Mumsie of the Bow Road
NINETY YEARS AGO, Doris Greaves did something none of us would contemplate today – she walked all the way from Belleplaine to Bridgetown.
She boldly made that long and meandering trek on a dusty, unpaved route of about 15 miles from hilly St Andrew to the City, when she was just a frail ten-year-old.
It is one of the memories cemented in the razor-sharp mind of the matriarch of Bow Road in St Michael, who will be the toast of the neighbourhood when she hits the 100-year-old mark today.
Mumsie, as she is lovingly called, is mother to many.
Mumsie is seated, relaxed in a flowered upholstered chair which almost exactly matches the pretty frock in which she is proudly decked out. Her granddaughter Janet Connolly and son-in-law Enrich are nearby as they finalise plans for today’s big “do”.
Not far away, a group of young men are gathered in a popular watering hole. They have plans to visit Mumsie and plant some big kisses on her cheeks before she makes it to 100. These were the young boys growing up in the close-knit Bow Road community near the National Stadium when she was hale and hearty and kept a close eye on their every smart move. They revered her as much as they feared her. They still do.
Today, some of these young boys, now grown men, remain in awe of the woman who they credit for keeping them on the right track in life. The straight and narrow.
They cast their minds back in time when as young boys running all around “the Bow Road” they were very aware that Mumsie was never too far away.
They recall they still had to be on their P’s and Q’s even while hanging out or playing cricket.
It’s Wednesday morning just after 10 and the Bow Road base is warmed by Ronald “Bass” Hoyte, Gregory “Leggy” Franklyn, Wayne “Chink” Blackman, Keith “Spider” Brathwaite, Eric “Heads” Niles, Jeff “Rackey” Broomes and Wayne Holder, who is the only one in the group who doesn’t have a nickname, or one that stuck over the 40 plus years these men have been friends.
“Mumsie has never been anything but supportive and caring for all of us. It is somewhat of a novelty when someone you know is turning 100. It doesn’t happen every day,” Broomes says.
“Mumsie was the mother of the Bow Road clan.”
He recalls when he got into a fight with Mumsie’s grandson. “He ‘bust loose’ my head and then I ‘bust loose’ his and Mumsie took care of both of us,” he said laughing with the others who seemingly remembered the incident.
Hoyte, with a smug smile, remembers telling Mumsie four years ago that she would live until 100.
With that, the men are on their feet and out of the shop. They cross over to the opposite side of the road and head towards a brightly painted orange house that Mumsie calls home.
With the door to the living room thrown open, the men file in one by one, paying their respects to Mumsie, each one of them touchingly kissing her and fondly caressing her hand. She lovingly responds and is all smiles.
Mumsie seems to have no trouble keeping up with the pace of the conversations going on all around her.
“All these are my boys . . . and there are more too,” she said, throwing her head back in a hearty laugh.
This group of men who grew up in “the Bow Road” recounting some old stories growing up under the watchful eye of Mumsie.
Mumsie doesn’t suffer with hypertension, diabetes, glaucoma and was given a clean bill of health during her last doctor’s visit.
“The only thing she has is old age,” chimes in Enric.
This centenarian also blurts out: “I have a good appetite too.”
Mumsie, who was a domestic for all her working years, worked mainly as a cook. Enter Enric again: “She gives new meaning to the phrase ‘Food Comes First’.”
Mumsie eats all during the day, starting at 6:30 a.m. with a solid breakfast. Working as a cook some of her favourites to prepare and to eat were cou cou and saltfish and pudding and souse. She still enjoys those meals to this day.
Janet said her grandmother also worked with Barbados’ first Governor General Sir John Stow as well as with the well known seafaring Hassell family.
When Janet was hazy with some details, she had to defer to Mumsie who had the information at the tip of her tongue.
She was married to George Greaves, and had two children, Sheila Boyce, who is now deceased, and Hazel Smith.
Mumsie even recalled moving out of the area at one time to live with her family in Christ Church. Her love and attachment to the Bow Road where she lived since she was 14 with her mother Violet Morris (Janet had said 7 but Mumsie corrected her) forced her to return.
A strict disciplinarian who grew up in the church – Eckstein New Testament Church of God – Mumsie still reads her Bible every day.
She reaches over to her right for her worn, red hardback song book which was open to number 670 to the familiar hymn Jesus Loves Me This I Know, For the Bible Tells Me So.
Mumsie traces the words with her fingers. Then, she leans over and whispers: “I love dancing. I just love dancing.”
Today is definitely a day Mumsie will be dancing.