Thursday, April 18, 2024

TONY BEST: Celebrating our mothers


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AS ONE OF CANADA’S most celebrated authors, Austin “Tom” Clarke, knows more than a thing or two about selecting titles of books.

“First I must like the title,” said the Barbadian who has written more than a dozen books, many of which earned him literary acclaim in and out of Canada.

“Secondly, the title must reflect the content of the book. It must attract your attention to what the book contains.”

So it is with Lessons My Mother Taught Me, a 156-page collection of first person accounts about the experiences of the children of Caribbean mothers. Edited by Francilia Greaves, wife of a former Barbados High Commissioner in Ottawa, Evelyn Greaves, the book contains heart-warming details of the approach to parenting by the mothers of many prominent public figures and successful professionals in the Caribbean and Canada and the material is presented in a way that underscores the virtues of motherhood and brings out the qualities most children admire in their mothers.

And the stories they tell explain why billions of families in every corner of the globe are joining in Mother’s Day celebrations which recognise the essential role of mothers in giving life, knitting together and preserving the family, instilling worthwhile values in their children and in a million and one other ways, developing societies.

One such story in the book was told by Keisha Walkes, the daughter of Yvonne Walkes, Barbados’ new High Commissioner in Canada.

“My mother has been my caretaker, my confidante, my biggest admirer and my closet friend from the day I was born,” wrote Keisha, a graduate of Missouri State University and the University of Texas at El Paso, who later studied medicine at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.

“Mommy has been there from day one and she has never once made me feel that she was sorry that I had come to be.”

There was more.

“From her, I have learned that having good values and morals is very important, and that as long as I am honest, truthful and respectful at all times, I will be a great human being and an asset to the world,” she added.

“Tom” Clarke, whose recollections of his mother were not included among the 36 interesting reflections in “Lessons” shared with the Sunday Sun, cited two key things his mother, Gladys Irene Clarke of the Garden in St James, taught him and which will be front and centre of his mind on Mother’s Day.

“She taught me that ‘clothes make the man’ and the woman, meaning that the way a person looks tells people how you are. She also insisted on telling the truth regardless of the circumstances and my thoughts will be anchored to how loving and caring she was,” said Clarke who has lived in Toronto where he has done his writing for more than 60 years.

There is a certain universality that runs through the recollections of Walkes and Clarke and they explain why people in almost every corner of the globe are spending today honouring their mothers and recalling the poignant lessons their mothers taught them.

Some, for instance, are recalling mother’s insistence that parents shouldn’t “spare the rod and spoil the child”, that children should be “seen and not heard” or that envy should be avoided like the plague.

Those nuggets of wisdom may be called “old school” values but few, if any, who have learned those lessons while sitting at the feet of mother, mommy, ma or mamma complain that they are worse off as a result.

After all, the first lessons in “manners,” financial management and etiquette came from mom who was adept at managing the family’s books. In at least 40 per cent of Barbadian households, mother is at its helm. She helps to keep a roof over the children’s heads, are responsible for health care, and ensure that education is intricately interwoven into their children’s daily lives.

Little wonder, then, the universal accolade of “Happy Mother’s Day” means so much to the recipient as it does to those who hand out the bouquets.

Tony Best is the NATION’S North American correspondent.


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