I CONFESS: Haunted by Mum’s two slips
WHEN I WAS 18 years old I got a job as soon as I completed my secondary education. It was one of the most significant developments in my life at that time.
It was not the highest paying job but it almost immediately brought relief for my household, as my mother had been the only breadwinner looking after us children. I was the oldest of the lot and so my entering the world of work brought some relief.
I would consider myself as being responsible, having had to be the leader of the pack at home while our mother was out to work. I knew the portions to give and how to make things stretch. Indeed, my mum was so impressed with me in the house that she let me take the lead in the kitchen most days.
Perhaps because we children were relatively close in age, it meant I understood their likes and dislikes, especially my two sisters as well as my brother who was the second last child.
From early I understood the benefits of limes and sugar, of boiling mauby bark and how to make a variety of dumplings. We did not have to worry about the fast foods, as I found different techniques in doing French fries, from deep frying to baking. I also learnt and loved to sew and could actually cut even without samples or patterns.
I did not do badly at school and was able to go on to the Barbados Community College (BCC) where I gained my associate degree. I got a job rather quickly after the results came back. In fact, I had two job offers: one in the public sector and the other in the private sector. I opted for the private sector if only because I was working directly in an area where I could either pursue a professional qualification or attend university, gain a degree and then pursue the necessary designation.
I reviewed the options on my own and took my decision. To this day I do not regret having recently completed my professional designation after gaining my degree. I believe prospects are good for me in my chosen profession.
My siblings are growing up; a sister and a brother are now both in the work world, having done some studies and having secured relatively stable jobs. My last sister is still pursuing tertiary level education.
In the last nine years there has been significant ease in my family’s lives. We were able to do some upgrades to our home, I have a vehicle, my sister has one and the nature of my brother’s job demanded that he too have one.
We will hopefully all move on to our own homes and be able to establish own own families sometime soon, but I hope the bond between us remains strong.
My mum had her children young, so when I entered the world of work she was twice my age. Today she is still in her mid-40s and enjoying life. The one thing which has been a little difficult for me to come to grips with is her dating. I remember during the tough days when we children were young she hardly went out on dates, or so it seemed to me. I look back now and realise the trap she had found herself in, for not all of her children share the same fathers.
During my final year at university and while the older of my sisters was at BCC, I remember my mother talking to a guy in the bus stand. We had seen her smiling and chatting with this guy on at least four occasions over a two-week period. Then one Friday evening he turned up at our house around 8:30. My mother dressed and went out. She had looked different – she wore new clothes, was well made-up and smiling. She seemed to have lost some of the age which had dragged her down.
The guy started visiting frequently. He and my mother would always leave the house.
On Sunday mornings I would get up and cook early as we all went to church for midmorning service. We would go ahead and mummy would follow. I knocked at her bedroom and told her it was getting late so she would have to get up soon.
While at church my little sister came over to me and told me to come and go outside with her. She said something was wrong with her. It turned out that she had started her menstrual cycle. So we returned home. before we go there the rain started to drizzle. We ran to the house and went in by the side door, which was unlocked as is still the case to this day. My sister went directly to the bathroom.
I heard noises in my mother’s bedroom, which was near to the front house. I was cautious. It was disturbing. Yes, mummy was there and obviously a man was there with her. I swallowed my saliva. I attended my sister and got her out of the house and back to church.
When we returned home, mummy was washing and hanging out clothes in the backyard under the covered area. I said nothing. She offered an excuse of being tired and after the rain started decided not to go to church that day.
I encountered a similar scenario about two years later and my older sister was also there to know what was happening. We sat in the kitchen and waited. My mother’s boyfriend left and afterwards my sister and I spoke to her. Yes, she is still young and will have a boyfriend and intimate relationships. But we asked her to be much more discreet about it.
It did something to me. Those two memories are always very vivid in my mind.
She has a new boyfriend, who seems different. He has taken to us as if we are his own. He has his own house and my mother spends a lot of time at him. We tend to have lunch up there every Sunday.
My one wish is that those two encounters I had with my mother would never recur. It can be particularly hard on you, as a child, no matter how old, to not only assume, but to know for sure.