January 29, 2008

I scanned Mother's photos of the Richmond Pen and put them up on Flickr. They are the last four photos in the Jamaica album - three of the Pen and one of Mom, Noel, and Rowley lying on the lawn there.

Mom said five complete families lived in that house simultaneously - her grandparents and several of her aunts and uncles, with spouses and children! She tells of the fun it was, growing up with all the cousins to play with, of an aunt who was not normal and who was kept in private rooms, and of her Grandpa, Simon Soutar, sitting in his office on the top floor - it was the only room - and looking through his spyglass towards Kingston harbor when one of his ships was due.

Here's what she wrote about living there (the "family" consisted of Simon, Jessie, and 10 children):

"The family at first lived at Temple Hall, in the mountains of St. Andrew, a 1200 acre estate about 25 miles from Kgn. When the children became of school age, he bought Richmond Pen, 100 acres about 5 miles from Kingston , near the little village of Half-Way-Tree . On this estate was the foundations of the farm house, two-feet thick stone walls enclosing a cobbled floor. The interior was divided into several compartments with [?????] doors and windows - all surrounded by a cobbled walk-way edged by thick stone arches. Upon this foundation Grandpa built, pagoda-like, 3 storeys containing 10 bedrooms, large dining room, drawing room & another room he called the front piazza. This opened on to the veranda which encircled this first storey.
"I spend the first 20 years of my life in this house, which I will try to describe.
"When I was about 8 yrs Grandpa died. He had been for his early morning walk around the estate apparently, felt ill, and lay down under one of the trees. The dog that accompanied him ran barking back & forth. My brother, Noel, followed the dog to Grandpa. He passed on peacefully, his hat over his face. He had no religious affiliation & is buried in the cemetery of St. Andrew Parish Church at Half Way Tree."

For a class she took, mom wrote an account of weathering a hurricane at the Pen.

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.

January 01, 2008

After 40 Years

I am going back to Jamaica tomorrow for the first time in forty years! I was invited by two of my cousins to come and visit, and since I had already requested this week off from work six months ago, I decided to use it by taking them up on their offer. Forty years ago, we were all teenagers; now, we all have adult children. Mother's cousins were my age, then; now, they are her age: 90s. I think this will be a good visit.

I am also blogging the trip on my other blog, Halona, the Peering Place. You may find photos thers.