My First Entry: Jamaicans love big families and the Browneys are no exception. There are thirteen of us including Mammie and Pops. Now only my mother, Mammie, my brother Sydney, me and my sisters Ruby, Dolly and Pearl live in Mission House.
That’s what our house is called and it’s in the same grounds as the Wesleyan Church. It’s quite grand, imposing and very big. At the front of the house there’s a huge old cotton tree which always looks to me as if it is standing guard over us. But the tree does more than that, it keeps the house cool and dry protecting us from the heat and humidity in the summer. The house is red bricked and square, with green shutters at all the windows, which are kept open all the time, except when a hurricane is due. Everyone says the best thing about our house is the upstairs verandas at the front and back because from the front you can see the Caribbean Sea and from the back you can see the Blue Mountains.
Downstairs there is another drawing room, three more bedrooms, a dining room, the kitchen, a pantry and a storeroom. Outside a veranda made from cedar wood surrounds the entire ground floor of the house and out the back is a yard with a big cooking range under a lean to, a bath house, a water closet and, of course, our lovely garden.
Upstairs there are three very large bedrooms, one smaller one and a drawing room. I share one of the bedrooms with my sister, Ruby. Ruby is the most studious and brightest of the younger sisters and loves reading and writing. In secret she writes short stories which she reads to me when we are in bed. I feel very honoured because Ruby doesn’t read her stories to anyone else in the family, just me. Quite often they’re romances where the heroine is a simple country girl who falls in love with the son of a rich landowner and he loves her but his father forbids him to have anything to do with her because she’s not good enough for him, so they don’t see each other any more. But the son can’t bear it and they run off together, get married and live happily every after. That’s why I like Ruby’s stories, they always have a happy ending.
My two other sisters, Dolly and Pearl, share another bedroom. Dolly and Pearl couldn’t be more different. Pearl is quiet and thoughtful and very sweet, so is Dolly, but she is a younger version of my older sister, Vivie, lively and outspoken.
Sometimes I think Dolly is jealous of me. She says I’m Mammie’s favourite. Maybe.
Then there’s my older brother, Sydney. Sydney is married but he and his wife, Janetha, have been separated for years and he lives with us now.
I have another brother, Boysie, whom I adore because he is always laughing and is so much fun to be with. He’s happily married to Minah and even though he has his own family he still finds time to visit us. We all go to Boysie with our problems, never Sydney. I like Minah, she’s nice, but I must admit some of the family don’t like her because she’s Jewish. She’s very pretty with long black straight hair and is quite dark skinned. They have four children and have a very nice house nearby in Duke Street and we’re always in and out of each other’s homes.
One of my older sisters, Birdie, is in London at the moment studying dancing at Madame Verschuka’s School of Dance. This is her second trip to London and Vivie’s been as well and I’m hoping to go soon too. Mammie has a sister, Martha, who lives in Paddington and when ever any of the family goes to England, we stay with Aunt Martha. Birdie says she’s an old trout and doesn’t like her.
I have another older sister, Cissie, who is married to Dyke and they too have four children. They have a coffee plantation in Montego Bay and have been married for about five years. Dyke is lovely. Mammie calls him a gentle giant because he towers over everyone including Sydney. We don’t see much of them at all really, except at family gatherings at Christmas time, or when there’s an occasion, like a wedding or a funeral, or a family crisis.
My Pops doesn’t live with us now, so Sydney is head of the house and supports the family financially. At school I was always top of my class in arithmetic, and when I left Sydney told Mammie he wanted me to work for him in the shop and keep the books in order. I didn’t want the job; what I wanted to do was go to England but Mammie asked me to take the job, so I did.
Sydney says Mission House is far too big to maintain and now there are not so many people living here, we should move to a smaller house. Mammie says he’s right but it’s difficult for her to make the move. Too many memories, she says, good ones and some bad, so for now we’re staying put.
We have two servants, our maid Cassie who’s nearly the same age as me and I like a lot, and our cook, Aggie Burns, who gives me the creeps. One day Sydney decided that Mammie needed help so off he went to find someone and came back with Aggie. But she’s a crazy woman. She believes in Obeah and comes to work some mornings and tells me about great big peacocks that come to her front door and talk to her. Mammie says to ignore her and not upset her because she’s the best cook we’ve ever had.
If you enjoyed this post, please consider letting your friends know or leave a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.