because I did get my education. It was something I wanted to do, but for my mom it was a success because all her encouragement, and all her prodding paid off! Her sacrifice, and things like that, paid off. I did get my degree. And my master's too, but I think this one was it.
Interrupting the picture show, Jade moves to the staircase
graphic and highlights in a concise fashion the most important
and recent symbols of her success. "First graduating from
high school. Then college graduation. Travelling to Europe. That
was important." She pauses, then elaborates: "In a way,
I think I proved to myself that I could survive on my own."
The individuation theme emerges as her benchmarks to success continue.
"Starting to work. Another important thing was getting my
Turning toward me, she answers an invisible audience. "Yes, I'd lived on my own in foreign countries, but I never did it back at home And I think that having my own apartment, paying my own bills, making ends meet, and stuff like that was an accomplishment for me. It helped me prove myself. I'm not saying, forsake all friends or forsake all assistance, but I know I can take care of myself."
Implicit in her dialogue is the tacit knowledge that her success before she moved out of her mother's house was largely due to her mother's struggle to provide for them both. In her retrospective dialogue, the individuation theme makes its presence felt once more. Developmental stages are interwoven in her success continuum, which ends with what she terms a milestone. "I think getting married, not that I trapped somebody. I don't think of it as a success or accomplishment. But it's a milestone."
Reshuffling her pictures, she resumes the picture show. "This one is of me in Paris. One of the things which I've always wanted to do is to go to Europe. And when I went to school there, I finally got the chance. The only thing I really did want to do!"
More of her dreams materialized as her narrated picture show indicates. "This is me at the airport. And that was another thing I wanted to do. I wanted to go as a missionary." Her voice is laden with realized dreams. "I had the chance to go to Africa, and even though she would miss me terribly, my mother supported me. That was something I appreciatedan opportunity like that!"
Pausing to reflect on her mother's strong will, Jade adds. "She didn't cry at the airport. I did. But then, she went home and cried. She didn't let me see her. And I think that's hard for a parent to dobe supportive yet know that they're going to miss their child."
Jade describes a missing picture that she had wanted to include in her collection. "It kind of represents my adventurous spirit. It was a picture of me sitting in a water jar on a small incline. With sunglasses and an Indiana Jones style hat. I was wearing khaki shorts and a t-shirt."
She reiterates, "This picture represents my adventurous spirit. My love for travel, different cultures, people, etc." There are a few limitations to this free-spiritedness, however, as her epilogue reveals. "I made sure there were no spiders in it. If spiders were in there, I'd jump out!"
Her picture collection ends with photographs of her wedding and honeymoon. She explains why these few are special to her. "Here I am, touching up my make-up just before the ceremony and he's like, Gotta get a picture.' He always calls this my beauty ritual. It's the little details."
The final photograph was taken on her honeymoon. It is a picture of her hatted, bikini-clad self on the beach, arms thrown out to embrace the sky. "I think in this picture, I was feeling free. I think whenever I go to the Caribbean or somewhere tropical, I feel free."
I do not understand. Jade explains. "I guess it reminds me of the formative years. Of where I've come from. Any time I go somewhere warm or tropical, I feel like I'm half way home." Her ethnic roots seem to beckon and Jade elaborates, "I've lived here for 21 years. But there's a part of me that enjoys, feels warm inside whenever I go somewhere tropical."
As she stacks up her collection, I ask why there are no pictures of her in workplace settings. Her answer is brief. "My work is not me. It's not where the real me, the true me is." A later phone conversation brought an addendum. "Work makes me feel independent. I can make my own money, support myself, buy whatever I want. Work is a means to being independent."
When she talks about an interpersonal struggle she encountered at work, she recalls, in her mother's voice, a proverb her grandmother had often shared with her mother. "When yuh han' in de tiga mout', rub he head." (When your hand is in the tiger's mouth, rub his head.)
Herself as a Success Coach
After graduate school, Jade became a high-school counselor,
and later, an overseas missionary. Her stories suggest that she
has found her niche. She describes how she planned the academy
graduation address she was once invited to give:
When I thought about what I was going to talk to them about, I wanted them to think about their future. Because so many times kids look at the here-and-now, which is fine, but there are decisions, things that they do when they're young [that] will affect what they do when they're older. If you see yourself as a successful person when you're young, you will be a successful person.
I think I hear her mother's voice in her words. She reflects on how successful the address was. "I guess the kids really loved it." She attributes part of its appeal to two sayings that make up her motto. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" and the poem which concluded her speech. She reminisces, "I don't know where I found it. It's not a big prayer. It's simple. It's my everyday prayer." She recites it reverently:
Moving into new territory, she shares what she told the girls
she taught in the African country in which she had worked.
There were these three girls. Very intelligent. They're incredible girls. If they put their mind to it, they can be incredible women. And I wanted them to see that. I know it sometimes came across as pig-headedness, but [I had to] channel it into something good. And I encouraged them. I said, "You girls can be whatever you wanna be. You're smart." But when they were lazy and didn't want to do their school work, I was straight up. I said, "Listen. The work's not gonna get done unless you do it. You have to get off your lazy butts and do it."
Transcribing tape one night, I scribbled in my journal: "The
forcefulness of her words belied the gentle delivery. I'm sure
those girls felt that. I think I have found the context of her
maxim Walk softly but carry a big stick'. It is a pervasive
influence. The soft gait is the presentation, the delivery of
the message; and the big stick is self-determination."
Jade ruminates on what she wants to tell women when her dream of working in development in some Third World country materializes. "I would like to think that I am working in programs where I am teaching women, encouraging women to use their potential to be something. Whatever it might be for them. Encouraging them to reach their goals."
Through it all, I see how she shaped her mother's dream for her success into one that is uniquely her own. I resort to my journal to record my musings. "Her mother wanted education to pave the way for an easier life; a quicker trip upward on the social and economic ladder. Jade wanted her education to make an impact on women in developing countries. She wanted to touch their lives so that they could enhance their potential."
Jade's transcript is riddled with God-themes. She quotes Bible
texts knowing that our shared knowledge will fill in whatever
blanks she might leave. During the 1997 interview, she refers
to texts from Prov 15 (Speaking the truth from the heart'
without frills). Her graduation address summation from Josh 24:15,
"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" captures
her life plan.
She illustrates how instrumental her mother was in developing a relationship with
God. "She'd tell me how important it was to have God. She showed me how God has led her from past to present."
In 1997, when she lists her mother's strengths, she recalls fondly: "I admire her faith in God and her relationship with God. One memory that I [will] always have is my mom praying. Sometimes, you'd walk by her bedroom and she's kneeling by the bed, praying."
Later in the interview, I fashioned a question designed to understand how she practices improvisation. "What happens when you have a plan and something happens to forestall it?"
Her response was instantaneous. "Plan B. You always have to have a plan. First you have to analyze why plan A didn't work." She explains with examples the mundane analysis that is often a part of everyday living. My ears perk up when she becomes specific.
"First you have to analyze, is this God telling me, This is not what I want for you to do.' Or is it, this is life. Things are gonna break down. Do something. Don't sit down and cry."
On the transcript I sent for her verification, I scribble the question I should have asked during the interview had not the momentum of her dialogue precluded that. "How do you know if it is God's voice?" Her response was simple and powerful.
I do believe God has a way of closing doors and opening windows. Prayerfully ask God to lead you where HE wants you to be. I always remind myself that God knows me better than I know myself. He knows what is best for me. That thought keeps me focused on God's will. With constant prayer and listening, you slowly see where He is leading.
The moving current theme is a strong one in Jade's stories. She reflects on that at the end of the 97 interview as the tape ends and her words flow faster than my pen. "The life current. Current in a river; nice and quiet in the storm. The constant motivator that does not want the limelight but simply is. Constant. Strong. Full of integrity. Current grounds the person. [They're] Not all over the place. They know what they are."
Her metaphors continue. She uses the melting process of a burning candle to describe the tension that the thought of being married initially caused her.
When people get married, they lose their identity. To me, a metaphor for that is melting away; losing your shape, your form. It's not something that happens instantly. It slowly happens. Of course, I've been married less than a month but I know my husband, and he's not the type of person that would encourage me to lose my identity. So I won't melt and lose my personality.
Jade adds a story in a playlet script which supports the thesis
that her identity is not in jeopardy:
One day I was complaining. "Oh, I have to change my driver's license, my social security card, my credit cards, and all those things. I have to change my name."
He said, "You don't have to change your name if you don't want to."
And that just really shocked me. I said, "You don't mind if I don't change my name?"
He said, "No, we're still married to each other."
And I thought that was really something neat, you know, that he felt that way. Because there are a lot of people that don't see it that way. I treasured that.
Using a tulip analogy, she describes the ideal self. "They're
simplethey don't have ruffly things going on. They're beautiful.
They catch the eye." Adding the giraffe to explicate, she
notes: "They're stately. They're peaceful. Not growling like
lions or tigers. Rffggh, growling and king-of-the-field kind of
thing." Her phoneme of aggression helps me get the picture.
So does her smile-evoking codicil. "They have simple linespeaceful
and stately. They have lovely long eyelashes."
It is, however, the metaphor in her oft-repeated proverb, "Walk softly and carry a big stick" that holds my attention. She explains that the big stick is character, integrity, wisdoma symbol of the proverb depicting "there are wise people who don't say much, but when they say something, it's good advice."
Moving into a philosophical mode, she continues. "People listen because it's not someone who just prattles all day long or tells big stories. To me there is no need for all of that. Just say what you need to and get out, kind of thing."
At my request, she elaborates further. Using paraverbals, she declares:
I can tell you what it's not. It's not being abrasive. It's not BRABRAHAR [growling sounds]. You know, having a big voice. Just bulldozing people. I think you can have an impact on people just by the way you carry yourself. The few words that you do say, it makes a difference. I've always liked the saying. I don't know what it is exactly, but it basically boils down to "a wise man doesn't say much, but what he says is good." That's something I try to practice.
Further explication is mediated through her dialogue on success, a dialogue that becomes increasingly specific. "Success is encouraging, especially other women, other young women to be independent. Give them hope."
Analysis of Her Stories
Five major themes undergird Jade's stories. First is the intense
closeness she shares with her mother: the mother who shouldered
the financial burden so that her daughter could reap the benefits
of education. Second is her intense love for travel. Third is
her philosophy that what is on the insidepeace, joy, serenityis
what actually counts. Fourth is the empathy which flows into service
for underprivileged women. Finally, and what she insists takes
priority and informs the other themes, is her God-reliance. All
her stories bear her trademark: simple yet elegant.
Jade is a master at omission, delicately avoiding troubling questions, or answering only by implicit comparison. Refusing to allow words to betray her mother's trust, she uses phonemes. For example, when she describes her mother's showy extroversion, the non-word "WoooH" is used instead. The invisible audience of which she is acutely aware must interpret it for themselves.
The synthesis of Jade's stories, the essence of her persona, and her definition of success development, are mediated through the poem below. It is now a collaborative effort. When she mailed the poem back to me with her revisions, she complained: "It sounded frilly and a little disjointed. It needed that Maya Angelou's guts' to it."
In response to her feedback, I reviewed the poem. Her critique highlighted a dialogic tension between the text in mystory (Denzin, 1997) and herstory. I sought my journal and thought with my pen.
There is indeed more guts' to her poem revision than I had shown. I had muted the quiet strength of the little immigrant girl who rejected her aunt's mittens almost two decades ago. Or the eleventh-grader whose quiet answer in Physics class stilled the snickers of her peers. Or the co-ed who hitch-hiked through Europe sometimes with a friend, sometimes aloneoften with only an orange and a bar of chocolate in her backpack. Or the petite graduate who spent a year of service in an African country while the warring drums were beginning to beat. Or the June bride who refused to bow to tradition and moved down the aisle on her mother's arm. Yes, the courage that I saw and heard is indeed her strength. I will retainif only in my mindveto power. But not this time.
The italicisized lines reflect her revisions in the poem below. The mother-line theme, down to the futuristic final stanza, is illuminated in her developmental sequencing of the verses.