When I visited my family in Jamaica in 1996 only six of Mum’s siblings were still alive. Boysie, Birdie, Pearl, Chickie (christened Kathleen), Ruby and Dolly. Boysie was living in Canada and I never got to meet him, although Mum spoke to him on the phone.
It was wonderful to finally meet some of Mum’s family – my extended family, the family that as a child I’d always longed for but which, in the main, Mum didn’t like to talk about. She’d say, “it makes me sad”. But ironically, when she was sad, that was when she’d open up a bit and I gleaned little bits of information about her family. I knew that as small children Mum, Ruby and Dolly had been very close and it was interesting to see just how much Ruby and Dolly looked like Mum, as well as being a bit unnerving.
Although I’d warned my aunts before I left the UK that Mum wouldn’t be coming with me to Kingston because she had serious health problems, I think a little bit of them was hoping she would appear at the last minute. But her non appearance didn’t diminish in anyway the reception they gave me. They had thrown a “Welcome Home” party for me attended by their children – my cousins – and family and their friends. It was all a bit overwhelming really. I was so glad my son Stuart had come with me. My aunts made a great fuss of Stuart too and it took some of the pressure of me.
My aunts made a huge fuss of me and were genuinely excited to meet Olga’s daughter. They were so excited, like small children, constantly chattering and interrupting each other so they could speak to me, hugging me and always one of them holding my hand. They’d ask me over and over again “How is Olga?”. “Why didn’t Olga let us know she was alive”? It was strange to hear Mum being called Olga, because I’d only every known her as Carmen. When I asked them why she changed her name from Olga to Carmen, they said they had no idea. She was always Olga to them. I was to find out the answer to that one later.
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