Irene Agatha Mitchell
“I REMEMBER MAMA “
“Aunt Irene,” to her nieces and nephews. Irene to other family members, her friends, and neighbors, from her birth district Newport, in the parish of Manchester, Jamaica.
Miss ‘Gatha,’ to some people who came to know her later in life, including some of her grandchildren, In-laws, friends, and neighbors, whilst she was living in Kingston Jamaica.
“Mama,” to us grandchildren whom she had grown, nurtured, and so lovingly cared for our parents, her beloved sons and daughter. She had two sons – David and Basil – and one daughter, Gloria.
Mama came from a very poor background. Her father passed away whilst she and her siblings were still quite young, from an industrial accident at his workplace, leaving her mother alone with the task of bringing up all five children – four girls and one boy. They were Agatha, Claris, Olga, Josephine, and Alan. Her father, being the main bread winner, of an already fragile family, their lives was then completely thrown into abject poverty. They struggled for a long time. Some help came from other family members, but at the expensive cost of giving up most of their lands
Mama took the mammoth task and risk, by going to Kingston, (despite not knowing anyone there), seeking work to help support her mom and siblings – being the eldest child. In mama’ own words, “Things were very tough.”
Her determination and resilience to succeed, gave her much comfort and strength to continue. She took everything within her strides and eventually became a “domestic goddess,” as her children, grandchildren, relatives, friends, and neighbors can attest to.
Mama was excellent in and with everything she did – even as a “seller.” She would buy and sell fresh fruits, vegetables, and root crops within the neighborhood, even traveling to other areas going from door to door selling her produce. Whatever resources she had – she would share with her family, friends, and neighbors.
Being the first to break the cycle of poverty within her family, she began taking great care of her mother, her children, and siblings. She sent for her sisters, her two sons, her nieces, and nephews from Manchester. Even some of the neighbors’ children took the opportunity to follow the clan to Kingston seeking a better life in the city. Mama cared for them all – with very limited resources and living space.
With most unable to read nor write, mama sent them to “night school for adults,” where they learnt not only to read and write, but also trades that inspires them. Some became police officers, cabinet makers, dressmakers, government bus drivers, painters, decorators, excellent domestic workers, to say the least, as most went on to achieve far more in life for themselves and their families.
Mama was a very warm, welcoming, approachable, and peaceful woman. Always the “pacifier” in family disputes. Even the neighbors went to her for help to solve their disputes. She was well loved and respected by all.
Mama saw and loved every child in the neighborhood as her own. She never differentiates her love, affection, and care between us her grandchildren from those of the neighbors.
Her Motto, “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”
A virtuous woman – who can find? Her price is far above Rubies. (Proverbs: 31 verse 10).
By Dawn Stewart