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In Memory of Queen Esther 

I played with this idea for some time because even though a blog is supposed to be personal – most of my pieces being such – I really didn’t think this was something to share.  But I shall .

Queen Esther, more affectionately known as Ms B (her last name was Boland) and Mommy by myself and all her children and their children. I never called my own mother by that colloquial term but for my grandmother it was the only thing that was ever appropriate.

The earliest memories of Mommy are really happy ones. I remember us walking round to Nanchus (the spelling may be wrong) which at the time was a cow pasture and guava field . I remember walking with a stick and being so amused yet frightened by the cows but of course being comforted by Mommy.

I remember spending all day down the ‘bush’ . Now this needs explaining. When I was smaller I always thought every yard was the same; front yard, back yard and bush. Like a garden but way bigger and well bushier. See illustration below .

The stick things are trees by the way . The box is the house .

Now we had everything. There was the biggest plum tree I’ve ever seen, banana trees, apple, coconut, ackee, lychee, mango . EVERYTHING! She’d always get somebody to clean there so just sitting anywhere wasn’t a problem . But of course like any granny she had her stool . She’d tell me anancy stories all day and just general babblings really much of which I can’t seem to remember but I’m sure were entertaining . There was this one time in particular when we roasted pork skin in cheese tin cabs over a small fire . Something that no one else could get me to do.And like any country person we burn the grass but one day a dry coconut got away and exploded . As dangerous as it was I always hoped it would happen again .

I remember the cooking . All the traditional dishes she’d make . The duckunoo and the coconut drops . I’ve searched without luck for drops that taste like hers . She made the best fried chicken which was well seasoned , mostly with black pepper . She claimed it was good for you .

I remember she was the only one who could comb my hair and it would get its true length . And the joy that came when she’d allow me to brush hers . She had such beautiful hair . She had such a beautiful smell . A distinct smell. It’s indescribable but If I should try I’d say it was experience mixed with the trees and the earth .

I remember the stories my family would tell me about her integral role in how I look. Apparently when I was a new born she ‘shaped’ me. She allegedly did a lot of work to my face which they said was as flat as a cooking pan with no dimensions. They made sure to mention the fact that my mother stopped her from interfering with my nose out of fear that my father would think I was a ‘jacket’.

Notwithstanding, my grandmother and I had our differences.

We didn’t always get along , perhaps because we were so similar. There’s one instance that stands out in my head . She absolutely hated strangers in my head . So one day my friend did a Mohawk cornrow style with my hair . I thought it looked nice so did the rest of my family . My grandmother however said that all I needed to do was dye the middle red and I’d be a perfect johnrow . Yes she was a feisty woman .

But I loved her . She had been there all my life and then she wasn’t.  I miss her terribly .

Her death was the first one I’d ever consciously been aware of . My grandfather died years before but even that wasn’t preparation for this . My family praised me for dealing with it well but that’s because I didn’t deal with it at all. Like all other things I pushed it to the back of my head , internalized it and used sarcasm should it ever come up . But lately I’ve had to deal with it to some extent . I’m feeling things that I hadn’t allowed myself to feel when she died . I see her in my mother . She smells like her .

I long for Mommy more than ever. I long for her company , her cooking , her inappropriate comments and songs .

Black bird seh him no wah no mawga fishy. Eat good food gal fi mek you fishy fleshy.

I had no idea what this meant until I was older but I’d give anything to hear her sing it again.

I love you Mommy . I miss you . RIP .


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