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The Women Who Mothered Me – Part II

Mother love

After my friend, Norma, read my tribute to my many ‘mothers’, including hers, she added her stories. It was interesting to see the impact each of these women had on us individually, and how much we still appreciate them.

Norma’s Story:

Although I cannot claim to have had the same relationship with your family members as you did, I too have fond personal memories of each lady mentioned.

Miss Edna: [My Mother]: I only had to mention once that I loved ackee and saltfish [cod] and before I knew it, you and I were treated to the most delicious meal. It has been many, many years since then, but I remember that meal well, especially since I had never known until that day that coco [a type of yam] could’ve tasted so delicious.

Sister Madge: How can I forget the many times when I showed up at your home at dinner time, how she made a meal prepared for six turn into seven. Or, how could I forget how cheery and welcoming she always was with me and pretty much the whole of our little town. [Most people in the town called her Sister Madge].

Miss Ira: I knew Ms. Ira mostly through church and remember her no-nonsense attitude which helped to keep us kids in line. She was the faithful servant of God who made sure that the Gospel Hall Church was always sparkling clean. I also remember her for the times my mother would send me to her to get a few sour oranges from her tree. [Sour orange trees weren’t that common in our town].

Miss Elsie: She literally saved me one Sunday morning from blacking out on the street. On the Sunday in question, I had made a trip to Jackson Town from Kingston to surprise Mama. When I arrived at the house, she was not there, neither was anyone else.

I decided to return home, but by the time I got to the bus stop, I began to feel dizzy and started to stumble and felt sure I was going to die. I had travelled very far and had not eaten anything that day. I stumbled until I found and knocked on Miss Elsie’s front door. She grasped the situation quickly and offered me peppermint tea, which worked like magic. I was profoundly grateful. Miss Elsie talked with me as I sipped the tea and told that me I was welcomed to stay until I felt well enough to leave. I have always been truly grateful for the kindness she showed me that day.

Sonia: Before Mama got her home phone, I only had to call your sister’s home phone and Sonia was always willing to deliver any message I had for Mama. After a while Sonia was also one of the only familiar faces of my generation that made it seem like home whenever I went to Jackson Town. Whenever Sonia knew that I was home, she would stop by to have a chat with me on the veranda or to have a quick word as she made her way to church.

Mama: My own mother, Miss Madge, was like the pied piper of young people and she drew them in with her stories, jokes and youthful attitude. Mama loved to be surrounded by her children’s friends and they kept seeking her out even when the children (we the friends) were not at home. My mother would often write to tell me of a visit from one of my friends and how happy the visit made her feel.

All these wonderful ladies were a part of what made Jackson Town home and I will always remember them with love.

Additionally, I now find some comfort in visiting the grave sites of these wonderful people and others whenever I go home. I go to the First Hill Church, the Anglican Church, and the Gospel Hall church yards and realize each time how much they are missed.

To The Women Who Mothered Me – Part I

Mother's Day Blog Post

My big brother in Nassau called moments ago to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day. We reminisced about our mother, who left us in 2011. He spoke about the little things we took for granted from those who passed away. The long chats he used to have with Mama; how in the midst of a late night conversation Sister Madge would fall asleep only to wake up at the tail end of the conversation. We also spoke about our niece Sonia, and how we relied on her to get things done on our behalf. He ended by saying, “I miss those little things.” Yes, we do!

And so, I am taking this time to reflect on some of the women who mothered me. Some things might not make sense to you, dear reader, but I hope you will enjoy reading the post. The image is a collage of the 175-year-old church in which I grew up; the last orchid my Sister Madge planted before she passed in 2012, and my favourite snacks that only my Aunt Elsie could make. They each have a connection to the women mentioned below and the significant role they played in my life. Although they are no longer around, I honour them today.

Mama – Chief Encourager: The best mother anyone could have asked for, no kidding! She was supportive, encouraging, loved God, loved people, adopted others as her own. She was fearless. She took her first plane ride in her late 70’s, when my big sister didn’t even want a passport. She fearlessly rode the elevators to the 85th floor of the Empire State Building in New York, when I was scared. She accompanied me and my family to several Toronto Blue Jays games, and in her 90’s, attended a Colorado Rockies game with us in Denver. She enjoyed watching the planes take off and land at Pearson International from Derry Road. I miss those Sunday evenings with her. As dementia took its toll, she asked me one day,“Whose daughter are you again?” I put my head in her lap and cried. Yes, her lap was my favourite place as it was so comforting.

Sister Madge – Teacher and Preacher: She was my big sister, but most people in our town called her Sister Madge as well. A young adult by the time I was born, she was like a second mother to the other five siblings. She knew the birds and the bees story wouldn’t work with me, so she bought me a copy of “On Becoming a Woman”. How embarrassing, I remember feeling. Unlike our mother, she had no interest in travelling, but believed God made her to be a teacher, and she wasn’t venturing beyond that. After her teaching years, she became a lay pastor. I remember for just being my big Sister Madge!

Sonia – Chief Generosity Officer: My niece, who thought she was a sister (and we grew up as such). She was two years my junior, and Sister Madge’s only child. She was generous to a fault and we took her generosity for granted. She would be up late at nights creating crochet pieces, yet up before dawn to make breakfast for us whenever we went home to Jamaica. Her passing took the wind out of my sail, shook my faith and, for a whole year, had me questioning the value of prayer. Yet, it was her quiet strength and unselfish nature that gradually restored my Christian faith.

Aunt Elsie – Chief Cook: My first official teacher from age three. She once punished me for laughing at an old lady (Miss Beck), even though my other classmates were also laughing. I could’ve been about 5 years old at that time. However, I remember her most for making the best ginger beer and snacks. By way of explanation, the Grater Cake (also known as Pink-on-Top) is made up of grated coconut mixed with sugar. The Gizzada, made up of grated coconut and sugar and stuffed inside a mini pie crust. Why is this important? I remember her more for those snacks and the ginger beer than the punishment meted out to me so many years ago.

Mama Ira – Chief Spelling Bee Officer: She was my grand aunt who bought me my first Spelling Bee book. I went on to become the Girls’ Spelling Bee Champion of my school and represented the school at the parish (similar to Province or State) level. I still have the Certificate of Particpation in that competition.

Miss Madge – Chief Humourist: Not to be mistaken for my Sister Madge, her children and I grew up together. In fact, her daughter, Norma, remains my best friend from elementary school. She reminds me frequently of the many sentiments her Mom would include in her letters about me. However, I remember her Mom’s great sense of humour. In her presence, there was never a dull moment, and even though she began losing her sight in later years, she never lost her sense of humour.

Like I stated at the outset, some things might not make sense. What’s important is to know that these women made an impact on me, and I am grateful for having had them in my life. If you have still have your mothers, or a surrogate mother, let her know you appreciate her while she is still with you.