By Melissa Johnson
LITTLE AFRICA, CORRIVERTON – I’ve met a few persons who achieved the age of 100 and beyond, but never have I had the joy of meeting one as feisty as the 109-year old Ismay Spooner.
She lives in what the villagers call Little Africa, a deserted part of Eliza and Mary in Corriverton, Corentyne. My heart tells me she is the joy and light of that tiny community.
Born in Barbados on December 27, 1900 and having arrived in Guyana at a tender age, the lucid lady still holds tightly to her ‘Bajan’ accent.
“My parents came to Guyana as labourers and I come with them when I was about ten or 11 (years old). That was the time they were bringing people to clean up Guyana. They were bringing slaves to clean up.
“Guyana wasn’t like what it is now. I work in the back dam and couldn’t go to school. They worked us and gave us eight cents. But that was eight cents and you could buy whatever you wanted. We worked in rain and shine to survive.”
Mrs. Ismay Spooner give birth to one but raised several other children. “I adopt plenty children. I had one child and she died in the U.S.A. at a young age. Me ain’t got nobody but God, and these here who take care of me.”
Her husband died many years ago. She is not the only one in her family to enjoy longevity. Her mother made it to 102. Back in the day she had her share of fun, clean fun. She had always been a teetotaler and smoking was never a part of her routine.
“I liked dancing especially when I put on the stilts. I like dancing but not the kind of dancing they got nowadays. Dance ah dance, wine ah wine; they got this wuk up dance nowadays.” said Mrs. Spooner and chuckled.
It has been more than 50 years since she lost sight in both eyes but that does not stop her from enjoying God’s gift to her – long life. What I admire most about her is that she wallows not in self-pity but sees everyday as a blessing, an opportunity to praise God and she embraces each day as a privilege.
“Thank God, He knows all. I am not worthy for the least of His blessings but he keeps me alive. Thank God. I go to Church once a month. I contented to be in the land of the living.”
She moves around but with some assistance. “Me mouth strong; no matter what happen to me, me mouth strong. I can’t complain they treat me well.”
The centenarian noted that she eats whatever is given to her and is not picky, but of course she too has a sweet tooth. “I like ice cream, chocolate milk and so on.”
In a jolly way between bouts of laughter, she said Santa Claus forgot her this Christmas. “Yeah I was good but Santa did not come and see me. Santa ain’t got time fuh old people; he got time fuh young people. Christmas was quiet. Me birthday was quiet. Thank God, I am alive.
“I wasn’t sick, thank God. I pray for those who take care of me.” But for the New Year she is hoping that some good Samaritan would present her with a radio. “Me nah want clothes; me got clothes till me ain’t even know what to put on. I like listening to the preaching on the radio. Yeah I want a radio.”
When I promised to return next December to join her in celebrating her 110th birth anniversary she was quick to respond, “The time is already fixed. I am going to spend half of next year – January to June here and after them time, I gone.”
At this point she began singing, “Goodbye, goodbye. I going where Florence gone. Goodbye, goodbye I going where Florence gone.”
Florence was Iris February’s mother. She died many years ago. It is Iris February and her sister who took care of Mrs. Ismay Spooner.
The centenarian said that she shared a close relationship with Florence and when the latter passed away she decided to take her place as mother to Iris February and her sibling.
We argued for a while about who would be right, whether she would be alive or dead next December and she stood her ground, made her point and did not give in until she had the last say.
After a brief silence, the centenarian blurted out, “This is serious business now, no joke.
When I lay down here at night the Holy Spirit speaks to me. The Holy Spirit speaks to all of us but we don’t know it.”
She told a story of a transparent house, an angel and a child.
At one point I felt she was making it up as she went along and I said to myself, Boy, she is good, a real piece of work.”
But as it turned out the same child in the dream was taken to her home a few days later and Mrs. Spooner took the little girl and raised her as her own until she passed away.
Moments later, the centenarian said, “I dream it all just how it happen, and that was the child I dream of. Everything was the same in the dream.”
We chatted and had fun and when it was time for me to leave she asked that we gather around her that she can pray for me and my safe return home.”
Happy New Year, my friend Mrs. Ismay Spooner and now I have the chance to have the last say. To you I say, “I know you will be alive next December and we’ll celebrate.”
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