Basin Jamet The Crystal Tearoom Tuning into Josephine River of Beauty and Youth River of Beauty and Youth
Visiting Josephine

Visiting Josephine

posted on Sunday June 24, 2012 | in Crik Crak,Tuning in to Josephine | 17 Comments

A memory is a physical place.

A place I once was and can never revisit physically.  It never happens again.  I remember my grandmother Josephine as I often do.  But this time I come to the realization that she will only ever be a memory.  She will only exist for me and the people who knew her.  For the ones who never knew her, she does not physically exist.  There are many iterations of her but they exist only in our imaginations.  Mum digging a hole on a rainy day at the river before planting yams.  Mum holding my hand on the way to Sunday mass,  I’m wearing white fake patent leather shoes and lacy socks.  There is a constant fear of falling on the pavement, goats at the side of the road, mango trees observing.  And what of now?  This day in New York?  This mango tree may not exist any more, only in my memory.  And my Mum?  My Mum, how I miss the physicality of her.  Her scolding voice, her strong abrasive love, the almost diabolical twinkle in her eyes, her cunning and whit. She exists every day in my head.  But I can never go back to the river and pick oranges with her ever again.  I can almost smell the rain, the dry rotted leaves, the castor oil mixed with the sweat in her jet-black curly Afro-Carib-Euro hair.  I can almost feel her bony hands squeezing my arm just above the elbow.  Child!  She called us Child.  It was meant for us to understand that we were to listen to her because she had already lived.  She had already gotten a great understanding of the world.  We had not.  It was not meant to make us feel small or less our selves.  It was a form of protection, “ti mamai” or little person.  You are a little individual and I am here to be your guide little person, ti mamai.


And where are you now?  You are all over my imagination still holding, grabbing my arms.  I am no longer a little person, I’ve grown into a big person or a “grand moun” I sit beneath the mango tree with you on the river stones and I speak to you, me as a big person you an ancient, me you and the tree.  For me the tree is time itself.  That mango tree which has previously resurfaced in another of my fictitious memories one with my own mother, your daughter and yet in that memory my mother is the tree.  So now there is the three of us.  Me, you and Joan the mango tree.  Joan stands tall between us.  Like this the two of us sit beneath her ancient branches watching the river roll by.

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  1. Deanna (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    This is so beautiful made me think of the memories I have of my two grandmothers who are now passed.

  2. Jonathan Gladding (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    Such a poignant grouping of remembered details. Incredibly life-like. So well told. It really was beautiful.

  3. Safs (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    Lovely Shala!

  4. Kristen (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    What sweet memories! My experience with my own grandmother was VERY different, but I always recall them with equal fondness. My grandmother is still with me – physically albeit not mentally. But I live for those moments when she “comes to” and is (even if only for a moment) that lovely and ferocious woman I try so hard to emulate every day.

  5. Shala's Fan (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    You should write more often!

  6. riddle of the sphinx (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    I have the answer to your riddle; the cat is not only a cat but a beta. Not only a sexy kitten but brilliant, and she just can’t help but smile.

  7. Val St. Helen (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    Shalla your grandmother was my aunti Leesee. Soft, gentle, always smiling- lovely lady. She was my mum’s (Capisin) sister. Your literary work brought me back to my days with my own grandmother Luloon. You won’t know her. Ask your mum.

    Great Caribbean pieces. Keep it up.
    Your cousin Val

  8. Katja Anderson (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    Such a lovely tribute to both your grandmother and mother! Love how you brought her to life with a few well-chosen words. And you brought the road to life as well, with its goats and mango trees, even its perils. One could sense your trepidation, almost see and smell what you did. And as a writer I know this is not the easiest of accomplishments! Looking forward to what’s next!

  9. Diane Dewey (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    Memory as a physical place is worth investigating. How does it smell, taste, feel? We remember those things vividly like this minute. Great writing, Shala, and thank you. Diane

  10. Ruby (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    I normally read and don’t comment, but this one is special. I got lost in it,I could vividly see the river, the trees, smell the mangoes, even the pungent odor of the ones rotting beneath the tree…only in my version it was my mother and my grandfather. So very poetic how you brought the very thing that moulded us, our culture, into it through simple statements that carry enormous weight. I hope that one day my daughter, and her daughters will recall my “ti mammai”, even when I am no longer here……..

  11. Lebo (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    Wow! Very moving , great writing!

  12. Chadina (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    Beautiful. I love that you, me and the tree

  13. Marian (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    Yours is an ability to take the reader on a journey with your words.

    One never knows what the destination will be and one does not care. It is the wonderful things we encounter on the way that makes it entreating.

    Beautiful piece.

    With your memories, you keep her alive forever.


  14. Janelle (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    Wonderfully written Shala, it reminds me of my granny who has now passed as well……just as you wrote I can also still feel my granny’s hands as she held me on our way to the Cathederal in Castries…….ours is such a rich culture.

    • Melissa (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

      Yes, grandmothers grasps were always tight, I remember…. now i see why. young children are so unpredictable.

  15. Melissa (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    Ha, I sometimes use “ti mamai” when I need my children to understand the seriousness of a situation. Hopefully one they they will understand why i talked like that. Brings me to mind my grandmother when she said “ti mamai whoay” to dismiss us. Ah Memories….

  16. Nadia (Reply) on Sunday 24, 2012

    They say that the apples do not fall far from the tree. Our Grandmother; Josephine WARRIOR PRINCESS, as fierce as she was, is engrained in our psyche. She must walk with you, as free spirited, rebellious, daring as you are. It really is all her. Those of us who have her warrior spirit… especially the girls…. we get her!!!

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