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In Praise of Wisdom: The Things My Grandmother Would Say
My grandmother was a wise woman. By word and deed, the matriarch of my family taught us all about life. She passed her insights on to my mother who, in turn, shared them with me. Like many Barbadian women, my grandmother was fond of proverbs, dishing out these pearls with a liberal hand. When I think of my grandmother, I think of the sensible sayings that guided her steps. I see how, steadily and surely, I am walking the very same path.
My grandmother was a generous woman. Although she had little, she shared whatever she did have with others. Whether she was setting aside time for the elderly, supplying a neighbor with produce, or dispensing sage advice, my grandmother was constantly giving.
In the early years, neighborhood children waited for her as she returned from the vegetable market where she made a living. They were certain there would be a little something in her basket for them. To this day, there are people who refuse to accept money from my family because my grandmother was so good to them.
Because of my grandmother, I know that “if you sell everything you have, you have to buy everything you want.” So, I too try to be generous in spirit. Not every transaction must be for profit.
My grandmother was a kind-hearted woman. Between the ages of 28 and 30, she lost a mother, a child, a sister, and a sister-in-law. As a result, five more children now depended on her for tenderness and care. The fact that she had several children of her own to raise did not deter her. Without hesitation, she nurtured and mothered them all.
Over the years, the lines between aunt, grandmother, great-aunt, and mother became blurred. She was simply a loving figure with a warm lap that had room enough for all.
Because of my grandmother, I know that “whatever you do, you do to yourself.” So, I perform acts of kindness, confident that kindness will attend me.
My grandmother was a hardworking woman. As a dedicated wife and mother, she ran a household which, at one point, had eleven occupants. In the earliest days before modern conveniences, my grandmother cooked for her children using firewood, washed their clothing in a wooden tub, and tended her vegetable garden without running water. Indeed, one night my grandmother sat for hours sewing every inch of her daughter’s school uniforms by hand.
She demanded full commitment to any endeavour. Nothing but one’s best effort was acceptable. Despite her busy home life, my grandmother was a pillar in the church, organizing numerous activities and starring in the church’s many productions.
Because of my grandmother, I know that “things done by halves are never done right.” So, I too am a diligent worker, ever meticulous and exacting.
My grandmother was a confident woman. Despite her humble beginnings, she never saw herself as inferior to others. She viewed herself and her children as intrinsically valuable, teaching them to never accept mistreatment and to consider themselves just as important as anyone else.
On one occasion when her daughters were attending an exhibition in the park, my grandmother instructed them to walk with their heads high, never bowing in shame because they were less affluent than the other guests. She did not see a person’s worth as connected to their wealth. This meant she eschewed avarice in all its forms. In fact, instead of her children longing to go to the homes of wealthier friends, their friends preferred to come to my grandmother's modest but welcoming home.
Because of my grandmother, I have no interest in “keeping up with the Joneses.” So, I avoid jealous materialism and fancy myself a princess in my own right.
My grandmother was a wise woman who taught us all about life. I hope I am passing that wisdom on to others. My signature proverb though will be one that praises grandmothers. After all, that is where all the wisdom lies.
Dedicated to the memory of Clementine Carlotta Daniel (1920 – 2002)