Four generations celebrate Mama

Four generations celebrate Mama

Matriarch Leanna Patricks-Lyle marks 100th birthday in style

Sunday, February 09, 2020

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The large gathering was fit for a matriarch, as some four generations of offspring swapped 'I remember Mama' stories at the 100th birthday celebration of Leanna Patricks-Lyle at her home in Vinery — a hilltop community in the cool climes of Portland, at the start of February.

Known by folks throughout the Windsor Castle/Vinery area as “Miss Mummy”, the centenarian's milestone-merriment was by all means a family reunion, inclusive of neighbours who had travelled up the hill to join in the celebration.

Described as a community-mother who is always giving, Leanna's children and grandchildren highlighted generosity as the cornerstone of the centenarian's legacy.

“When I think about my mother, she is the kind of woman that is so giving that she would never eat unless all the children ate. If the food wasn't enough, she would make sure all of us had something to eat and she would go without. That's the kind of mother she is,” Norval Lyle, the second of Leanna's six sons, reflected.

“One thing that stands out to me about Mama is how she values the family, and how she makes anybody that comes around her feel like family. Another thing about my mother too is that she never complains. She always satisfied and made what she had work without complaining,” he continued.

This stoic independence was a character which daughter, Ilene Lyle, told the Jamaica Observer served her mother well at a time when raising eight children meant that resources were sometimes scarce.

“We would all give our lives for her because she went out of her way to take care of us. Back when we used to go to school and we would have outings, wi never used to get new clothes or anything like that. What mommy would do is in the evening after she put us to bed, and when we gone to sleep, she would get on that machine and make us those outfits,” said Ilene, who is also her mother's primary caregiver.

“Mommy was not a woman to run to shop every time she want a pound of sugar or a pound of rice either. There were times when she would only have a small amount of sugar left and she make a pot of tea so that all seven of us could get a hot cup of tea before she go to the market. She doesn't run around and beg. She satisfied with what she have. Even now I don't do that. She didn't grow us that way,” she said.

Younger brother, Javis Lyle, spoke in a similar vein to his mother's generosity, which he said was spread to all who came in touch with her.

“In all the years of knowing my mother, I have never seen her lose her cool. She is calm, she is kind. Anybody comes to her house, she will give them something and so, because of that, everybody in the district calls her Mum. It's like she is their mother. Whenever anybody comes by, they get dinner or something to take home,” he said.

“She was just a housewife who stayed home and took care of us while our father went to work,” he added, reminiscing on his mother's cooking.

“I personally don't like steam cabbage if somebody else looks after it. But when I get steamed cabbage from Mama, I enjoy it so much. I don't know what she put in it. She is a really good cook and she is clean. We as children would observe her in the kitchen and, because of that, all of us can cook and we know how to clean up,” he said.

For the oldest son, Napoleon Lyle, his fondest memory of his mother was her steady arm on the back of the donkey as she rode in from Kingston, where she would go to sell produce from the family farm.

“Mummy used to a have a likkle black donkey wi call Queenie. She pad up di donkey and then she load up her banana and her yam — those things. Our father did the farming and Mama did the selling. And in the evening we would see her coming in, riding di donkey over the hill,” he laughed.

“My mother is just a loving mother and she always cares about me, and she speak like trouble,” he said, referring to the centenarian's legendary use of the English language.

“She used to correct us all the time whenever we spoke patois or broken English. Mama speaks proper English. It was just how she grow up,” daughter Ilene explained.

But among the centenarian's many other talents was her specialty in making home-made jams and toto, recipes for which now reside with her grandson Demar Lyle.

“Mama would always be making guava jam. Back then the yard had a lot of guava trees and she would always be making guava jams, as well as Otaheite apple jams. She taught me how to make guava jam and she showed me how to make toto,” Lyle told the Sunday Observer.

Also reflecting on his grandmother's resourcefulness, Demar Lyle spoke of the centenarian's famous technique of keeping meat from spoiling without electricity.

“It fascinated me as a child because Mama didn't have a refrigerator, yet she was able to keep the meat fresh,” he said. “I remember coming here as a child and the meat would stay fresh for days. She called it browning where she would season the meat and partially fry it and the next day she would warm it, and the meat would keep for a week without spoiling.

“Mama also gave me my first goat when I was about nine years old,” he continued. “From that one goat, I got a herd of 20. She was just always a giver. I guess one word to sum up the character she has is kindness. We are just truly blessed that she is still with us,” he added.

“Grandma is just hard-working,” granddaughter Gayon Cunningham chimed in. “She is always motivating and showing love, care, and affection to people. I tell everybody in England where I work in the hospital, how much I love my grandma, so everything I do for them is like I am doing it to my grandma,” she said.

As to what keeps the centenarian going, her daughter Ilene said it's the joy of spending time with her grand, great and great-great-grandchildren.

In total, the centenarian has 40 grandchildren, 57 great-grandchildren, and 20 great-great-grandchildren.

“Mama right now is seeing her fourth generation and the smallest one will come and jump on her. Whenever she is eating, they will go and eat from her plate. They are also responsive to her; they don't neglect her call. She loves her grandchildren and I believe this is what keeps her going like this,” said daughter Ilene.

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