Wed. June 24, 2020– A thing of beauty is a joy forever; and there is nothing on earth more beautiful than a mother’s love. To all you wonderful mothers out there, both present and in spirit only by your special nature of love and giving, we say thank you. Thank you all!
And today, most specifically, we say thank you, thank you, and thank you, Lord, our Father in Heaven, for giving us our own exceptional mother, Elinor Wilson (Belisle) Hyde.
Her husband, our earthly father, Charles Bartlett Hyde, although wrapped in grief, is also thankful. Thankful that after a long and fruitful life of love, friendships and challenges together, his beloved has left this earthly realm, only to find her place beside her departed children, siblings, parents, relatives, ancestors and friends in the bosom of our Creator. And for sure, she will spare no effort in preparing a cozy place for those of us left behind, especially her life-long love and marriage partner, our dad, C.B.
Where did it all begin?
My mother, Elinor Wilson (Belisle) Hyde was born in Belize City on September 16, 1924, the youngest child of Wilfred Belisle and Eva (Lindo) Belisle. Their eldest son, Roy, most protective of Elinor, is still alive at 102 years. Ismay (Belisle) Castillo, Lewis “Buck” Belisle, have gone on before, along with her half brother Beelisle, the famous painter and artist.
Mom was an avid and colourful story teller and regularly regaled us with her family history, and her experiences growing up in Sittee River, a magical place where people feasted on green plantain with coconut oil, and died only from old age or the bite of river crocodiles. Mom often dropped some “real” creole words and sayings from the Sittee river experience, some of which are unrecognizable in today’s version of spoken creole. I always liked the saying “Pataki ketch i kiba”. Her childhood years of struggle and adventure in Sittee River assumed a sort of mythical status in our minds, and though she endured some hardship under the iron hand of her aunt Edwina Belisle, she still had fond memories of growing up there with her elder brother, Buck.
One of mom’s favorite family stories, was of the romantic bonding that produced the Escarpeta clan in Sittee, and through whom she explained our distant relation to a number of large families now resident in Belize City and elsewhere.
The way she would tell it, the Spanish galleons in those long gone days used to stop in at Sittee River, going up about a mile in, to load up on fresh water. On one of these occasions, a “full blooded Spaniard,” named Jose Escarpeta, met, and fell in love, and married a “coal black” young girl of Sittee, whom my mother only recalled as named “Betsy.” Her old folks never gave her the full name.
Of the children from that union, mom told us about three girls and two boys; there may be others. One girls was named Mariah, and she would marry Walter “Jake” Belisle, a man of many talents and technical skills, who built his own house on Berkely Street and his own boat Victory-B in Sittee. They produced a bunch of Belisle children – Gilly, Kenny, “Sleepy”, Maggie, Edwina, and including Wilfred Belisle, my mother’s father. So, Mariah Escarpeta Belisle was Elinor’s grandmother. Another Escarpeta daughter, Juana, is said to have married a Kelly; and the other, nicknamed “Daata,” married a Sanchez. The boys, “Tio,” who we later suspected was for Theodore, and Mayto carried on the Escarpeta name.
Belize is a small place, and Smokey Joe used to say, “All a wi da faamly.”
(About fifteen years ago, thankfully while mom was still at her full mental powers, a casual acquaintance at a wedding in Corozal revealed that the matriarch of the Escarpeta family that we knew only as “Betsy” was Elizabeth Kingston who married Jose Escarpeta. So one family riddle was solved for us.)
From about five years old until eleven, Elinor lived in Sittee River Village. She didn’t actually begin school in Sittee until she was about eight years old; but her home schooling by father, Wilfred, “Papa Bill,” who visited regularly, had ably prepared her. And teacher Michael Nembhard and his “Royal Reader” provided the rest of her primary education.
So, when Elinor came back to Belize City at eleven years to stay with Granny Lillian (Gibson) Lindo, our Granny Eva’s mother, she had little difficulty coping with lessons, successfully completing her secondary school education at St. Hilda’s College, where her scholastic achievements in both high school leaving and external examinations were exemplary.
Our mom always said that Granny Lillian was one sweet lady, but still a firm disciplinarian, who would still be nice in getting you to understand that her rules were not to be broken. She also credited Granny Lil with starting the Cross Country tradition of putting a garland, bouquet of flowers on the champion’s neck. They lived on the outskirts of town on Cemetery Road, where Lyon’s Bakery was in later years; and Granny Lil would pick flowers from her garden and await the arrival of the first rider. It soon became a tradition.
Our dad was recalling recently what Elinor had told him about her early initiation into life with Granny Lillian. One of her rules was that a girl must take a bath each morning before going to school. One morning, when young Elinor happened to be running late, she tried to make off, saying goodbye as she left through the door. To which Granny Lil sweetly but sternly asked, “Yo bathe yet, darling?” The message was clear; getting late for school was not an excuse to skip a bath! After that episode, having to arrive at school late and the consequences there, Elinor knew she had to always fulfill Granny Lil’s rule first. And she made sure to pass the rule on to her children, even when some of the little ones resisted cold water.
Granny Lillian was a Gibson married Lindo. As mom explained, George Lindo, the patriarch of the Lindo family, started from humble beginnings, but became one of the wealthiest businessmen in the colony, often traveling to Jamaica to do business, and would take his daughter Muriel along at times. George married Lillian Gibson, daughter of “Ma Sue,” who was the daughter of a Misquita Indian Chief, and they produced Eva (Elinor’s mother, our grandmother), Aunt Muriel and Uncle Maurice Lindo. Maurice’s marriage to Ina Gabb, produced lawyer and politician Dean Lindo, as well as daughters Nita and Joyce, the mother of P.M. Dean Barrow.
Well, we had to go through all that background to tell you this story: While staying at Granny Lillian, Elinor developed a deep and lifelong friendship with her first cousin, Nita, who performed a match for the ages.
Apparently, through high school sports and afterwards, one Charles Bartlett Hyde, known to his many friends as C.B., had become well acquainted with some members of the Lindo family, including Nita.
One day, Nita told C.B. that she would like to introduce him to her cousin, Elinor, who, Nita explained, was “SWEET SIXTEEN AND NEVER BEEN KISSED.” Indeed, she was sixteen, and he was seventeen; and as our modern day Jah Art would say, “One thing leads to another thing, leads to the other thing…”
It wasn’t smooth sailing all the way, of course. There is the story of once when the visiting C.B. was delaying his departure from the Belisle home late into the night, Elinor’s father, “Papa Bill” had to send him a coded message: “Well, young man, it was early; and then it became late; and now it is early again.”
Elinor and C.B. tied the knot about five years after that first meeting.
As with many young couples, married life was not always a bed of roses; and, after spending a few years in the Belisle home with Granny Eva on Church Street, C.B. and Elinor moved with their then five children to their new residence at #3 West Canal Street, upstairs of C.B.’s parents, Jim and Eunice (Locke) Hyde.
Four more children, and it was an army of nine, seven boys and two girls, to clothe and feed, while C.B. was employed as a mail delivery man at the Post Office. Through it all, mom was like our own Rock of Gibraltar, somehow making ends meet, while maintaining law and order among growing boys bursting with energy and sometimes clashing personalities. She always managed to hold the fort, until dad returned from work, to apply his cool, cerebral analysis, before agreeing with mom and applying the necessary corrective measures.
It helped when dad was promoted to Acting Post Master, and then Post Master General. And she was up to the challenge when Hattie struck in 1961, and later when she had to uproot her family and move with the four youngest to Belmopan when the new capital opened in 1970. But not before enduring the Supreme Court trial of her first born son, which ended in his acquittal of sedition in July of that same year 1970.
She never forgot her friends; some from Sittee River. Miss Mintas (that’s how mom referred to her) would occasionally visit and have a long chat with mom. We gathered that Miss Mintas had twenty children in Sittee River, but we never got her last name.
Miss Bertha Lewis from Water Lane’s Cubali Alley was a relative through her Escarpeta ancestry, and mom always reminded us of that when Miss Bertha would visit, or when her son Jarret or “Swapi,” who later sang in Santino’s Messengers, brought a message.
When mom and dad travelled to the U.S. in 1965 for a month to accompany our oldest brother Evan, who had received a U.S. Embassy scholarship to university, our Aunt Tencie Deshield took over the household until their return.
But, even with all the challenges of raising 9 children, Elinor had some fun along the way. Along with some of her female relatives and friends, they had what we called Canasta Night: a weekly card playing fiesta with a revolving home venue. And those ladies had fun; we kids, peeping through the curtains, could tell from the laughter, while we waited to clean up on the leftovers after they had bade their goodnights.
Her greatest pleasure was the happiness of her children and grandchildren, and holidays at the caye was when Elinor was most in her elements. It was a lot of hard work, and she had to step back in her later years. Nevertheless, she especially enjoyed the early morning swims with family members when the water was cold.
The annual Easter and school “summer” holidays that ran through the 1960s and 1970s were spent with various branches of the family and friends at Spanish Caye. There, the young men learned the ways of the sea, and to fish and dive and provide daily sea food for all on the island. And mom was always there, putting in work, and enjoying as much as she could, until pressed into duty behind a kneading bowl, baking on a fire hearth, or frying pan in the kitchen. And mom was a fantastic cook. Her special conch soup, crab soup and baked red snapper are legendary among those who were lucky to partake. Creole bread, powder bun, beef liver and T-bone steak were the best. And then there was the one and only ginger beer she made every Christmas, a recipe she said came from Papa Bill.
Dad’s best friend, Telford Vernon, had shared the construction of a wooden house on Spanish Caye, and both families were regular holiday visitors along with other relatives and guests that made a Caye visit part of their Easter or July-August itinerary.
Another very good friend, Pat Cacho and his family also once spent a week with us at Spanish Caye. (Pat called dad last night to share his condolences.)
It was Paradise for us young ones, and her satisfaction was seeing our joy. A mother’s love.
But, through it all, whether it was going to Jamaica to see granddaughter Vanessa get a leg reconstruction done by Professor Golding in 1979; or travelling to Arizona to “baby sit” grandson Daniel while her son Ronald and wife Bern were both at Medical School; or bearing the burden of loss of her third-born son, Michael, with many unanswered questions in 1976; and losing her fourth-born son, Stephen, to mental illness a couple decades later; and caring from time to time for a host of grandchildren; she gave her all, and she did it with fervor and love.
What more can we ask? In her last days, we could only ask that mom not suffer the pains she often did. After all the work she did, the love she gave, we could only offer her all OUR love, and beg her not to feel put out by all our efforts to make her comfortable.
When the end finally came, our dad summed up the moment: “She is in a better place.” Who are we to argue? Mom, your love will live in us forever. All we can do is pray: Lord, please give this woman Your perfect peace. She deserves all that only You can give.
Elinor Wilson (Belisle) Hyde
Born: September 16, 1924
Died: June 18, 2020