‘What born in yuh cyaan come out a yuh’
100-year-old Londoner never been back to Jamaica
BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
IN 1956 when Edna Stewart left her hometown of Mount Angus, St Mary for the United Kingdom with hundreds of others migrating on the Windrush, she had all intention of returning in a few years.
Fifty-six years later, however, she has not returned once, and the able-bodied woman who turned 100 in June, said she has given up all hopes that she ever will. She told the Jamaica Observer North East during a recent interview at her home in London, that her husband died in 1972 before he could fulfil his promise of taking her back to Jamaica.
"I never been back home because my husband said him was going back home in five years, but him die before him could do dat," Stewart said in a distinct rural Jamaica accent.
It is a dead give-away for Stewart, who said she has never not spoken the Jamaican dialect in the many years she has lived overseas.
"What born in you cyaan come out of you," she said with a chuckle, her eyes twinkling.
The centenarian reminisces on life growing up in the small farming community in Jamaica and often thinks of her parents — who died before she migrated — and her relatives who still live in the community, located in the Port Maria area.
If she were to return, Stewart is adamant that she would need no assistance getting around the island since she has committed to memory every road she has ever travelled, thanks to numerous church trips. She is not daunted by the fact that there have been several infrastructural changes in the last 50 years, saying even with the new highways some landmarks cannot change.
"I don't think there is anywhere in Jamaica that I wouldn't know, right down to the last part of Westmoreland because me use to go everywhere," she quipped.
She might be up to the challenge too, because the centenarian, whose memory is still very sharp, boasts of suffering no ailment in her old age.
Stewart now spends her days reading the Bible, watching television or talking on the phone at the assisted-living apartment where she has been residing for the past few years, after relatives decided she should no longer live alone.
Prior to that, however, she was still baking and cooking up a storm. She boasts of still being able to dial the telephone by herself, communicate effectively with whomever is on the other end of the line and read without prescription glasses.
Stewart attributes her longevity and good health to her faith as she said she never gets worried about anything and never harbours jealousy towards her fellowmen.
"I always look to the Lord because unless we depend on God, we are nothing," she said.
Pointing to her well-worn Bible, Stewart said, "My Bible is my best friend and I can still see to read it any hour of the night," she said.
When she celebrated her 100th birthday, like all other centenarians in Britain, Stewart received a post card from the Queen which she has prominently displays in her apartment.
She is optimistic that she still has a few more good years left to live as her family is known for longevity of its members. One example is her grandfather, who lived to the ripe old age of 110.
"I don't know how much longer I will live, but all I can do is thank the Lord that I am in my right mind and I can still have a conversation with anybody," she said.
And although she has no children of her own, Stewart said she has been a mother to many.