E-L-I-N-O-R (Elinor) Wilson Belisle, the youngest of Eva Lindo Belisle and Wilfed Belisle four children, was born on September 16, 1924. She married Charles Hyde October 13, 1946 and together they produced 9 children, 7 boys and 2 girls.
She took her marriage vows very seriously and devoted the rest of her life to her husband and subsequently her children. She literally waited hand and foot on him and much to the consternation of her brothers defended him at all time. My father Buck, to his dying day, remembered her telling him she had to “stand by her man”.
Because she spent her entire adult life as a housewife and never entered into the formal work environment, she felt she did not accomplish much. She was the most accomplished woman I ever knew. She could do anything and everything. She was Superwoman and a role model for the Belisle women. She was an expert at sewing and cooking but wielding a machete, hammer and saw was also part of her repertoire.
Auntie was also super intelligent, a fact for which her sons should be thankful. Boys get their intelligence from their mother since the intelligence gene is on the X-chromosome. She competed for and won a government scholarship to high school which was an extraordinary feat in those times. I recall her telling me she had to travel from Sittee River to Stann Creek town to take the examination, how scared she was and how intimidated she felt by the other candidates from town. She was reassured by her teacher who had accompanied her and lo and behold she passed and they didn’t. She came to Belize City to take up her scholarship and attended St. Hilda’s College.
Economics she could teach people a few things. She had many children and her husband had only a civil servant’s salary but they were properly clothed and fed. Auntie always had food and something ‘nice’ to give you when you visited and although her boys had voracious appetites, there was always enough.
She supplemented the family income by sewing. I remember watching in awe as with only a tape measure and scissors and a look at a style in a book, she would cut her cloth and fit you to perfection. She had people who would declare that only she could fit them. She would sew baby clothes and sell them. In those days, baby clothes was white dresses and the front would be embroidered or smocked very intricate and time consuming. She was ever grateful to her eldest son Evan for assisting her, he would buy trimmings for her and if she was short on money, he would tell her to sew something and he would go and sell it. She would also sew all her children and her husband’s clothes. In 1965, she went to United States with Evan and I remember Michael lamenting about having to go to a tailor to get his uniform pants sewn, they couldn’t do it like Mommy. Dashiki and Bush jackets she was a master at sewing.
She had five boys before she had a girl, so I always considered myself like her first daughter. I came in after her second son. In later years she told me she had sponsored my christening. Of course that meant that I had the fanciest christening dress and was the best dressed little girl. In the time when there were few ‘readymade‘ clothes, she lavished her creativity on me. Aunt Gladys Lindo from New York supplied Rita’s with trimmings and Granny Eva and Auntie would also get their supply. Granny Eva sewed my school clothes but Auntie did the Sunday dresses and hats. I don’t know how she did it but she had Christmas presents for all her niece and nephews. There never was a Christmas, I didn’t get a present from my aunt. Even after I was grown, If I didn’t get one from anybody else, I could guarantee that I would get one from her. When she travelled she would bring me back something. Her daughters might not have appreciated their fancy dresses but I loved and looked forward to getting all of mine.
School holidays would be spent at Spanish Caye. During the week only women and children were there the men came Saturday evening. All the children had their travelling bags that she would sew. Auntie and the other women would go fishing in a big dorey. She could paddle a dorey. Cooking and baking was an everyday occurrence on fireheart. Fried fish and journey cakes of which she had to make many, Nelson alone was good for a dozen, were daily happenings. She used her machete to cut coconuts chop wood and grass and clean her yard and garden.
Auntie did all repairs around the house. Painting, using hammer and nail was second nature. I think she did a woodwork course once, but that only formalized what she could already do. She was not a procrastinator, if she wanted something done timely and properly, like Joan of Arc, she found out she had to do it herself.
Auntie was a woman of great faith. She was christened a Methodist and though she married a catholic, promised her children would be Catholics, she never gave up her faith. She loved her church and looked forward to singing 10th songs and parading around the church. In her many battles with the Catholics, she stood firm. She believed in the afterlife and attested to at least two visitations. One from her father and one from her son Michael. The only time I have ever seen her down was after the untimely death of Michael. She recounted that while hanging out clothes in Belmopan, a butterfly pitched on her shoulder and she heard Michael telling her not to worry Mommy I am okay. After that, she was okay. She was not so fortunate with Stephen, he never gave her a sign. She talked frequently about being ready to die but we her loved ones were reluctant to let her go and she was prepared to wait for the Lord to call her.
Auntie was not materialistic. I never heard her covet anything. She had her priorities right. All her energy and resources were directed to the welfare of her family. She was happy as long as they were. The only entertainment I can recall are the Canasta parties that they would have rotating houses each week. My mother reminded me that she and Auntie were partners. There was Aunt Mae, Aunt Maggie, Aunt Edna and Ida Longsworth.
Auntie was a strong woman. Even though she deferred to her husband in most things, everyone knew especially the older children who was the boss in the house. When she took up a position she would not budge. She would listen to their discussions and impractical musings but form her own position. She was logical and practical and I think secretly she knew she was superior but didn’t have to let them know.
Auntie thank you for being an inspiration to me. Thank you for demonstrating the values that I should hold dear. Even though I tried to emulate you, I can sew but can’t cut like you, can’t cook and bake like you, I can hold my own with hammer and saw but not machete but I have developed other skill sets that was not of your time but I am sure you would have mastered them too. Auntie, thank you for being you. Go have your much deserved rest.