Monday, March 11, 2013

Book of love: Bible that survived ocean crossing holds a family's ...

It was always there: on a table, her counter or carefully laid open on a chair.

The worn black book with a cross in fading gold was one of her most treasured items. In fact, it was her only real possession after having lost everything she owned when she made the long journey from Jamaica to England and, at last, Canada, in the ?70s.

Her luggage never made the trip to Canada, lost somewhere on route or perhaps left behind in England. The bible was the one true reminder of where she came from ? and that was just fine with my grandma.

Yellowed on some pages, faded on others, in a way it was a representation of her life that began as a bright, ponytail-wearing child in Jamaica who had weathered severe adversity but still had a great story to tell.

It was a book her mother gave her, passed down from her mother before her. It was the only thing that survived her flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

The first words in the book were in the family tree that was found on the first page and hardly legible any more, having been written in pen so many years ago.

Her mother, my great grandmother, who was born in 1916, stands as the first entry. Added names throughout the decades in different coloured ink play out like a trail to the living and preserve memories of family members passed. Family I will never know, but who hold sway in my grandmother?s life (how long that life has so far been, my grandma refuses to tell. A lady never tells).

When my grandmother immigrated to Canada, she reasoned moving closer (at least geographically) to Jamaica from England and to a better job was the right decision.

As much as the cold, wet weather made her knee ache sometimes, it was her home, and the place where she?d met my grandfather ? a Jamaican expatriate, like herself, looking for better opportunities away from the tiny island where they grew up.

In the end, her life in Canada was better than she would have expected. She worked hard and eventually purchased a modest place to call home and later gave birth to a cherub-faced daughter (my mother) in her adopted country.

She visits Jamaica as much as her health will allow her, but won?t likely return for good. If she ever feels homesick she never lets it show, but that could be because her book, with the cross in fading gold and barely legible family tree, is always within arm?s reach.

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