May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Merty PhilpMy mother, Mirtygreen Synidia Philp nee Lumley, was born in Struie, Westmoreland. My grandfather, Andrew Lumley, had just built a house in Jamaica, and had it not been for the efficiency of the workers, my mother would have been born in Cuba, like many of my aunts and uncles--some of whom still live there.

From all accounts, she was a bright girl, but due to limiting circumstances, she went to Mico Teachers' College and trained as a teacher. While she was at Mico, she met and handsome man with a devilish sense of humor, Sydney George Philp, and although he had been twice married, she took a chance and married him. They would have two children, my sister, Judith, and I. Everything must have seemed wonderful when they moved into the new development called Mona Heights.

My mother worked as a teacher as Seaward Primary and I went with her until near the time for my Common Entrance Exams, and I transferred to Mona Primary where I won a scholarship to Jamaica College. My mother was so proud of me. She arranged with my uncle, Zamora, to get me a bicycle. It was an old bicycle, but it took me places. And I would always thank my mother.

But little did I know that her marriage was falling apart. My father left, but she managed to keep us together by studying to become a legal secretary and transforming what was once called the "maid's quarters" into a small cottage for medical students from UWI. Although I resented these strangers living with us, I now realize that they were the ones who made it possible for the many extra things I had in my life.

Then came the Manley years of scarcity. My mother, a country girl, had a strong attachment to Jamaica, but when my sister was attacked in our driveway, she had enough and moved to Miami. One of the most vivid memories my mother had of life in America was shortly after she had arrived and going to Publix at Thanksgiving and seeing a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables in the produce area: tears came to her eyes.

But she was never and overly sentimental woman. As a singe mother, trying to raise a boy to become a man hardens something in a woman. A woman sometimes has to give up the "soft, feminine" things to give a boy survival skills and a sense of the hard things that other men try to teach him. So, after being a teacher and a legal secretary, she started all over again in America by going back to school to study nursing--the career that she had always wanted.

With her salary as a nurse, she put me through school and bought a small house in Carol City, Florida. And when my sister needed help with her children, my mother moved to Orlando to be with her until she died a few years ago.

If there has been one regret in my life, it has been that she did not live long enough for me to publicly recognize her value in my life and to somehow give her some of the "soft, feminine things."

My mother instilled in me a love for reading and literature for which I am eternally grateful. Many things in my life would not have been possible had it not been for the love, care, and patience that she showed me and which I, I turn, have tried to show to others.

The sad thing is that I know that her story is not unique. It's the story of many Jamaican/ Caribbean women who find themselves in dire straights, yet they never give in to bitterness and still find the strength to raise strong men and women and never giving up her faith in the redemptive power of love.

So, this Mother's Day wish is not only for my mother, but also for my wife, the Lumley, Philp, Salazar, Patino, and Foster women, the Jamaican/ Caribbean mothers and for everyone who has been a nurturing presence in my life. Give thanks.

Happy Mothers Day!


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Richard said...

What a wonderful mom you had!

Geoffrey Philp said...

Thanks, Richard. Yes, she was.


Reflections Magazine editor said...

This is a beautiful tribute to your mother and it reminds the rest of us to honor the women who have helped transform our lives.

Your love and admiratiom for your mother resonates through out your post. Thank you for sharing her story and your story with us.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Thank you, Fearless Blog. And keep up the great work!

FSJL said...

That was a lovely tribute to your mother, Geoffrey.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Love the photo. It's Mother's Day every day of the year because of strong women like your mother. God bless them.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Thanks Fragano and Stephen. She also had a great sense of humor.
It was a honor to have known her and to be known as her son.