You may not know who she was. If you are lucky, you had your own Malaika, and you know exactly what I mean by that.
She died today, January 14, 2008, and this is where I write about people who matter to me who die. She had a Brooklyn Dodgers jersey with Holman-Bermiss across the back and the number 42. And she had cancer.
Barrington unlocked the door to her office so I could drape the jersey over her chair as if she had just left it there overnight. I didn’t want her to know whom it came from, but Floraine – who is Frick to my Frack in Malaika’s book, couldn’t keep the secret (though MHB would have figured it out anyway, me being from LA, our school being in Brooklyn) because – it was sweet – she really wanted Malaika to know that it came from me because of how much I loved her and how hard it was to find a company that allowed enough room for all the letters on the back: H-O-L-M-A-N–B-E-R-M-I-S-S. Her father’s last name, Holman, had to be on there because she hyphenated, and especially because she and her father used to follow the Dodgers from Flatbush, Brooklyn, where her school was until just before she retired, and where her dad still lives with her family. And, in fact, a year or so later, she asked me where I’d had the jersey made because her father had discovered hers, she said possessively, and he needed his own.
And you know, she let me have my secret after all, in her way. She slowed down
into one of those rapid
slip-slip-slip-I’m-about-to-stop-for-about-half-a-second skips on her
way down the hall and said something to me in that
this-is-for-only-you-to-hear voice that was probably closer to a mutter than
a whisper. Barely stopping, she came close enough for only me to hear "See you
in the Series, Yankee."
Malaika Holman-Bermiss was Principal of The Brooklyn Comprehensive Night High School for almost all of our near-20-year history. She retired in 2005. Her Assistant Principal Catherine Paparelli is Principal. The school will be closing June of 2008, this year.
It seems like one could not exist without the other. Or maybe it is time for the rest of us to step up now. Or both.
"Pitchers and Catchers" is coming. Let us not drop the ball just because she’s not here to tell us when to show up.
More memories are to come, as ever.
PLEASE SHARE YOUR OWN MEMORIES OF MALAIKA. You are welcome to use the comment space below – there is a very brief registration – or – and this would be great – you can leave a memory on the BCNHS Homepage in the MEMOIRS section. Just scroll down on the right. You’ll see it.