Today is Mother’s Day. It is the day when Guyana, like many countries in the world, pay tribute to mothers. In the days leading up to today, there was a lot of activity. People flooded the shops and the stores to get something to make the day memorable.
It comes as no surprise that people get caught up, many trying to show the world how much their mothers mean to them. And indeed mothers are the people who actually hold the world together. They are the hands that rock the proverbial cradle, who nurture us as we grow into adulthood.
For me, all I have are memories, because my mother is not here with me. It is not that she is dead. Rather, she lives overseas with one of my sisters. And they are all breaking their necks trying to keep the old queen happy. And they have every reason to.
There were eight of us with me being the eldest. My stepfather was a fixture. He would go to work, at least he left home to. We knew otherwise when it was payday. He always had an excuse for bringing home precious little by way of money to keep the house going.
As I got older and a bit educated, I understood that there are people, no matter what, that have a problem working. I also understood self-gratification.
My father worked with the Public Works Department as a pump attendant. It was an easy job. All he had to do was maintain the pump and ensure that it was working when it was time to drain the land.
On those days when my mother sought from his supervisor why his pay was short, she would learn that he would sometimes leave the pump house to go with friends for a drink. And he was no drinker. So after a short while, he would return to the pump house and promptly find a place to sleep.
My mother, a young woman then, was not one to sit down and hope. She made me learn to climb a coconut tree for the branches to make the coconut broom, which brought in money. We also cut calabashes to make utensils.
On Saturdays, she would take me and another brother on a long walk to the Leonora market where we peddled our wares. That money would then buy things for the table. It was not easy.
I remember my mother taking me on a walk from Den Amstel to Vreed-en-Hoop. She did not have money to pay transportation. I really walked. Things that people took for granted were missing from my home. But we had love although I did not know it at the time.
That mother was a word and a blow. I was hit or whipped for the slightest mistake. I remember getting a licking because I passed a woman on the streets without greeting her. She ran a tight ship and today I am thankful for it.
When we moved back to Beterverwagting from Den Amstel, I quickly made friends, some of whom knew the streets. They were not averse to helping themselves to the property of others. I always balked, not because of anything other than my mother would have killed me had I been caught. She was the difference between me and the streets.
There came a time when I thought I had grown and was old enough to make my own decisions. She had other ideas. I was forced to comply. One moment still stands sharply in my mind. I got a teaching job at Bartica. I did not know where Bartica was. I knew that it was away from home.
My mother had to borrow money for the fare to get me there. That morning, about three o’clock, we left home for the Transport and Harbours Department stelling at Kingston. We did not know that we could have left home much later, travel to the Georgetown Ferry Stelling and cross by boat to Vreed-en-Hoop.
I would then have had to take the train to Parika. Driving was out of the question because the road was almost impassable. Tractors perhaps, but not cars could use them.
That morning, I boarded the vessel for the trip to Bartica, venturing out into the Atlantic and vomiting my guts out when the boat rocked. I always tell people that I started life with five dollars. That was all the money she could give me to settle down in Bartica.
With me working, life became progressively easy. I look back and see how hard the woman who brought me into the world worked to give her children a start.
And she was so simple. I took her to dinner for one of her birthdays. We sat down and she asked me whether I would have to spend a lot of money or not. It told her that it was alright. I don’t remember what the menu was. I remember when I paid the bill, she said that I could have given her the money.
I laughed and gave her more than the food bill. Don’t think she was satisfied. She insisted that I would have been able to give her more.
Today, she wants for nothing. We have done well and we all thank her for her dedication to keeping us alive. She gets money; she goes to Atlantic City, gambles with $20 and feels on top of the moon if she should come out ahead.
One day, my sister sent her the usual package. She already had a sizeable birthday package from Glenn Lall. That woman began to talk about opening a bank account. We had to let her know that she was getting money to spend.
So she came to Guyana on a usual vacation with my sister. Her youngest child, a grown man of 55, visits her and she sticks her hand in her bosom and gives him money.
Today, she would be feted. She would get phone calls from everybody, me included, and we would all thank the Lord for giving us such a mother. She never had to line up outside a jail because of her stern control.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, more particularly my own.
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