Holding special bonds of love
JASON HOLDER had just scored his first century in international cricket and his mother Denise Holder alarmed the entire neighbourhood with screams of jubilation.
“Everybody gathered in front of my mother’s house because they thought something was wrong with my mother. I was the happiest woman in Barbados. I screamed, I shouted,” said Denise, laughing at the memory.
Her “baby”, the 23-year-old who is currently captain of the West Indies One-day cricket team, was sitting beside her laughing last week when she related how: “I told him that night ‘Jason if that was at Kensington they would have arrested your mother because I would have been across the field like Tantie Merle’.”
The special bond between this mother and son is unmistakable. “I call him my baby because he is the younger of my two sons. People say he is a big man but I say he is my last baby although I love both of my sons the same way.”
Though he likes the showering of love and the pampering Jason is quick to tell you, “I would not say I am a mama’s boy.”
Denise and Ronald Holder were divorced before Jason entered primary school, but the cordial relationship that remains between the parents and the support they continue to give their sons remains a source of inspiration to Jason and his older brother Andre. Both have lived with their dad, stepmother and their youngest brother, while spending lots of time with their mother.
Jason is the only cricketer in the family. Standing at 6ft 7 in, he has chosen cricket over basketball, unlike Andre who is 6ft 8 in. Height is in the genes of this family, with a mother 6ft 1 in and a father 6ft 4 in.
Jason started playing cricket around age eight when his father enrolled him in a summer camp at Empire Club. But credit must go to his mother for enrolling him in the juniors cricket programme at Wanderers’ Cricket Club that turned out to be the launch pad for his international career.
“I always remember the first morning I took him to Wanderers. He was going to Empire on Saturday mornings to a junior programme and not many people would turn up. I asked around and asked around and was directed to Kevin Watson at Wanderers.”
She joined other mothers raising funds so that their under-13 sons could go on tour to England. Nine-year-old Jason was the youngest team member, but the tallest and Denise had to travel with his birth certificate as proof of his age.
“She was always there supporting me,” Jason said, as far back as childhood days when his sixes shattered windows in both parents’ homes.
“He would be out there [saying] ‘mummy throw the ball’ and when I tell him ‘Jason you broke a window, I have to put it back and that will cost me money’, he would tell me ‘mummy the ball just came off the bat’.”
Was she angry? “At first. But then I realised that he had talent.”
Jason sings his parents’ praises, acknowledging, “My parents have always been very supportive and they have always been the driving force behind me from the very beginning. I have never had to worry about anything. Most of my necessities they provided and anything they found was not a necessity I had to work for on my own. It is something I love them for, because I knew the value of a dollar from early.”
His mother’s support “means a lot”.
Denise said. “They knew what mummy would stand for; they knew what they would get into trouble for . . . they knew with their mother, manners came first,” Denise said, while painting a picture of Jason, “a quiet child, the same way he is now” who “always likes to laugh and have fun”.
Jason played for his schools Louis Lynch Secondary and The St Michael School but back then the new shining star of West Indies cricket never envisaged himself in his present position. Cricket was “just enjoyment” then. Now it is his life.
He has emerged on the big stage and his upbringing is influencing his leadership style “in a big way”.
“I always commend my parents for the way I was raised because now I am travelling around the world, I see some people that I wonder what kind of training they had, and why they would handle themselves in certain situations in a particular way”.
“My parents instilled a lot of values in me from an early age and they taught me right from wrong and as a leader I understand how important that is.”
Frugality is a hallmark of his lifestyle although he can now afford most things he desires. “Obviously as a professional you are making a very good amount of money. But for me it is what I want long-term . . . a dream home, probably driving a nice car and setting up for life after cricket.”
“I try to, in a sense, budget for things that I need,” he added.
It is a lesson Denise taught both sons – to save for the things they wanted, when neither she nor their father considered them necessities.
Today Jason does not feel guilty when he indulges himself in another watch. The Citizen Eco-Drive on his wrist, and a Gucci are the latest additions to his collection of “about 15 or 16 watches.”
“I don’t like to go too extravagant,” he said, as he confessed “aspirations to buy a nice watch,” and you would hardly find him splurging excessively on brand name clothing though he likes to be well presented given his high profile.
Down time in Barbados is spent “chilling” with his small circle of close friends that includes fellow cricketers Shamarh Brooks, Shane Dowrich and Kyle Corbin – “people who I can count on in tough times”.
When asked about new friends and swooning young women, given his current popularity, his mother was immediately on the question. She laughed before telling about the young women who constantly bombard her expressing interest in being “your daughter-in-law” because “your son is so good-looking”.
Jason smiled coyly while his mother spoke and answered afterwards: “You have people who want to be in the spotlight, but I know who is who.” His close friends and his blood relatives are family; “anybody outside that is an acquaintance.” But he does ‘fess up’ to “talking to a (special) young lady” at the moment. Cricket is his focus, however, though family is in his future plans.
Fans’ adoration and support are valuable to him. “I try to be polite. I try to be friendly, diplomatic and handle it in a mature way because that crowd support goes a long way from the team’s perspective.”
On match days she sends him a text always before he boards the team bus to say: “Good luck son today. Do your best. Your best is all I ask.” He admits being buoyed by that kind of support from both mum and dad.
This proud mother declares her pride in her son’s achievements “at his tender age”.
“When he told me he had accepted the captaincy I said to him I did not want it at this point in time because there was too much controversy.” But she was reassured when Jason said: “Mummy I can handle this.” She could only then tell him: “Whatever you do, I am 100 per cent behind you.”At home, away from the cricket scene, he looks forward to spending time with his mother, visiting her every day – another way he takes his mind off cricket. “I do a lot of travelling, so when I get home I just shut off completely from cricket, I just try to be Jason Holder and not Jason Holder, the cricketer.”
Denise thoughts are ever about her son when he is overseas. More than a day does not pass without her messaging him wherever he is in the world and he maintains the same contact with her.