via Daily Prompt: Roots
During my teenage years, I secretly despised my mom. It was not that she did anything wrong. As a matter of fact, my parents were good people, salt of the earth type. They had no noticeable vice, and they worked hard to take care of my siblings and me. My father was a subsistence farmer, and my mother – a sort of housewife-cum-small businesswoman. She eked out a living by buying ground provisions from struggling farmers in our village and selling them in open-air markets in the city.
She did not have a high school diploma because secondary education was only available to the privileged few in Jamaica during her childhood and her parents were not able to afford training for her beyond the elementary level. Marriage was the only respectable thing to do for a girl in her position, and she remained faithful to my dad during tough economic times. I believe that my mother worked even harder than my father to support my family. She had a good head for business, and she took risks that my dad would balk at because he was an overly cautious man.
Nothing flew outside of my mother’s radar, and she could easily spot a lie. Other than the fact that I did not want to upset her by misbehaving at school, I stayed out of trouble because I did not want her to pop up at my school in her work clothes. I hated her rough clothes, sensible work shoes, and the hats she wore to protect her hair from the sun and dust. Generally, she would wear her Sunday best clothes for special or planned occasions. However, if any of my siblings or I had done something wrong at school, we ran the risk of incurring her wrath and having her come to the school in her work clothes. That was my greatest fear that my friends would laugh at my mother’s appearance. How I wished my mom would dress like the mothers of my friends!
The truth was that my friends were respectful and had never laughed at anybody’s parent as long as I knew them. I also realized that my mother dressed for success: she wore the clothes that suited what she did for a living. Fancy attire would not be compatible with large food baskets with dirt on them, juice leaking from scratched fruits, stems and leaves of vegetables. Mama’s dressing was a testament to her individuality and the sacrifices she made so that we would have it better in life than she did.
My mother did not know that I was once ashamed of her. A stupid kid I was! Had she known, she would have forgiven me and loved me no less than she did. All I have for her now is admiration. God was her beginning and her ending. She was not afraid of her hard work, she never took hand-outs, and she never complained about her problems. My mother made it very clear that education was the way out and she expected us to do well in school. Although my parents experienced financial hardships, we always had a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes on our backs.
Whenever it rains, I feel a sense of nostalgia. I can still smell the aroma of delicious soup coming from my mother’s kitchen, wafting its way to the end of the dirt road that leads to our house despite the pit a pat of the rain trying to wash it away. I always knew that on Thursdays, especially on rainy days, my mom would reward us with a hearty Jamaican soup chock-filled with red beans; speckled peas; vegetables; starchy yams; rolled dumplings; pumpkin; salted pig’s tail and beef; herbs and spices. Mama never measured anything, and yet she was an excellent cook. I believe her hands must have been coated with an invisible liner because she never used potholders in the kitchen.
She didn’t cry when my eldest sibling died of a heart attack. Everybody said she was steady as a rock and they admired her for the way she managed her grief. However, she had suffered a stroke around the time of my sister’s death, unbeknownst to us until her doctor informed us after she had had a second stroke that made her unable to speak. Despite her sickness, she remained a happy soul until a third stroke took her life.
There is a bookmark that I keep in the top drawer of my dressing table with a photo of my mother that was displayed during her homegoing service. She is the vintage picture of me. Her friends and relatives usually look at me and exclaim, “You are the spitting image of your mother!” Their declaration warms my heart because it affirms that I’ve been engendered from a healthy root. Here is an excerpt from a poem titled “Don’t Mourn,” taken from the back of the bookmark mentioned above that echoes the sentiment:
Life here for me is ended, but
memories don’t die.
Don’t lose the love I gave you.
Feed it with your care,
Grow it with devotion and spread it everywhere(Author unknown).
We are stems that spring from other roots of our ancestors; and roots from which our progeny will spring. Therefore, let’s live with the knowledge that our root system is continuous.