Caption: Our mother, Barbara

What I love about my mother is that she didn’t just grow me, she “raised” me. And she did it with the little she had – a spoonful of love, a sprinkle of spankings, and pounds of proverbs. My mother has inherited from her mother, bushels of sayings, that neither she nor my grandmother ever spared me from. It was part of her cultural inheritance as a proud Jamaican, country woman, born and raised in St. Thomas parish, rich with upbringing and night-time stories. And, somehow, those timeless sayings worked.  Religion and culture merged to provide a healthy dose of warnings, scoldings, and rebukes. There was a proverb for every occasion. When I made too much noise: “Children should be seen and not heard”. When I acted as if I was hard-of-hearing: “Those who can’t hear, feel!” When I ate too much fruit or candy: “Whey sweet nanny goat, a guh run him belly”.

When I first learned to whistle and tried to show off my new skills: “A whistling woman and a crowing hen is an abomination to the Lord”. When it was time to choose my friends: “Birds of a feather, flock together”. When I fell into the temptation to disobey: “Disobedience is the first step to sin!” And when I acted the fool, the classics: “Frog seh what is joke to yuh… is death to him!” or “He who laughs last, laughs best.” Oh, and the fearsome “Mark my words” still make me tremble to this day. I didn’t know then, but those morals would become the backbone of my approach to the life. Whenever I falter, or I’m in doubt…  I hear their voices repeating these tried-and-true kernels of wisdom. They are my conscience, my decision-makers, time-savers and lifesavers, as I trod this rocky, sometimes dangerous, road.   To my mother, and my grandmother, Amanda Marks, a ‘grand’ lady indeed – THANK YOU.

by Nicola Guthrie


My mom taught me that you have to dig up a yam carefully since you don’t know what size it is, what shape it is, dig carefully around the sides until you find the root so that you can get it out whole instead of in pieces. At first, the only indication that the yam is there is the vine coming out of the earth and only an experienced person can tell when it’s ready. It might be silly but it’s one of my soundtracks to life in regard to how I see people. When I meet new people, I take care to not dig around the sides too eagerly. I try not to take anything personally or for granted. I try not to judge, as I don’t know how far people’s roots grow or the value of what they can teach me. I enjoy my mom’s  forgiving and accepting nature, and the way she  loses her bashfulness and becomes fiesty when she stands for something.  She also taught me to open a coconut with a machete. That hasn’t gotten me very far though, since I’m afraid of chopping off my arm. Still, as I understand it, coconut water is good for your daughter. This is why I love my mom.

by Yanique Richards