During 1981/82 while Alida was doing her residency, two significant developments had taken place in the extended family. Firstly, Kiah had left in August for Canada to start his degree in Geography, and Safira had been transferred back home to set up a branch of the National Library Service in the town.
Mr. Coburn and Nurse Pauline, who had joined forces to become a more powerful team of community promoters than they had been as individuals, had turned over one of his properties as a gift to house the library; and Miss Millicent, with Jerome’s agreement, (as heir to the contents of his grand-father’s library) had released a large amount of Teacher Bertram’s archival collection and rare books for use of the town’s people, especially the students of the two high schools and ecumenical junior college.
Then, in January of 1983, after Neville’s second birthday, Jewel had made the unusual request of Jerome that they have another baby to help occupy her time now that he was so often away. This had been a cause of some sadness for him, knowing of Jewel’s long-suffering and patience over his ever-increasing absences, as well as his helplessness in relieving the situation.
Naturally he had agreed, and by February she had become pregnant; and, when a second daughter was born in late November, he had spent his full two weeks’ annual vacation leave at home with the family, not returning to work until the second week of December.
Jewel had generously and graciously suggested that they name the little girl after my sister Belinda, knowing how much it would mean to Mama, representing as it would the complete reconciliation of her youngest child and her cherished “fourth son” after the dreadful episode of the custard apple so long ago.
Safira and Belinda became her two godmothers and Virgil Lucas her godfather; and here is where a little excitement entered our lives. As usual, Nigel and I were a regular feature on these occasions, to which this time were added my sister and her husband and two children. Then Nurse Pauline and her husband Mr. Coburn, as well as her sister Miss Enid, who had made the christening garment, combined, along with Miss Millicent, Jewel, Jerome and the baby’s siblings, to all celebrate the small and intimate christening of the couple’s second daughter.
My reference to excitement had to do with the behaviour of the godfather towards the younger godmother, two painfully shy individuals. Virgil, a man of action who rarely conversed with anyone of the opposite sex besides his mother and aunt, and Safira, who at thirty-one had never had a boyfriend, had had a strong and noticeable attraction to each other! They had found things to converse about as she held the sleeping Bel (as we all, except father and Aunt, called her almost immediately) in her arms. It was a practice of Teacher Bertram’s family not to indulge in pet or nicknames.
Since returning home Safira had become active in the life of the community, gaining confidence from her ability to provide guidance to the now fairly large student population of the town. She became close to all the members of the extended family, even influencing Nurse Pauline’s youngest charge, Aloysious Vernon, to visit the library’s reading room, where she helped him to learn to read and coached him in civics and general studies.
She formed friendships with the Language and Literature teachers, especially, of the subjects like debating and essay-writing, showing initiative in encouraging inter-school competition.
She and Virgil met regularly during parish activities and shared their personal reading material back and forth, engaging in discussions and consultation, soon beginning to quote each other’s comments and opinions, giving rise to teasing by their families and siblings, with Lucille and even Abel participating.
“So, what does Virgil say about what is happening between the boys’ and the girls’ teams in the debate about who can bake better bread? No doubt he wants the girls to win because of you, but you ever hear of a female baker yet?” they would ask; while the shy Safira, within the family environs, had not been afraid to remind them that her friend had been privileged to taste all her mother’s baked goods!
Jewel’s children, particularly the two older ones, became very attached to her and spent time visiting between the two homes, becoming practiced in walking the two miles distance between them in record time.
When they finally announced the bans in church to get married on September 29th of that year, on his birthday, everyone in both families was greatly pleased and immediately started planning and making recommendations for the event, remarking on who should not be left out, etc., and others making sharp queries as to whether they thought this was going to be a bazaar, since they had become so popular?
The couple very wisely turned the planning for the wedding over to Miss Enid, his mother, and Nurse Pauline, the custodian of her father’s estate, who, not surprisingly, carried it off with great finesse, leaving everyone satisfied.
(Chapter 58 in Friday’s issue of the Amandala)