À Bientôt, Cheri
This Saturday sealed my final farewell to Madame Lucien, my surrogate mother here in Haiti. Every weekend after either an exhausting surf session at earthquake break, or a spelunking excursion to Bassins Bleu, Verlaine has been the ultimate frosting on the cake. Her vibrant enthusiasm and sweet southern cooking are impossible to resist, as is her endless generosity. After a trying childhood in Haiti, Verlaine moved to the sates in 1986 with her husband, where she opened an authentic Haitian Creole restaurant in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her fiendish ways with the frying pan earned her the respect and admiration of everyone from Denver to Baton Rouge.
Though the Madame was making ‘Bon Business’ in the states, she felt homesick for Haiti, and retired here to Jacmel two years ago with her husband. She flies back to Tulsa on occasion, to visit the two boys she adopted from the Kickapoo tribe, who are now in their second year of university. A true patriot, Madame Lucien will never cease to remind us that the only way we can raise Haiti from the dust and corruption is to work together, “It can’t always be every man for himself, you know? That’s why I always give more than I should.” This last part I can personally testify for, as we are always treated to at least two extra courses at her insistence, “Oh, I just wanted your opinion on the gumbo,” she says, even though I have it every time and she knows it’s my favorite.
I’ve never met someone with such radiant positive energy, it was hard to say goodbye. No really, when I scurried back to the kitchen she was thoroughly occupied, with one hand on stirring gravy, the other blindly reaching in the fridge and the phone clamped between her shoulder and her ear, barking orders for more ingredients.
“Au revoir Madame, tu me manque déjà,” I muffled from beneath her bear hug.“Pas ‘au revoir’ c’est à bientôt Cheri,” she said.
It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later. Oh Madame Lucien, I miss your barbecue chicken and mashed potatoes already..