Jacqueline Walker’s season of disruption
Jacqueline Walker

WHEN she put pen to paper for A Season of Disruption, Jacqueline Patricia Walker wanted to share her touching life story, which is evidence that the determination to succeed outweighs the lingering trauma of trials.

The book recounts her family’s journey after a twist of fate required her home-maker mother, widowed with five children, to leave her children behind as she immigrated to the United States (US) in search of a better life. Walker, then only eight years old, was left to navigate life being raised by her siblings.

A Season of Disruption pays homage to generations of Jamaican and Caribbean women who, like my mother, made the unimaginable choice to leave not merely their homelands, but their children — often without adult supervision or protection — hoping to secure a better future and unlimited opportunities,” she introduced.

“The book depicts how their courageous acts and perseverance created strong family legacies and foundations for succeeding generations.”

But Walker, 60, who’s a documentation manager/leadership training consultant, didn’t feel courageous at first.

“My dad’s death was the triggering event (the disruption) that necessitated my mother leaving for the US. My dad had been the breadwinner and my mom had been a housewife with no job skills up to his death. When he passed away and she was left with five children and a mortgage to pay, she had to find an economic solution,” Walker told All Woman.

“The sudden change from having parents who covered and protected me to being without was difficult,” she added. “The challenge for me was adjusting to life without my parents. As a child, merely eight years old, I yearned for the comfort of my mother, and I didn’t have that.”

She authored a poem about the moment her mother walked away after they announced her flight — You Turned and Looked Back, outlines the memory.

“I still remember the day you walked down that runway and boarded the airplane.

I still remember the tears in your eyes and the sad look on your face.

But, I never cried, and I never feared.

Because for every step you made, for every tear you wiped, your love poured

out as – you turned and looked back,” she wrote.

“Before my mother left, I didn’t worry about anything and didn’t recall ever lacking anything,” Walker recalled. “My mother was our family’s quiet leader, although outwardly it appeared that my father was running the show. My father was the breadwinner and the vocal/outspoken head of our family. My mother took care of the details that seemed minor, but were critical. When we needed comfort, she noticed. She painstakingly helped us with our homework — even subjects she had never studied. My mother also volunteered at our schools and ensured our academic needs were met. It was always clear that mother wanted more for us than she had received in her own life.”

In her mom’s absence it was her eldest sister who had the biggest impact on her life.

“At only 15, she took the reins of the family, set an example, and led the rest of us to stay positive, maintain our work ethic, can-do attitudes, and keep our sibling bond intact. I remember her watching over me and giving me as much special attention as possible, similar to what my mother used to show me as the youngest child. But, beyond that, I marvel at how she managed the household, utilising the funds distributed to her when our mother sent money home and how she stood up to adults ensuring no one took advantage of her or us. I don’t know how she did that and managed to graduate high school with merits and distinctions, but she did.”

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Walker said growing up without her mother changed things for her. As the family’s baby, she was coddled by her mother.

“When my mother left, I had to truly become a part of the team and help my siblings instead of sitting around letting or expecting them to do everything,” she said. “At this time, I was typically the first one home from school, and I had to learn to be responsible and careful about letting anyone in or straying away from the house before any of my other siblings arrived. This period in life became a lesson in responsibility and ownership that has served me well.”

She added: “Also, I no longer had my father’s encouragement to build my self-esteem and remind me that I was talented and capable of achieving. My parents always recognised when I needed a lift, and now I had to give myself that lift. My siblings were great, but they were just children, too, so it was difficult for them to replace my parents’ role in my life entirely. No one stepped in as a surrogate to watch over us as children, and that sometimes made life lonely. It was the five of us against the world. But I am thankful that our parents had cemented our belief and faith in God because, even though I didn’t realise it then, I believe that spiritual foundation kept me strong.”

She said she didn’t question her mother’s choices, and as such describes moms who leave as performing a “courageous act”. As a young girl who loved and trusted her mother, she was also excited about living in the US.

“I believed that my mother would come back for me, so that was the main focus of my thoughts. However, during my college years, my mother’s courage became evident. As a result of her courage, I had the opportunity to select the college of my choice, attending American University as a first-year student and then transferring to Hofstra University where I pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc and earned my undergraduate degree. I was able to do this because of my mother’s unimaginable decisions and the risks she took. Even then, she continued making sacrifices, working three jobs to allow me to pursue my goals. I was overwhelmed. I could never repay her for what she gave up and endured to give me choices and opportunities.”

But the transition was challenging when Walker first made it to the US. Not yet 12, she had to make adjustments related to the environment and social norms being raised in Washington, DC.

“I felt out of place because I did not know the latest slang, didn’t have the latest styles, and was not accustomed to being treated different because of my skin colour or the texture of my hair. But there were also adjustments to the educational system that I had to overcome. I wrote about some of this in a forthcoming essay, Disrupted Not Defeated, which is scheduled for volume 36 of The University of the Virgin Island’s journal, The Caribbean Writer. I am grateful that I was able to overcome it all.”

Nowadays the siblings are doing well — all have been successful due to their mother’s sacrifices. Walker, who’s also a motivational blogger, says she has always enjoyed writing, and wrote poetry all her life.

“I naturally found that I wrote verses that had a very encouraging message. Then, I am also remarkably close to my nieces and nephews, and as they spent time with me growing up, I made it my goal to instil pride and determination in them to go after any dream they wanted. This came from my reflection on my father’s encouragement to choose what we wanted to be and never let anyone tell us we couldn’t do it. So my interest in writing and my desire to inspire the next generations of my family were the impetus for my efforts as a motivation blogger.”

She added: “Writing helps me step out of my being and look at a situation objectively. When I put the words on paper and read them over, I can dissect what I should hold onto and what I need to discard. So writing is therapeutic because it helps me cleanse my heart and mind; but it also encourages, uplifts, and pushes me to walk in faith and jump over obstacles. Writing this memoir and depicting my mother’s journey has inspired me, so my affirmation is, ‘Obstacles are a part of life; overcoming them motivates others to persevere and soar!’ “

For the future, Walker has a few writing projects underway, targeting completion this year — women’s fiction but with different motivating messages. These encompass some aspects of her Jamaican heritage and her experience as an immigrant traversing the corporate world in the US.

“Publishing my book in 2021 and the positive and encouraging reception taught me that it is okay to be vulnerable,” she said. “Sharing my struggle has empowered me instead of holding me back.

“My outlook for 2022 is to complete my new titles and publish and promote them. I will also continue focusing on writing motivational blogs to encourage others to pursue their goals and dreams. I also plan to frequent more book tours and meet readers in person.”

What motivates her today is building her family’s legacy, sharing it with the generations, and helping them embrace it and use it as inspiration to achieve even greater things.

“My family continues to motivate me. It is inspiring to talk to my mother daily, hear her joy, and acknowledge the three succeeding generations who resulted from her sacrifices. Reflecting on my siblings, how close we remain, and how each has supported me, is encouraging. Watching the next generations (nieces/nephews and great nieces/nephews) go after their dreams fearlessly and achieve fuels my efforts,” she explained.

PETULIA CLARKELAWRENCE

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