She grew up with ‘the music in my ears’ and just a few weeks shy of her 80th birthday, Ruth Blanc is once again enjoying her favorite time of the year.
Affectionately known as ‘Ma Blanc’, she has been enjoying Carnival for as long as she can remember and her age has not slowed her down.
“People say, ‘Ma Blanc you not leaving this Carnival alone?’ But to me, that the way I look at it, at my age it’s a form of exercise,” she tells Dominica News Online.
Ma Blanc was born on March 27, 1934, in Roseau near what is now the Mahaut/Canefield Bus Terminal. In those days when it was in season, carnival was practiced in that area and from an early age she remembers the music in her ears. It would go to bed with her and rise with her in the morning.
She remembers the sensays and masks and was very scared of them. “I used to run under the bed and hide,” she recalls.
As she shed her childhood, Ma Blanc developed a love for the music of Carnival and the idea of having some good, clean fun.
She started joining bands and jumping up on Carnival days.
At 22, Ma Blanc moved to England but Carnival seems to find a way to follow her. Three years after moving, Carnival was introduced in that country and she wasted no time in joining in.
She returned to Dominica in 1972 and has not missed a single carnival since then.
“I got back into this carnival business and up to today I am still at it,” she says with a chuckle.
Ma Blanc said when she is in a band, the sense of time is lost.
“If you tell me ‘Ma Blanc I need you to go around Roseau in a band for two hours in the hot sun, I would say ‘excuse me? Am I a slave?’ But the two hours going so fast, you don’t feel it at all,” she states. “When the band stop and they say we are going for breakfast or lunch, I say to myself, ‘wait a minute, you mean, what’s the time?’”
On a typical carnival Monday morning Ma Blanc leaves home at 3:00 am to catch J’ouvert.
Then she would return home, grab a quick breakfast and some rest before heading back to the main street jump up.
While most people join one band, she says she normally joins three. She has already joined two for the 2014 street jump up.
“Mind me I doesn’t join one band eh… I don’t know how I do it but I do it,” she notes, adding that when one band’s music gets ‘tired,’ she simply skip to the one that is hotter and more appealing.
“So if I run in this band for one hour or two hours, I leave it and I go and change into the other one and after lunch when we go back on the road I’m in the third band,” she remarks.
Ma Blanc says she normally carries her costumes in a bag for a quick change when she is switching bands.
Through the years of jumping in Carnival Ma Blanc has accumulated many costumes. “Sometimes when I watch the amount of costumes I have I say, ‘boy if I had to save that money I would have plenty of money in the bank’…..but it’s fun and you have to die and leave the money there, so I enjoying it,” she states.
With a downcast look Ma Blanc notes she is contemplating making this year’s jump up her last, “if I live to see it.”
But her face quickly lights up again when she says she may very well change her mind come next year.
Most likely, Ma Blanc will be seen enjoying carnival 2015.