FMM 11 5 2021 Soul Imprints
“Live a life full of humility, gratitude, intellectual curiosity, and never stop learning.” ~ Gza.
I never met my mother-in-law. She died in childbirth, tragically, leaving behind a husband and young children. My father-in-law I first met through letters and photographs, until I finally met him on my first trip back to Jamaica after many years away. Mass Adrian was a force of nature, well known in his community and beyond. He was wise, colorful, and never held back his opinion. But this week I stopped and wondered about my mother-in-law. What traits did she pass on to her kids; what lessons did she teach? How might I have learned from her, by living with her son? After all, it was from him that I learned so much more about how to live an authentically Jamaican life (while living in Miami – that home away from home!).
The life of my parents-in-law was not easy. They were ‘self-sufficient’, ‘living off the grid’ as so many country people did, since they had very few other options. Their meals were earned by the sweat of their brow, their homes were hand built. There was no electricity or running water. My father-in-law did not know he was poor, he made sure that his family had their own tank, a sure sign of wealth in a community that sent their children daily to the village tank to carry home pans and buckets of water on their heads. Even after his wife died, Mass Adrian kept the family together, and all of his children earned places in high school, from an elementary school that averaged one child per year achieving that goal.
How often do we pay tribute to the generations who went before us? The other day I heard a story about a ‘Mop Fair’. Of course, it took a while for me to hear the first part of the name properly (Mock Fair?), but it is a weeklong fair held in towns in England, with a tradition dating back seven centuries. Like most fairs it features stalls, and carousels, and rides and food, fun and games for the whole family. But this year, in one town, they decided to revive the original purpose of the fair. Apparently, it originated as basically a job fair, where men and women from the local area could come into the town to seek work, while the local landowners would offer jobs. Those seeking work would wear in their lapel an object signifying their area of expertise – with the mop representing basic housekeeping. As the tradition goes, the following week they held the ‘Runaway mop’, where those who were dissatisfied with the job they had obtained could leave and seek employment elsewhere.
This year, in the town of Stratford, they decided to resuscitate the employment aspect of the fair, and invited employers to set up stalls along with the ‘candy floss’ (English name for ‘cotton candy’) and other merry-makers. In this strange world in which we live, where COVID has upended employment along with lives and education, they decided to revisit the ancient tradition. I wonder what I would pin to my lapel to signify my area of expertise!
This is an interesting world in which we live, and sometimes I can only draw on lines from they hymns of my childhood: ‘…when I in awesome wonder…’ We are so blessed to share this planet not only with some of the most beautiful natural features, but also with amazing people. Before my mother died in her 90’s, she would often say ‘How do they keep coming up with these ideas?’, as if surely everything must have been thought of already. And yet we do.
Whether it was simple country folk trying to improve their children’s possibilities in life, or current tech savvy inventors looking for the latest gadget, our world is full of people who are striving to make this world a better place. It is easy to lose sight of that when we hear about the division and divisiveness that currently dominate our headlines. There is a movie I watched some time ago, called ‘The Best of Enemies’, based on true events that happened in North Carolina in 1971. It is the story of how a black activist and a white KKK leader had to work together to help to integrate the schools after fire damaged the school black children attended. It is a stark reminder of the recent past that does not seem so alien at the present, but these two unlikely collaborators developed a friendship and partnership that lasted through their lives.
This Friday morning, I hope you find enough joy in life to be able to gaze in ‘awesome wonder’, and that you have strong memories of the people in your past that paved the way for you to be where you are today. Please continue looking for and sharing positive stories at a time when the negative strives to drown them all out.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!