There are three kinds of people on tube at 6am: holiday makers, people coming from low paid night shifts and people going to high paid day jobs. All of them are missing out on good sleep time, only one of them for something enjoyable – thankfully I am in that category.
This first woman, whose age remains mysterious, is casually dressed in a fleece with flat comfortable shoes and looks like she is on her way back from a cleaning job. I imagine her arriving home, where home is a room which she shares with her husband and two children, because with her wages, even working every hour God sends won’t allow them to live any better. She gets home and out of her work clothes, and lays her head on the mattress for a short moment lying toe to toe with her oldest daughter, awaiting the alarm for school, and for the next shift to begin.
Next to her on the tube, another woman has bags under her eyes to match the dark grey of her designer handbag, and is living I am sure, in quite different conditions. Maybe she has left her partner asleep again in their swanky apartment so she can get an early start. Is he is annoyed that she is not present, is he proud of her focus and ambition, or he has resigned himself to a relationship of passing ships in the night? I imagine she is on the way to a corporate job maybe in finance or the legal sector. She walks with a sense of pride into her office, knowing she has earned her right to have her name on her office door, and maybe to have her coffee just the way she likes it.
And then there is me – I wonder what they see? She looks quite basic at 6am on the tube. She has had some sleep so she doesn’t look too tired, but has a slightly serious look, resting-what-face do they call it? She looks distracted like maybe she is mentally unpacking her suitcase to check she has everything. Where is she going alone looking so young. Maybe to see family in her homeland or to use her student loan for a girls trip to Europe? Has she just ended a relationship or maybe she has just been dumped and that is why she is travelling alone, maybe to look for a holiday romance? She just looked up and smiled at me, how lovely.
My grandma has a cheeky sense of humour, a keen smile and doesn’t mince her words. I love her company. She knows exactly what she thinks and what she wants and she doesn’t hesitate to state it openly. She is 88 and comfortable in her own skin. So when I called her to say I wanted to learn to make sorrell she told me she was out and I had to come another day. When I rang her bell she opened the door and greeted me with a smile that would melt a snowman, and a gentle hug from her tiny frame. This is the woman who nurtured my mom in her womb and gave birth to her. This is sacred ground, and she is the queen of it.
She begins by telling me she’s grated all the ginger before I came, to speed it up. I explain to her I am taking notes, and ask her how much ginger to use and she says ‘a lot’ – that’s the best I’m gonna get as far as details are concerned. I impress her with my knowledge of how good ginger is for our health and she smiles a smile that says “your mom did a good job”.
She finds the pot full of grated ginger and as she takes off the lid I’m engulfed in the overwhelming aroma. The pot is bigger than most and when I ask why she bought a pot so big she answers me with a look that says ‘it must be obvious’, and explains that its for cooking rice and peas for when the family come around. We don’t use her big pot nearly enough.
She takes out a packet of linseed held shut by a rubber band and throws in a tablespoon. As she mixes it in, she casually recalls a story of almost having a miscarriage. The doctor in Jamaica told her to take some linseed with ‘something from the sea’ (she can’t remember what it was but hopes it will come back to her, I try my best to jog her memory in case some future child depends on it, to no avail) – and her baby was born healthy. Her sister, she remembers, had the same experience with the ‘something from the sea’. She talks about not having money for doctors and using natural remedies and how the free NHS makes healthcare accessible but then lacks the wisdom of mother nature.
I tell her I’m thinking of going and she tells me she’s about to cook, which means I’m staying. I arrived starving from London once and brought food on the way to her house. She is not easily offended but I knew not to do it again. Why did I think she wouldn’t have food on the stove? I’m used to millennials. As we eat she tells me she doesn’t like to ‘cook sparing’ meaning just for herself, because she likes to feed anyone who pops in. I want to be the kind of woman who has a pot that’s way too big to ‘cook sparing’.
Here is her recipe in her own words:
- A lot of ginger
- Some linseed (depending on how much you want to make)
- Enough sorrell
- Some sugar (to taste)
- Sanatogen or whichever wine or even some rum (to mek it taste good)
On the anniversary of my sweet mom’s passing, I remember her with these words that I wrote last year a few days after we said goodbye. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.
Before we could even pray or ask, God gave us the greatest gift in our mom. We could not have chosen the womb that bore us, but Gods love for us is shown in the fact that we were loved all our lives by an angel. She showed us what it meant to be a believer in Jesus, not through clever words and heavy rules but through a heart of love. She leant money to the poor knowing she would not be repaid, she loved to be generous out of the little she had. Her words were always good about other people, even those it was easy to judge. She was humble in asking for advice even from her children, she always thought of the person who was overlooked or misunderstood. Eternally optimistic and full of hope she refused to see the bad in people or circumstances. She was our number one champion cheering us on, our encourager and the one who believed more than anything that we could change the world. She was a lifelong learner, a hard worker, quick to get tasks done and diligent in everything she did. She has made us who we are. She was a true friend to me, showing me the way to love, faith and patience. The truth is I wanted to be more like her, I wanted to absorb her character, I admired her so much. Mom lives on in each of us, every time we follow her voice and her example. She lives on in us through every act of compassion, every moment we choose faith over fear, every time we laugh and dance and sing, every time we drink a glass of baileys. In the moments when we are lighthearted and joking, when we are hopeful and courageous and determined – our mom remains with us and we live to make her proud.