It’s a truism to say that without my mother I’d be nothing. But, my mother directed my life so much, indirectly, as it was her decision to leave Jamaica and go to England that shaped our family life.
My mother was one of thousands from the Caribbean who responded to the UK government’s request for workers starting in the 1950s, especially to support the National Health Service. I don’t know if my mother was placed before or after her arrival in England, but she first went to work at Hammersmith Hospital (located near White City/Shepherd’s Bush, adjacent to Wormwood Scrubs Prison). Either way, Shepherd’s Bush became our first home town.Hammersmith Hospital, 1977
She began normally enough, working day shifts; later in her career, she worked nights, so that she and my father could provide a longer day of parental presence for me. She enjoyed nursing.
I wont chart her career but she went from general nursing to maternity and midwifery sometime in the late-1960s and moved to Perivale Hospital (again, I don’t know if that prompted our moving to Southall, or it was the other way around). That hospital closed in 1988. By then, my mother was driving herself to work and I recall her journey being one of those that I used for driving practice, which meant my father and I would drop her off and pick her up (or she’d get a ride with a colleague). Perivale was the antithesis of where most immigrants lived and worked, being a decidedly white suburban town in the Borough of Ealing; the kind of place people aspired to living in. It was more famous for the iconic art-deco Hoover Building (which was bought by Tesco’s in the late-1980s for offices, and recently was redevelopment into apartments).
I saw more pictures of my mother with babies than I’ve seen politicians do the same. One of the great memories was the stream of thank you notes and pictures she received from grateful mothers over the years.
Ironically, my mother was only able to have one child, and I remember her having her hysterectomy, because of uterine fibroids, if my memory is good. So, being an only child is what it is. 🙂
Lots of things about my mother I carry with me unobtrusively, including how to cook certain things. Time was when I wrote down recipes of hers and my grandmother’s and tried to replicate them; the best was her fried chicken. (I think my first-born has the note bookmark, now). My parents, and my mother moreso, were the bridge to Jamaica from England on a daily basis, and the travel was almost daily through the food we ate at home.
I laugh a lot, but I’ll give both parents credit for that.
People ask me now how I know so much about Jamaica and I say simply that my parents kept Jamaica alive in our lives all the time in England, especially through talk and food. Whoever said ‘You are what you eat’ was no fool.
It’s a blessing that my mother was able to enjoy her two granddaughters, even though she died exactly six months after the second was born. The first was able to share good moments with her from an early age and has pictures to remind her of her ‘Grannie’.