The celebration of Mothers’ Day brings a focus on mothers. In Jamaica, and indeed in the Caribbean, mother has a special significance being often the only constant and consistent parental figure in a child’s life. Accordingly, Mothers’ Day is a big celebration when mothers are honored and saluted for the role they play in the family and the wider community.
“Loving”, “caring”, “nurturing”, “sacrificial “, “selfless”– are terms we associate with “mother”. You will hear it being said of a person who is obstinate and difficult and generally of unpleasant disposition -“only his mother can love him”. This is a reaffirmation of the unconditional love expected of a mother.
These maternal characteristics are not peculiar to the woman who gave birth to a child, but also demonstrated by other persons who assume the responsibility for the care and upbringing of children, whether formally or informally, in some cases voluntarily and in others coincidentally. It is a common feature of Jamaican society for children to be raised by “granny” or “auntie” or other female relative or friend, and in rare cases a male. Thus “mother” is defined more in terms of relationship than biological ties or even gender. A celebration of the Jamaican mother must recognize this wider concept to be truly representative.
From my own experience I have been blessed to have had the love and support of not only my biological mother but also some other wonderful women who were “mother figures” at critical junctures of my life’s journey. In great part I owe what I am today (the good bits that is) and what I have achieved to them.
My mother, Louise, has been a supportive and stabilizing force throughout my life. Though not physically present continuously, her influence, and I think her good genes if not her beauty, are evident. Friends and family members remark how much my expressions and gestures remind them of her, and as I move into the senior years I hear her voice in my laughter. I do miss her sense of humor and think how much she would enjoy my dog, Zorro.
My Grandmother, “Granny” “Miss Terry”, was for all practical purposes my mother as she raised me from age 5 years. She inculcated in me the good old fashioned values and the love of God above all else. Although she believed in not sparing the rod for fear of spoiling the child, she was loving and kind and made me feel I was the best at everything. She had an appropriate saying for every situation and her vocabulary was more expansive than the Oxford dictionary! Indeed, some of her expressions were unique and I would impress my friends with granny quotations. Hardly a day passes that I don’t recall her with fondness.
Then there is Aunt Ives who was married to my Uncle Reg and who took on the role of mother and confidante in my late teens and young adulthood. She was loving and kind and imbued in me a sense of style and good graces and taught me the art of entertaining. We enjoyed a good relationship which led some people to believe we were biologically related.
I was well into adulthood when I met Aunt Ina, my ”England mother” while I was pursuing post graduate studies at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. I was introduced to her and her family by a friend to whom she was related. We developed a special relationship. We worshipped together and would have a tipple to celebrate occasions. She not only fed me and gave me a home when I needed one but wholly treated me as a daughter. The family connection and friendship continue today even after her passing.
The above is just a brief mention of the impact and contribution of the amazing women who have mothered me. There are other women who have played a maternal role along the way and whose mentoring and love and support have smoothed life’s pathway – I speak of the mothers of friends, my former boss, Miss Min and Mama Keizs. I think of them all with respect and affection, particularly at this time of year when we celebrate mothers. To my mind the best tribute to them is to emulate the good characteristics exemplified by them in my own relationships with children.
I have not given birth myself, but I have been blessed with many children in the form of nieces; nephews; godchildren; the children of friends; my young colleagues and not to be left out, my pet, Zorro. I thank God for the opportunity afforded me to practice what I learnt from my mothers and pray that the legacy will continue through those whose lives have been touched.
By Eileen R Boxill CD,QC,Ph.D
Eileen is a former Consultant/Advisor to the Jamaican Ministry of Justice, and retired Director of Legal Reform at that Ministry. She was awarded a national honour – Order of Distinction, Commander Class (CD) and appointed a Queen’s Counsel (QC).
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