Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 15th 2015 Contents | PROFILES |
By Onika Nkrumah-Lakhan
MY FATHER WAS my hero, but my mother, Sylvia Callender,
is a giant! How else would you describe a mother who has
gone beyond the call of motherhood, if that is even possible?
Everybody thinks their Mum is the greatest, but I swear my
mother definitely cops the title. When I count my blessings, I
count my mother thrice! As a teenager, I hoped to die before
her, because I couldn't imagine life without 'mih mammy'.
I always knew my Mum was a strong woman, mentally, spiri-
tually and physically. I once witnessed her hoisting an intruder
by his pants front, police-style! By the time my brother and I
came rushing to her defence, she had already subdued the
would-be thief, who was close to tears. I guess the indignity
of being manhandled by a woman, more than being caught,
was too much for him to bear.
Mum was the village peacemaker, a position she never ap-
plied for, but her conscience and community spirit didn't
allow her to reject. While our neighbours peeped through
their louvres at the spectacle of a disturbed woman, naked
and on the rampage, it was my Mum who rushed to her as-
She has been a mother to many, not just her own five chil-
dren. Over the years, our house became the refuge of numer-
ous friends, family and strangers, a home away from home.
Foreign university students whom my older sister routinely
brought home on weekends; a family who fell on hard times;
school children needing a convenient place to stay to avoid a
long commute; someone in need of a hot meal; and assorted
others. Often, I would be in selfish mode, resenting the intru-
sion of yet another lodger. But, Mum would smile and say "I
have children and I would want somebody to do it for mine."
No earthly possession was too great for my mother to sacri-
fice for her children. Even I was vexed when she sold a prop-
erty in Tobago to educate me in London. Now I get it: her
treasures are her children; no investment was too much.
I remember how my mother and grandmother held me,
physically blocking my path, from leaving the house. Back
then I was a bit rebellious, young and dumb, I marvelled at
what I thought was their over-reaction. They didn't want me
to leave the house with my boyfriend, they wanted to pray
with me. It all seemed so bizarre and over-the-top; I needed
prayer, really, because I wanted to go out! Knowing those
two, I'm sure they immediately convened a prayer vigil in my
absence. Not long after my mother's "theatrics", I narrowly
escaped death in the company of the same individual. You
see, sometimes what we can't see standing up, our elders
can see sitting down! I am not religious, but over the years,
I've become more spiritual and contemplative; nothing hap-
pens by mere coincidence or accident, and I have no doubt,
that my mother's prayers covered me that day.
An old proverb reminds us that "we are standing on the
shoulders of giants". My mother is a giant among women, I
have always been certain of her unconditional love. In this
topsy-turvy world we live in, where some mothers are un-
worthy of the name, we can no longer take a mother's love
for granted or expect that all maternal instincts are created
Now, as a mother myself, I realise just how great her sacri-
fices were. When she and our father separated, there was
never another man of the house. She was the type of
mother who never allowed us to sleep over at a friend's
house, because while the friend might be cool, who knew
what other elements lurked nearby. I laugh as I remember
that Mum would even warn us off male relatives if neces-
sary; she was that vigilant with her daughters. Any function
Mum attended, she would return with a "doggie bag" for us.
In all my "donkey years", I've witnessed her cry maybe twice.
Unfortunately for me, I inherited some throwback gene that
makes me prone to crying and complaining. If I was a calyp-
sonian, my sobriquet would be "The Mighty Complainer", but
my pity parties don't last long before Mum reminds me to
"count my blessings and pray" instead.
My mother didn't have the benefit of a secondary education,
but she has more common-sense than most educated peo-
ple I know. Despite their irreconcilable differences, I've never
heard my mother "bad-talk" my father and when he grew old,
sick and weak, it was my mother who welcomed him back in
the house, to care for him!
My mother is not a rose; she is the rose garden. "Strength
and honour are her clothing, she opens her mouth with wis-
dom and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches
over the ways of her household. Her children rise up and call
her blessed, her husband also." Proverbs 25:28.
WOW, even back then they were talking about my Mum!
Sylvia and grandkids.
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