On July 15th my grandmother turned 92 and my mom and I celebrated with non alcoholic wine, cake, some food and my mother bought her a radio as that was her company at nights.
Now most people know that I’m a granny’s girl but they probably don’t understand how much of an impact this one woman who barely stands 5 feet had on my life. Indeed except for my mother, Enid Gloria Cunningham nee McFarlane has been the most dominant factor in all my years even though at times I rebelled against it.
Do not for one second believe that she was an easy person to live with because she was not. It was her way or her way. There was never a middle ground and what she said was law. It was worse for me as a ‘girl child’ than my brother as he was the favourite because she openly said she preferred boys to girls plus he could charm his way out of many situations when it came to my grandmother. I had no such luck.
As a female I was expected to stay close to home and learn to do things around the house in preparation for eventually being a good wife and mother. Though she had held a few jobs outside of the home in the United Kingdom, grandmother was first and foremost a home maker and a good one at that. That didn’t mean I was willing to follow in her footsteps and learn all the great way to make clothes white and how best to clean cutlery. I hated housework. I did it because I must, not because it held any sort of appeal.
As a child I had the most feared grandmother on the walkway. No one messed with me and certainly no one messed with my family for several reasons, the main one being my brother was the resident ‘star boy’ and the designated leader of his friends in the scheme. But back to my granny. She was no nonsense, biting and would tell children just how it was so there was no destroying peoples’ flower bed, excessive ramping or loud boisterous noise. No she was not having it. By now you can guess that she was not the sweet doting butter-cant-melt-in-my-mouth kinda granny that you often see portrayed on TV. Not mamma. She ruled the roost with an iron fist and was not afraid to beat the stuffing out of you if you broke the rules which you inadvertently did as a child.
I usually got in trouble because I thought she was way too strict and I wanted more freedom. If it was up to her I would go nowhere but school and Sunday school. I mean not school outing, beach trip, excursion, barbecue, fete, fun day or fair. She wasn’t having none of that ‘nonsense’ and since she was deathly afraid of the sea if it name beach you can bet that I’m not going! If I didn’t have my mother to balance it out I wouldn’t know anywhere other than the walls of my home.
As a child I rebelled against her strictness; as an adult I appreciate it immensely. I had rules, discipline and boundaries which is exactly what children need more of today. Yes she could have lighten up a bit but there was nothing quite like being home with mamma and listen to the stories she would tell time and again about life before and after she got married; being a city girl having to live in the deep bush in St. Thomas; journeying by ship to England; facing racism in Wolverhampton or being a domestic helper as a teen and being mistreated. She had stories upon stories, some good, some not so good about her life and I never tire of hearing them, in fact I think after a while I could tell them better than she could. Through my grand-mother I know of family members long deceased before I was even born.
I learnt that she knew sir Alexander Bustamante and his then secretary Miss Gladys, met Norman Manley who she said cut a fine figure in a suit and being a city girl, she knows every single road, street and lane in downtown Kingston having being born and raised in the heart of the city. There are many things she share that I have forgotten and I intend to correct that.
Though she was strict she was nevertheless loving and I have fond memories of being on her lap at nights while she made those ugly big plaits in my head and twisted up the grainy hair at the front of my hairline. I would suck my big finger and feel up the fat of her arm which annoyed her to no end. Sometimes to this day I still do it just to annoy her.
I can look back at it all now with fondness and love. She made many mistakes as an adult but she was working with a elementary school education and the ideology of the time which said ‘anything black nuh good’ so when she powdered my face as a child to bring up me colour or lamented at me cutting my hair as long hair to her is a woman’s crowning beauty, I take it all in stride. She did the best she could as a poor black woman with eight biological children while raising countless others not to mention turning around and raising 2 grandchildren and then my own daughter. I was fortunate to have her so my child never had to worry about crèche or a nursery or anything of that nature. My granny was there, granny was always there.
Today I salute my granny who I love and appreciate with all her miserableness and flaws unconditionally. The love I have for her knows no boundaries. I am a better person having been blessed with her guidance for almost 4 decades. Love you mamma!