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Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

M Is For More Than Mother.

Here is a simple story of a woman, whom we will call M. She is the housekeeper, nanny, and cook for my friend, Thesephone. M is determined, and it shows in all she does. But that determination comes from the dramatic story of her life. She is not alone in having lived the hard part of this story, which has been a common place situation for women the world over, but still warrants the telling. Basically, she had little formal education but is now making up for lost time.

First, why was she denied an education? Because she is female. Therefore, she was required to stay home and look after younger siblings and the home while her mother, went out, probably as a domestic, to earn money to support the family, on her own.

What typically happens to women like her? Typically young women denied an education, often deny their daughters an education so that they can go out probably as a domestic, to earn money to support the family, on their own. The cycle continues.

Third, what future has she created for herself and her heirs, despite the odds? M, has two daughters to whom she has provided not only a primary, not only a secondary, but also a tertiary education. Further, she has successfully steered both girls clear of unplanned pregnancies, which could have derailed their pursuits. Both are now pursuing careers in their field of choice and have more power over their destinies than many a generation before them. And now having broken the cycle for her daughters, she starts again for herself, to realize dreams of her own.

That is a story some would call incredible. While living in Barbados, a strange land for her, M is now dealing with learning how to speak standard English. Like many Jamaicans, she can converse fluently and clearly in Patois, and can read standard English, but cannot speak it as it is usually written. M now goes to classes so that she can move through life without adding "h" where it does not exist, using "he" instead of "him", feeling comfortable trying to say "whose is this?" instead of "fi who dis?". That is not a simple challenge because it means denying the self that has been well developed over many years; it also means not feeling embarrassed by a lack that many are all too ready to point out.

M also has a healthy fear of water. Not like a dog who is suffering from rabies, or like a cat. But, like someone who cannot swim. While I love to feel the rolling waves push me around the beach as I wallow. As I play with Miss Bliss and throw her for somersaults into the water, and feel comfortable. So, M would deal with each of these with a terror that has to be seen to be believed. She really feels that the waves will pull her out, not just a few feet, but way off into the deep abyss. But, like her incredible story of how she educated her children, M is now trying to be not quite a Michael Phelps wannabee but at least able to make a few strokes and not just splutter around in the water. Like many Caribbean people, she still has some bizarre ideas about being in the sea, such as running for cover when it starts to rain. Now, I understand that M got a medal for being the most improved swimmer in her class.

I wish all the women I knew who had been denied an education had the gumption of M, and were willing to take up the challenges, even when the children are all grown up. My grandmother was like M, and she managed to ensure that while she could not get the education she deserved in rural Jamaica and had to go to the capital to work as a domestic her children got well educated. Those children, including my father, have in turn made sure that their children also got good educations. I was able to go to university as were most of my cousins of the same generation. We too have ensured that our children have had the chance for a good education, whether they are boys or girls. In keeping with current trends, the girls have done well, and most of the great grandchildren have managed to get university educations. It's hard to break the cycle, but we should be glad to know and support someone who tries to do that, and better still help make sure that they succeed.

1 comment:

Nicole said...

M is surely for magnificent M, she is gracious and so soothing to the family that I can happily say I have joined at the hip over the years...indeed I am stil eating the delicious pepper sauce that M made and gave me a bottle some 2 years ago in Jamaica..yep scoth bonnet pepper hot for true..Let me tell you M did not start out cooking...no suh..but now who can say she isnt the authentic gourmet chef, the authentic roti maker, the authentic traditional indian cook!!Yes indeed determination and resolve to take the positive side of the opportunities and challenges before her..I love her..she loves my kids and treats them like her own...I only have one beef to pick with her..she seems to love my sister more than me..cos everytime I call her on the phone she calls me Michelle instead of Nicole..and then she catches up with me..Ah well blessed we are to have her as part of my extended family. Love to all