Mother, teacher, hero!

All Woman

Mother, teacher, hero!

Marriage & The Family

Shelly Ann HARRIS

Monday, October 12, 2020

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The Marriage & the Family content in this story is from Family and Faith Magazine, founded by Editorial Director Shelly-Ann Harris. As we observe Heritage Month and go back to school this October, we are pleased to celebrate an exemplary mother, teacher and hero.

WITH two mouths to feed at the time, my mother, Ermin Blossom Mair, at one point in her life had to get ackee from the tree in the yard where we lived to hopefully exchange it for sugar at the shop down the road, in order to make sugar tea for supper. A dignified, respected teacher who put herself together well, no one really knew her troubles during those early years. But that is the sort of woman she has been; one who innovatively provided, relentlessly cared, and proudly put one foot after the other as she played her roles of exemplary teacher, faithful wife and devoted mother of six.

As a child I use to think mom was miserable. But as I look back I realise she was just stressed by all of the financial and emotional challenges in our family. The truth is that she was a hopeful, striving woman. She would use tamarind and coconut to make treats for sale to augment her teacher's salary and help make ends meet; ends that were as basic as us eating well and getting a sound education, and as lofty as seeing the Pantomime often, visiting Jamaica's varied attractions (such as Coconut Park and Dunn's River Falls) and going to Disney World when the opportunity arose. If you looked at her salary, we couldn't afford those things. But if you looked in her heart and the strength of her determination, we would and we did. We grew up educated and exposed to the great possibilities in the world.

Now as adult children and parents ourselves, we can't help but feel a deep sense of gratitude for the love and dedication of this woman who still mothers us to this day and spoils us.

Certainly at different stages as children we didn't deserve her sacrifice and kindness. I remember my teenage years when back-answering was a main feature of our relationship. I remember the many times that I tested her faith, how I didn't honour her, but how she still held firm, dispensing discipline while cutting me some slack. I remember how she still loved me, covered me, and bore with me; how she provided for me and all of us, even in the face of lack and the many stressors in her life, including the albatross of a difficult marriage.

Tears come to my eyes now as I imagine the excruciating burdens at the time being exacerbated by the stinging 'back chat' of the feisty child I used to be. I know it was a stage, partially puberty, partially my frank personality, partially a heart that had not yet been made whole by faith, but I still look back and shake my head at myself for some of the disrespect that I showed her as a teenager. And even as I am shaking my head at myself, I am marvelling at her grace. I remember the soft comfort of her duster (house dress) that we would rest our head upon when we got sick with chicken pox and measles and whatever other communicable disease that was going around at the time; I remember the slow deliberate pacing of her slippers coming to check on us in the middle of the night even when she was suffering with unappeasable migraine. Sacrificing for us was her way of life. And yet she thrived.

In addition to being a master teacher at the primary level who has taught and studied both locally and internationally, her culinary and confectionery exploits led to involvement in many extracurricular activities. No wonder she was eventually tasked to develop the 4H programme at the various primary schools that she taught during her 30+ year career. She can crotchet, make clothes and repair shoes! There isn't much this girl from the rich red soils of St Elizabeth cannot do!

Today I am happy to say that this overcoming woman has done quite well for herself and has pumped thousands of dollars in our varied business and professional ventures; wisely warning when things don't seem to make sense financially yet continuing to provide support to all six of us. Many a times you could find me, now a mother of four, acting very much like a child at mom's house where she would skilfully chop a coconut and pour it into a tall glass for me to drink when I am stressed about life and parenting. She is gracious, attentive and kind.

Plus she doesn't have any airs about her. So she is the kind of woman who makes real friends everywhere she goes and at every stage in her life. I suspect it is also because of her sense of humour and humility. When mom eventually bought her first second-hand car, we would always have someone who she was taking home. Soon enough, with the long hours to get home in Portmore all those years ago before the toll road was built, they would become her close friends and friends of the family. Even now, well over 60 years, my mother has made a new close female friend. If you saw them you would almost think they grew up together.

I am thankful that today this hard-working woman is now retired, well, sort of, because based on who she is, she can't really stop working and contributing. She now teachers a grade four class online at a prep school in Kingston. Indeed more expert retired teachers could be brought into the mix virtually to strengthen the education system, pandemic or not.

This tireless mother and educator will always have my love, admiration and respect. Today we are not merely mother and daughter, but close friends.

There isn't a relationship quite like a friendship between mother and daughter. Your mother knows you; knows the ugliness and the shortcomings as well as the talents and the beauty, and nevertheless loves you and will love you in and through all of your iterations. It is the closest thing to God's love and that is why I honour her this heritage month.

As we reflect on our history and celebrate our national heroes in this season, I choose to celebrate my personal hero — my teacher, my mother, my friend.

Who are the real life heroes in your life? Tell us by sending an e-mail

Shelly-Ann Harris is the author of several titles including her latest God's Woman. Connect with Shelly-Ann on Twitter @Harrisshellyann.

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