January 09, 2008

Day 4 - The Party

After lunch, Peter and I went to see Ainsley Henriques, who is a leader in the Jamaican Jewish community, and who has been working on a huge project to index and map the Jewish cemeteries. We know our Ur-Ancestor, Noel Crosswell, is buried in a Jewish cemetery, and I thought it might be neat to see if we could find his grave. Ainsley said many graves no longer have stones, and Noel's name is not in the index. He was able to give an educated guess as to where it might be. However, we ran out of time, and had to return to Fee's house for the big family get-together and dinner.

At 6 p.m., the elder family members began arriving: Mother's cousins, Joan and Farren, an in-law, Audrey, and their assorted children with spouses. By 7, everyone else began walking in. We also invited Noel Vaz and Mr. and Mrs. Wycliff Bennet, people who knew mother. Many had not ever seen the family portraits, and they became the center of the conversation for a while.

Soon the house was full, and Glenn, the Bar Man, was filling everyone's hand with some liquid cheer. Maxine prepared a repast that included crackers and a spread made from salt fish and tomatoes and onions; there was also boiled green bananas, roast chicken, rice and peas, a salad, and I'm probably missing something. Nicola brought the desserts: home-made individual pavlovas, cheesecake, and another cake.

Velia sang, accompanied on the piano by Lloyd Hall, and later Yekengale. I was so busy circulating that I only took about four photos. I am depending on the others, Peter, Velia, Fee, and Nicola, to share the ones they took. We talked, laughed, caught up all the news, ate, and sang until the wee hours, and finally, as the guests took their leave, Peter brought us to his house in May Pen, as he had to preach the sermon at Mass the following morning. Velia and I were so wired up from the party that we talked until 2 a.m.

Nest morning, Peter commented that "every living relative on the island" came to greet me. I was genuinely moved by their friendliness and kindness, and wished with all my heart I didn't have to leave so soon. My cousins, who were children and teens when we last visited, all grew up to be remarkable and interesting adults, many with spouses and children. We are expecting to stay in touch from now on.

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