From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island
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When Doris Harvey's English grandfather, William Harvey, discovers a clearing at the end of a path cut by the feet of those running from slavery, he gives his name to what will become his family's home for generations. For Doris, Harvey River is the place she always called home, the place where she was one of the "fabulous Harvey girls," and where the rich local bounty of Lucea yams, pimentos, and mangoes went hand in hand with the Victorian niceties of her parents' house. It is a place she will return to in dreams when her fortunes change, years later, and she and her husband, Marcus Goodison, relocate to "hard life" Kingston and encounter the harsh realities of urban living in close quarters.
In Lorna Goodison's luminous memoir of her forebears, we meet a cast of wonderfully drawn characters, including George O'Brian Wilson, the Irish patriarch of the family who marries a Guinea woman after coming to Jamaica in the mid-1800s; Doris's parents, Margaret and David, childhood sweethearts who become the first family of Harvey River; and Margaret and David's eight children.
In lush, vivid prose, textured with the cadences of Creole speech, Lorna Goodison weaves together memory and mythology to create a vivid tapestry. She takes us deep into the heart of a complete world to tell a universal story of family and the ties that bind us to the place we call home.
yams, my mother always said. Every time she cooked and served Lucea yam, she would tell us the same story that Jamaica’s first prime minister, Sir Alexander Bustamante, who was himself a native of Hanover and a man who claimed to have been descended from Arawak Indians, would say that “Lucea yam is such a perfect food that it can be eaten alone, with no fish nor meat.” She too subscribed to the belief that the Lucea yam needed nothing, no accompanying “salt ting,” as the Africans referred to
took very, very seriously. Late one afternoon Doris had gone to bathe in the river by herself. The riverbed was deserted of all the village women by the time she got there. Some had come early, after dispatching the men to the fields, bearing their dirty clothes in big bundles on their heads. Some went to the fields themselves and then did their laundry later in the day, but they all washed their clothes in the same way. Soaping them with iron-hard wedges of brown soap, making loud, strong
visitors had to make their way down a set of steps cut neatly into the hillside, until they came to the large white-painted, three-bedroom house built high on stilts. The house was called Rose Cottage because the entire garden was planted with fragrant pink, white, and cream rose bushes which bloomed in profusion from their neat, rectangular beds. Along the verandah, in special round clay pots made by a woman in the district called Congo Lou, Cleodine cultivated African violets. Indigo and purple
end of strife. Like the Harvey River, the standpipe was the place where residents gathered to collect water for all domestic purposes. Unlike the people of Harvey River, who found refreshment and blessings in their source of water, she would soon discover that the residents of the tenement yard regarded the standpipe as the site for loud quarrels and even the occasional fist fight. “I would prefer to dead like a dog in the city of Kingston than to bruk mi back chop cane.” That was the sentiment
He had burned down his business to collect the insurance. After he got out of prison, he was reduced to selling fruits, but he called out his wares with the confidence of one who was to the manor born. That is, until anyone teased him, and then he would curse enough forty-shilling badwords–words that you could be fined forty shillings for uttering–to stain the air around. “Why the young men always tease me?” Mother Muschette, the poor damaged woman who stood dressed in her wedding gown outside