Our Present Past (1)

“So what do you want to know?” she enquired.

“Everything,” I replied.

She chuckled. “Okay.  How much information do you have already?”

“Bits and pieces.  There’s a newspaper clipping  …”

“What does it say?”

“According to Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam who wrote an article which was published in the Morning Star, a young man named Kadirgamar Danvers from Tellipalai was baptized into the Christian faith in 1835. The villagers, angered by the conversion, burned the local church down.  Danvers fled to the village of Panditherruppu, where he met and married Anna Saveriyal.”

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A clipping of the article by Rev. Donald Kanagratanam published in 1981 in the Morning Star (courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam).  The Morning Star was the oldest English newspaper in Jaffna, established by the American missionaries in 1841.

“There was a lot of missionary activity in Panditherruppu at the time.  They were more tolerant towards the converts,” she explained.

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The American Mission Church in Tellipalai, Jaffna (prior to civil war damage and reconstruction)

 

“According to Rev. Canagaratnam, Kadirgamar Danvers and Anna had seven children.  One of them was Solomon Danvers,who trained as a medical practitioner under the famous Dr. Green of Manipay.  An old Bible geneology that came into my possession recently, makes mention of only four offspring.”  

 

The children of Kadirgamar and Anna Danvers (as recorded in the Bible of Solomon Samuel, their great grandson) –

  • David Danvers (married Harriet  Theivanei)
  • Solomon Danvers (married Thangam Vethanayagam)
  • Jane Elizabeth Danvers (married Joshua Perinpanayagam)
  • Gabriel Danvers (married Mary Santiago)

 David Danvers (son of Kadirgamar and Anna) married Harriet Theivanei.

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Victoria Harriet (Theivenei) Danvers  (courtesy Vasanthi Narendran)
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1. Gabriel Danvers and wife, Mary (nee Santiago)     2.  Gabriel’s son and wife – Alfred Muttiah Danvers and Archimuttu – with their daughter                         3. Albert Seevaratnam Danvers and his sister, Muttamma, children of Gabriel’s brother, Solomon Danvers (from notes by the late Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The children of David and Harriet Danvers –

  • Mary Chellammah Danvers (married Vethanayagam Samuel)
  • Elizabeth Annamma Danvers (married Jacob Arumainayagam)
  • Rebecca Ponnamma Danvers (married Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam)

 “Mary Chellammah married Vethanayagam Samuel, who was your great grandfather,” she said.  “Her sister, Rebecca Ponnamma, married Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam. Samuel Alfred’s father was Joshua Perinpanayagam, who married Jane Elizabeth Danvers, (the daughter of Kadirgamar and Anna), David Danvers’ sister.”

My head begins to swim in a muddle of recurring last names …

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Mary Chellammah Samuel (nee Danvers) (From the archives of Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)
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Rebecca Ponnamma Perinpanayagam (nee Danvers) (far left) (1901 Uduvil Female Seminary matriculation class. She obtained a Queen’s Scholarship on the results of the Calcutta Matriculation examination.  Her mother and she were among the earliest batches to graduate from Uduvil Girls School, established by American Missionaries in 1841) ( Courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam)
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Samuel Alfred and Rebecca Ponnamma (nee Danvers) Perinpanayagam (courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam)
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Samuel Alfred Chelladurai Perinpanayagam, at age 25 (born 1872)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Ah … so that’s the Perinpanayagam connection.  And Rebecca Ponnamma Danvers and Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam were first cousins,” I commented.  “There’s a link to the Newtons, too, I noticed …”

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Family tree notes from the files of S.E.R. Perinpanayagam (son of Rebecca Ponnamma and Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam) (Courtesy Thavo Perinpanayagam)
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Samuel Alfred and Rebecca (Danvers) Perinpanayam with their children and Rebecca’s mother, Harriet (Theivanei) Danvers (from the archives of the late Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)

“There have been Danvers/Perinpanayagam/ Newton marriages over a few generations,” she replied. “My mother told me the old stories.  Now I can pass them on to you and they won’t die with me. I’m so happy you are doing this.” 

Her eyes grew misty.

I’m visiting the Colombo home of Aunty Paranidhi, Mum’s cousin.  We’ve just met for the first time.  She responds with ease to my barrage of questions  …

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Aunty Paranidhi, a goldmine of ancecstral history.  I managed to snatch two more visits during my brief stay in Colombo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My journey of inquiry commenced shortly after Mum’s funeral in 2015, when I came across a battered copy of a formal family portrait from the 1930’s.

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The photograph that began it all.  Shadrach Samuel, wife Mercy (nee Newton) and their children, taken before the birth of their youngest child, Elizabeth.  Left to right: Ruby, Pearl, Dan (seated), Peter. Beatrice is the toddler held by her father.

Faded photos on relatives’ Facebook pages – fascinating pictures of men and women from generations gone by – fanned curiosity to a compelling flame. 

The search began. 

I embarked on a voyage of e-mails, long distance calls and some stamped, addressed pieces of snail mail. Pictures, obituary notices, genealogies and newspaper clippings poured in from all corners of the globe.  Through Facebook introductions, Whats App texts and hand-written letters, relatives contacted each other on my behalf, and people I’d only heard of by name leapt onto the ancestry bandwagon.

An inundation of images and information descended on me.  Tantalizing clues, fascinating glimpses into a bygone colonial culture and whispers of a skeleton or two in the ancestral cupboards. Riveting.  The stuff bestselling novels are made of.

The first stop on the trail led me to Wellawatte (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Aunty Paranidhi.  Her eyesight is almost non-existent, but her mind is razor-sharp, her recollection flawless. I see pieces of my mother in the facial features.  The family resemblance is evident. 

My pen flies across the pages of the notebook I balance on my lap …

“So Mary Chellammah – David and Harriet Danvers’ daughter – was given in marriage to Vethanayagam Subramaniam Samuel.  He was a farmer who owned land in Urumbrai – 

Vethanayagam Samuel and Mary Chellammah had six children –

  • Rebecca Chinnamah (married David Sinniah Kanagaratnam)
  • Subramaniam Chelliah (married Annam)
  • Shadrach Chinniah Samuel (married Mercy Sugirtharatnam Newton)
  • Elizabeth Thangamma (married Godwin Wesley Sittampalam)
  • Anna Chinnathangam (married Albert Kanthapoo)
  • Solomon Chinnatamby Samuel (married Mercy Atputhanayagam Gnanaratnam)
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Subramaniam V. Chelliah
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Rebecca Ponnamma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elizabeth Thangamma
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Shadrach Chinniah
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Anna Chinnathangam
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Solomon Chinnathamby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Aunty Renee found handwritten notes in her father’s Bible  – that’s the Bible I mentioned.  She sent me scanned copies of the geneologies recorded on the fly leaf.  My heart almost stopped when I saw how the entries confirm the details set out in Uncle Donald’s article.  Just imagine, how information from a source in Australia confirms the data acquired from another source in Western Canada! Within weeks of each other.  It has to be providence!”

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Handwritten family records from great uncle Solomon Samuel’s Bible

“Your interest is inspiring,” she commented. “No one seems to care about these things these days. Renee is Solomon Chinnathamby’s daughter. He had ten children.  She is my first cousin.”

 “Yes, I know. I remember great uncle Solomon Samuel and the annual Christmas visits to his home in Mutwal. 

“Anna and Solomon were twins,” she continued.  “Shadrach Chinniah was your grandfather.  Anna Chinnathangam was my mother.  And Rebecca Chinnammah was the mother of Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam who wrote the article you told me about.  He was my cousin and your mother’s.”

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Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam (standing) with his sisters and mother, Rebecca Ponnamma

“According to the genealogy in the Bible, Anna Saveriyal – Kadirgamar Danvers’ wife – was a Bible Woman,” I noted.

“Bible women worked among the women in the village.  They visited the homes, shared the gospel of their faith and cared for them,” she explained.

“I remember your mother,” I said. “We called her Asai Granny. She came to stay with us once when I was about seven years old.  I remember the glasses and the white hair knotted at the back of her head.  She taught me how to make a rag rug with strips of leftover material and a hairpin.  I never forgot that.”

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Anna Chinnathangam (Asai Granny) as I remember her

 

 

 

Aunty picks up the threads of her narrative …

“Vethanayagam Samuel, a successful farmer, wanted more land.  After the birth of his two oldest children, he relocated his family to Vavuniya in the undeveloped Vanni region of the northern province of Jaffna.  In those days, people of the Vanni were considered wild and uncouth, even the British avoided the area, so land was dirt cheap. Samuel disposed of his property in Urumbirai, and with the proceeds from the sale, invested in several acres in Vavuniya. He built a house for his growing family and began to cultivate the land.

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Jaffna province in northern Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

Once established and beginning to prosper, Samuel encouraged his brother and family move to Vavuniya and make a new life for themselves. The brother sold his land in Urumbrai and purchased the stretch of property adjoining Samuel’s fields. The families became neighbours.

Vethanayagam Samuel distinguished himself as a prominent citizen and earned the respect of his peers.  He was appointed chairman of the village council, which was a position of authority and responsibility.

The were no proper roads in the region.  Daily journeys on foot could involve traversing stretches of jungle inhabited by snakes and wild animals.  Legend has it that Samuel was skilled in the art of herbal medicine and would venture into the jungle in search of plants for his potions.

The farming life called for disciplined manual labour.  The older children, still all under ten, had to wake up at dawn each day to perform assigned chores.

Rebecca Chinnammah had the unenviable job of cleaning out the cattle shed.  One morning she pretended to be asleep and refused to be roused.  Her father, whose task it was to wake her up, finally declared, “If my child is really asleep, her feet will move.”

Rebecca reacted as expected and wiggled her toes.  She received a spanking for her naughtiness and was shooed out of bed to complete her daily task.

The twins – Anna and Solomon – were born in Vavuniya.  During the pregnancy, an astrologer made a grim proclamation.  He declared that the birth would not be a good omen and would bring about the untimely demise of both parents (Samuel and Mary).

Solomon showed no signs of life when he was born.  The midwife placed the tiny body on a banana leaf outside on the open verandah of the home and rushed back inside to attend to the mother who had gone into labour with a second baby – a twin – whose appearance was an unexpected surprise.  Rebecca, the oldest child, sat beside the lifeless form of her new little brother, shedding tears over the loss.  Providence intervened when a fly settled on the infant, who shuddered in response and began to bawl loudly as if nothing had been the matter. 

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Solomon Samuel in his twilight years.  He lived to a ripe old age and was known for his vigour and boundless energy.

Custom dictated that on the thirty-first day after the delivery of a chid, a traditional ceremony of cleansing (thudakku kaliththal in Tamil) must be carried out.  The woman who had given birth would take a ritual herbal bath and the house had to be washed and cleaned from top to bottom.

Vethanayagam Samuel and his wife were about to begin the task of house-cleansing when a message came from the village counsel.  Samuel was needed to arbitrate on a matter involving a dispute.  Samuel sent word asking to be excused. He requested that the vice chairman to act on his behalf.

A second summons came.  The matter was urgent, they said.  His presence was mandatory.

Samuel left home on the mission of mediation, assuring his wife he would return in an hour.  He conferred with both parties and reached a verdict.  The disgruntled man who hadn’t been favoured by the decision, reached for a weapon concealed in his clothing and struck a heavy blow.  Samuel’s head split open.  Never pausing to retaliate, Samuel re-tied his turban and headed home. Blood gushed down from the wound in his head.

He passed a pond (kulam) as he walked, and saw the family dhoby (washerman) scrubbing his way through a pile of villgers’ clothing.  Samuel stepped in to cool off and dipped his head in the water.  The dhoby, concerned to see how the water turned crimson from the blood, reached for some fresh-washed clothing spread out on the ground to dry.  Samuel shed his blood-stained linen, donning the clean sarong (veshti) and turban offered by the dhoby. He walked into the house to his waiting wife, stepped over the threshold and announced that he was ready to start cleaning. Then, barely pausing for breath, Vethanayagam Samuel collapsed at her feet and died.

In an instant Mary Chellammah Samuel found herself a widow with six young children on her hands.  Rebecca – the oldest – was 10, the twins – Solomon and Anna – were barely a month old.

Rebecca Chinnammah, a child herself, had to take charge of a brood of fatherless siblings while her mother attempted to salvage the pieces of their shattered lives.

(To be continued)

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Good Morning JOY!

Dear Judy,      

The sun glowed orange during rush hour this morning.  My heart sagged under a weight of joy and I slowed down to take pictures –  

I almost sent them off to you.                                         

Then I remembered …

I recalled a recent dialogue we had.

Me: Could I use these pictures of you, please?  There’s such a beauty about you that’s riveting.

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… and this one. (Judy wrote:that is Eamon reading a letter that I wrote to him. I love my bedhead look.”)
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I asked her for this picture  … (Judy with a mixing bowl and the rubber chicken she used as a ‘bell’ too summon assistance)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

You:  You can use every picture you want.  You don’t have to ask.  Surprise me!

So I’m surprising you today …

You: How long was your fight with cancer?

Me: The cancer battle was over a year and a half.  My oncologist calls me a success case (I prefer miracle patient).  I don’t look like myself in the picture, do I?  Within two weeks of your first chemo, the hair starts falling out and you mutate into someone else. I began to practice intentional thankfulness.  When gratitude seeps in, joy is not too far behind.  Those were beautiful, dark, lovely, intense and precious times.  God sends angels, as you know, in many shapes and forms.

You: I don’t look like myself anymore, either.  I was always on the go.  Now it is my mind that is on fast.

Enjoying the evening
What a girl! My friend, Judy, as she used to be.
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Judy (right) standing tall at 6′ 1″, with her mum and sister, Linda (left)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The aircraft commenced its descent into Halifax last Thursday afternoon and my thoughts overflowed with vignettes from your heart –                                                           

  • My mum sent the pink rose to me today … just because.  The Ford Escape is on the lawn because Cam wanted me to see it.  He just bought it yesterday as a second vehicle.  My wheelchair van rides low so it’s not practical for snowy days ahead.  I always loved a Ford Escape and Cam would drive a van.
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Her mum’s rose in a vase on the window sill and Judy’s view of the Ford Escape, parked by the hen-house.
  • We have a cottage on the Bay of Fundy and watch the tides go in and the tides go out.  Nature at its best.  September is a special time.  Most cottagers are only there on weekends, so the solitude and beauty is magnified.  My paradise …
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Her paradise – the cottage on the Bay of Fundy
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A serene spot to sit stare in a sky-blue chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your beloved Cameron –

  • Cam and our brother-in-law are re-shingling the back of the cottage.  It has been a  busy day.  For me, the moments when I can look out the window and see the eagle fly, sandpipers having their last meals before heading to South America and the magnificent clouds being reflected in both water and wet mud are highlights of my soul.
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Judy and  Cameron
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Judy and her beloved Cam on their wedding day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  •  Today it was 29 degrees and sunny,  so I went out in my wheelchair to enjoy.  On impulse I drove on my lawn around to my gardens to see the tulips and bleeding heart.  I felt free until my wheelchair got stuck in soggy lawn.  Resourceful Cam got blocks of wood and we managed to get out.  BUT my tires were full of mud.   Cam cleaned as much as he could off and them I wheeled myself in.  A flashback hit me.  How many times had I told the boys NOT to wear their dirty boots in the house?  Cam, patient Cam, has been working at getting the wheels clean ever since!!!

JOY was your three-letter codeword –

  • Went to the Festival of Lights today in Wolfville, where Cam and I met while going to Acadia University.  At the farmer’s market, it was all about Indian food and entertainment.  I got a dragonfly and the word JOY done with henna and several Indian silk scarves for Christmas gifts.
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Waking up to JOY on her arm each morning …
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 Henna tattos: dragonfly-and-JOY  (the dragonfly is the ALS symbol)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I am waking up immediately to JOY in the morning for the next couple of weeks.

 

  • What made my day?  My careworker this morning for 4 hours was Holly. Someone that previously had only been there for my half hour tuck-ins at night.  We were sitting at my kitchen table in the sun, when I asked her about her heart-shaped ring  … and that was my further joy for the day.              

You infused JOY into every moment, Judy, distilled, savoured, sipped on it, then infected the air you breathed and intoxicated those around you.

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… in Judy’s home
This says it all
JOY glowing on her front lawn and …

You: There is no such thing as coincidence. 

Absolutely. I agree …

You:  Maybe I came into your life to show you the other side of ALS.  The joyful side.

You did just that.  And you did it so well …

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Always smiling.  Judy (left) chose joy during her four-year journey with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)

Your boys: your pride and JOY – 

Our sons or Charlie's angels
Judy’s/Charlies’ Angels! The three Starrit brothers all grown up. 
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Judy’s JOYS: Cam and her sons
  • Tim is home. Happy heart.
  • Just got back from taking Tim to the airport.  What a lovely visit and a wonderful son.  He left such wonderful memories behind.
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Tim with his newest nephew, Henry
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Andrew and his boys  
  • Andrew came home on Friday and stays till this Friday.  Check him out on You Tube in the Hot Fireman ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  (Click here to watch  Judy standing at Andrew’s side as he takes up the challenge.)

 

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    Matthew visits at Christmas

    Matthew was home from Wednesday to Saturday.  Shared the big news that Laura is pregnant!  Be still my heart.  We are so blessed.

Those grandbabies –

  • Got a wonderful card in the mail today, with an ultrasound picture on the front and the announcement inside saying “It’s a boy!”  Our third grandson is due the end of October.  The Starrit genes were working again.  OverJOYed!!!!
  • He was born yesterday and all is right with the world.  8lb 11 0z of pure JOY! Yesterday was such an emotional day.  Waiting, wondering, wishing, praying.  And then the phone call came.  Rejoicing, heart exploding, celebrating our new JOY!  And then by 10.00 at night, emotional breakdown.  Thinking about what I will be missing in his future, but being so overjoyed he is here.  A part of me.
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Celebrating Henry, the newest JOY …
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Judy with sister, Linda, and tiny Henry
  • He’s Henry now.  Named after Cam’s dad.  We are still on our baby high.  Will be for quite a while.
  • Cam just stenciled a picture of him onto a pillowcase.
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Cam’s handiwork: Baby Henry-on-a-pillow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Tomorrow Andrew, Findlay and Eamon are coming for Thanksgiving weekend. I am beyond excited!!!

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    They’re here!  Watching for Findlay and Eamon through her bedroom window.
  • I have arranged for the pilot, Debbie, of the only plane that travels to Sable Island, to come and speak about her experiences.
  • I took pictures, but my hands were unsteady with excitement.
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“Starfish or a shell?” (Pilot Debbie engages the kids in discussion)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandad, Grandma, Findlay and Eamon
“Smile guys!” (Gramps and Grammy with Findlay and Eamon)

 

 

 

  • Eamon just messaged me.  Andrew is taking them to a movie.  He likes to keep me informed.

Your sister —

  • Tonight Linda comes.  Any minute now.
  • Linda is here and we are going to listen to the sixth CD of the Book Of Joy, a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu.  This is our sixth Monday night doing it …
The Rhuda girls
Sister Linda (right) with Mum and Judy

… and the whacky, wonderful friends –

  • My friend, Mary, and sister are coming out to play a card game called Quiddler.  A weekly event.  I am on a winning streak.
  • Mary brings muffins for Cam
  • My tree is trimmed and …
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The tree is trimmed … (in Judy’s living room)

 

 

 

 

 

… the Wild and Woolies are coming at 4.00.  Laughter will abound.

  • The Wild and Woolies have been getting together for over thirty years
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“Wild’s the word: wool’s the game!”  (The Wild and Woolies, Judy’s crazy rug-hooking gang at her Celebration of Joy)

 

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Laughter abounds. Judy with Wild and Woolly Pal, Jean
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The Wild and Woolies hooked a pun-ny Christmas gift for Judy:  JOY TO THE WOOLED

Don’t forget the goats

  • Andrew and Cam have just taken the goats up the hill for a walk.    If we let them loose too close to the house, they would eat all the flowers coming up …
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Playing the giddy goat … Cam at her bedroom window
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Goats-on-a-quilt. Judy’s handiwork …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I always have flowers in my view.  I even got flowers for Father’s Day!

 

 

 

 

Gotta be kid-ding – goats at a wedding?(The “kids” are included in Andrew and Shantel’s backyard nuptials) …

… and the chickens (of course) —

  • Just had the chickens playing the xylophone at my window.
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Chicken serenade.  Pecking a little tune.   (JOY on the windowsill)
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Cereal inducement.  Cam scattering cheerios on the keyboard of a toy xylaphone! 

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  • Homecare just arrived, but chickens come first!

 

On living with ALS –

  • I have a whole new view on listening.  My boogie board is my voice now.  People don’t wait until I finish writing and assume what I’m going to say and rush off to do their own thing.  Also, they read it wrong, and I have to get their attention and underline a word or words.
  • It cost less than $30 at Costco.
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Judy’s “boogie board”.  She used a tablet-type device to communicate.
  • I WAS a talker!
  • I do most of my writing on my phone now.
  • I am using my BiPAP for about 20 hours a day.  It gives me the freedom of not having to think every time I take a breath.  The strength in my hands has diminished as well.  I will NOT let that keep me from living a full life but it has put limitations on what I can do.  ALS sucks sometimes.

Sucks? The beast stinks …

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Judy: Bipap to breathe, crimson manicure and loads of laughter.
  • Thank you, my dearest friend, for caring so much

You have no idea how much, Judy …

About the annual ALS Walkstrong fundraising campaign

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Judy (right), active spokesperson and ALS Awareness campaigner with Kimberly Carter (left) of the ALS Society of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
  • Success.  Beyond resounding!  My mind is still going.  Still walking.  Still enjoying yesterday.  There were 59 people, including care-workers, friends and family on Judy’s Joys.  I am blessed  Truly blessed.
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Judy’s Joyful Angels – one of the  teams representing Judy in the ALS fundraising walk – and …

 

 

 

 

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… Judy’s Joyful Jewels

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Took 5-6 days to get over the walk.  SO worth it!

 

 

We shared our rainbows, you and I —

In your home …

… in mine –

You: We are definitely sisters from another mother.

There’s no doubt about that!

You: The physical meeting somehow eludes us, but we are so much beyond that.  We are so much closer than that.  What we have done for each other is beyond friendship.     

Me: Can’t wait to meet you, Judy.  It will be odd, though.  Kind of like having a first date after being married for a year!

You: I, too, want to meet you!  If I could, I would be on a plane now.  But the other side of reality is that I know I won’t be travelling by plane anymore.  Too many uncertainties. 

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Just a text away.  Judy used pictures, video clips and GIFs to express herself.  They were dead on and often hilarious.  (Bottom left, her Facebook profile picture.)

You:  Wish, wish you lived nearby.  Always thinking about you.

Me: Me too.  I love how Cam cares for you, love the chickens, love the red bike.  I even love your ghastly puns!

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Flowering bicycle planter (painted red by Cameron)
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Hilarious hens partying at the window

 

 

 

 

 

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The lady loved her puns. One of the many groaners on Judy’s Facebook Page

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

You: Our friendship goes much deeper.  I needed you as much as you needed me.  You took me outside of myself.

  • By the way, Cam is going to mail a parcel to you tomorrow.  No parcel from you yet.  Tomorrow.

Your parcel arrived by express post on December 23rd.  Icicles dripped off the eaves as the mailman hopped from one foot to the other and blew on his hands, while I hastily inscribed a signature on the electronic board he held out to me.

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DREAMS made from Scrabble pieces  Hangs by my desk to inspire me as I write.   

Such a treasure trove of thoughtful things inside …   

         

Me:  Did you make the Scrabble ornament?  Love it!

You:  Bought it at the ALS sale.

Me:  It was meant for me.

You: I found your DREAMS, didn’t I?

You sure did!

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We called on Christmas Eve, before heading out to church.  Husband, Daughters and I sang We Wish You A Merry Christmas on speakerphone.  Cam said you raised your arms in delight and crossed your hands over your heart.

On Christmas day we shared cameo moments.

You sent me –

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Joy on the Christmas tree
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Mum sipping a cup of yuletide tea

and I sent these –

  • Isn’t this fun?

Absolutely!

  • Our house was always the ‘go to’ house at Christmas.  I used to make rolls and shape them in the form of wreaths and Christmas trees.  Decorate them, of course, and wrap them in clear, cellophane with fancy ribbons.  That is a thing of the past now, but Christmas still comes and goes!

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

I sent you a song on Saturday night.  It came with my heart.  Your response set my heart ablaze.

Click here to listen

I picked up Cameron’s message on Sunday afternoon.  You crossed over an hour after we last messaged each other.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Cousin Preman met me at the airport and drove me to the afternoon and evening visitations. 

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Joyful Judy moments up on the  screens at Knox United Church

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Judy’s JOY all over the church foyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met Cam and Linda, Mum and your boys.  And the Wild and Woolies, of course.

Linda told me she’d packed my Christmas box of  goodies for Cam to mail.  She recognized the necklace I wore.  

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Wore it to the funeral.  The breast cancer ribbon necklace from my Christmas box – celebrating survival
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Judy’s sister, Linda, at the evening visitation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I laughed with the Wild and Woolies.  Such stories they had to tell …

It felt like I’d known your friends and family forever.

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Your final farewell on Friday was one immense celebration of joy.  The church was packed.

An unusual, uplifting occasion.  You planned it all yourself, Linda said in her tribute. 

Your beloved Bhangra Boys danced their hearts out.  

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Judy’s Maritime Bhangra Boys performed 

(Click here to dance with Judy and her Bhangra Boys, on her birthday last year.)         

I picked up my tea bag and one of your dainty, embroidered white hankies on my way out.

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There was a tea bag ‘party favour’ for everyone, with Judy’s instructions to have a cup of joy with a friend and an invitation to take one of her lovely old fashioned handkerchiefs to be used to wipe away tears of joy and sadness.

 

 

 

 

(Click here for photos and video clips of Judy’s funeral Celebration of Joy)          

 

 

 

 

It felt strange to visit your home on Saturday.  To walk up the ramp and knock at your kitchen door. 

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Cam and Mum on the volunteer-built wheelchair ramp 
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Judy’s hospital bed (from which she took many pictures), all neatly made up, will be donated to the ALS society.

 

 

 

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Google Earth view of her home posted on Judy’s Facecbook Page

 

 

 

 

 

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Cameron with Andrew (left) and Matthew.  Tim had left for the airport

Joy all over the house, pouring from every corner.

Cam and I sat in your room.  We chatted like we’d known each other forever. 

My Christmas package finally made it out to you after New Year’s, he told me. Two days before your final departure.  Cam said you smiled when he showed it to you

He showed me your rubber chickens.  I peeped into the henhouse on my way out.

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Cam with the rubber chickens. Judy used them like a bell, to summon assistance
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Had to check out  the henhouse.  An infrared light keeps the cluckies warm in the winter

You wrote three months ago: PS:  Oct 11 – went to my regular 3 month appointment with all the specialists today.  They are all pleased with how I’m doing …

 The only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability, isn’t it?

 ……………………………………………………………………………………………….

I’m sipping, as I remember and write, from the mug I found nestled in my surprise Christmas box.               

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From my Christmas box.  Life sure surprised me with you, Judy.
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From my Christmas box.  The dragonfly is the ALS symbol

                            

 

 

 

 

The dragonfly brightens my kitchen window.  I love how it begins to burn when the sun seeps through.           

We never said ‘hello’ in person, Judy.  I never got to write about what I discovered in the bombed out jungle graveyard in Tellipallai, Jaffna.  This was not how our Dear Judy travel series was supposed to end.

I’m thankful you found this blog and reached out in joyful friendship.

(Click here to read how we met)

Thank you, my courageous friend.  You are proof that a purpose-driven life does not necessarily embrace a bed of roses. You were a true and unique gift.

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RIP Judy Starrit, my amazing, inspirational friend. 
  • Loving you from afar. Love, xx Judy

I love you too, Judy …

We’ll meet face-to-face.  On the other shore some day, when my own journey’s done. 

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He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nopain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 RSV)

 

              

 

 

 

 

 

 

His Master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the JOY of your master.” (Matthew 25:23 RSV)

Until then,
sincerely

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              THUMBS UP ! Like this Facebook Author page: Click here

Good Morning (Again) Colombo!

Dear Judy,      

Splashes of butter and blood met my eye when I looked through the kitchen window, just two weeks ago.  Time to put the terra cotta flower pots away in the garage.

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View from kitchen window two weeks back.  The Virginia creeper blazed up and down the fence as the morning sun buttered the landscape with gold.

                                   

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My friend Judy Starrit (centre), who lives in BeaverBank, Nova Scotia.

                                                                                               

 

 

 

 

So summer’s officially done.      

I messaged you two months ago: What can I bring you from Sri Lanka?

You replied: Send me pictures of your culture.

Puppy had the usual anxiety attack. Suitcases are a rotten omen, as far as he’s concerned.  

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Puppy hoping to halt the packing process. 

I decided to visit Dad later in the year, to avoid the hot season.   Got fried last April.

Texted Aunty Rom  (who’s not really my aunt!): I’m arriving in Colombo in two weeks. Looking forward to our morning walks.                        

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Aunty Rom, my stalwart walking companion.  This birthday card she mailed on one of our morning meanders never reached its destination.     

The familiar sense of homecoming as the plane touched down on the tarmac. I’ve spent more than half my life away from the motherland.

Sinhalese words came diffidently to my lips, then slid out with fluency. It takes my tongue a few minutes to get acclimatized.

Dad’s driver was waiting outside.  He cranked up the air conditioning.  The roads were congested, though it was still early in the morning.  

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Vijitha, Dad’s faithful driver and general factotum

 

 

A bewildering sea of highrises punctured the sky around me.

Colombo is currently the fastest growing metropolis in Asia, I’ve been told …

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The Lotus Tower (new since my last visit).  A Chinese investment.  The tallest free-standing structure in Asia.  

 

 

The Lotus Tower , dominates the skyline.

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City of Colombo growing upwards for as far as the eye can see

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Higher and higher …
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View from my friend, Angali’s balcony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NO LIMIT.  Sure looks like it …

Rush hour traffic is in full swing and Dad’s just waking up when we get home.  

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Dad’s home
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Dad’s halfway up. Never thought the parents would adjust so well to condo living. 

 

 

Everything’s spick and span, crisp linen in the guest room, a fresh breeze and the sun streaming in through the open balcony doors.

A resounding emptiness, though.  A sort of hollow ache  as the eye alights on an empty rocking chair, the laptop idling under a dustcloth and the vacant seat beside Dad’s easy chair in front of the  living room TV.

It’s been two and a half years.  Hard to believe.

I missed Mum’s embrace, her radiant smile.

 “How are you, my darling girl?”

Latha had prepared pol roti and katta sambol for breakfast.  

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Pol roti (coconut flatbread) and katta sambol (a fiery mixture of dried red chillis and raw onions). A carb-laden breakfast favourite.  Homecoming heaven!

Yum …

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Latha, Dad’s cook/ housekeepeer

 

 

 

 

 

Dad drove us to Independent Square in the evening to catch some fresh air.  I struggled to keep awake.  

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Independence Square, where the who’s who of Colombo go to keep fit, see and be seen

This is my Dad, Judy.                                        

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Dad enjoying a quiet moment under a banyan tree by the walking track at the old racecourse. 

He was a strikingly handsome man in his day. 

Independence Square is a great place for people-watching.  I got unobtrusively busy with my camera.

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A place for  lovers …
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… and loners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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… and quiet reflection
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Backpack and burkha
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Caption: My Shirt Made a Difference (It did.  I paused to take a picture of it)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daddy and his princess
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Secrets of childhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A moment to breathe
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Palm trees in silhouette.  Twilight shrouds Independence Square.  Time to go home for dinner. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A change of scene the next evening, when Dad headed for Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park).  An imposing statue of Queen Victoria appears to have materialized out of nowhere.

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Queen Victoria’s Statue (purloined from where it had been dumped decades ago, after independence) restored to its original spot just before the recent Commonwealth Conference. 

There’s a different ambiance in this space, besides the gnarly, mammoth trees, probably planted in Victorian times —

…  it’s the lovers cuddling beneath the colossal branches!

For as far as the eye can see …

Maybe because someone forgot to put up a sign like this one —

Tongue in cheek, of course …

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Sign set up at the old racecourse: This is a place of National Significance.  Keep Discipline

Around six o’clock, dusk begins to fall and uniformed decency police appear to guard the morals of the nation. The amorous pairs are shooed out of the park.

Don’t laugh, Judy.  I’m not fibbing – honest!

Three-wheeler tuk tuks swarm all over the city like a plague of locusts.  They are the quickest and most precarious mode of transport in this traffic-choked city. The captions adorning the bodywork often had me chuckling —

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“City Boy” — as opposed to … Country Boy?
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“Don’t touch my heart” (scroll in to see the words)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“God bless you”
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“I am strong to carry you” (I certainly hope so!)

 

 

 

 

 

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“Bad Boyz 008” (Like James Bond 007?)
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True liberty is to be A free of viceses (think they mean VICES?)
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Pirat 

 

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So why is this one stuffed into the open doorway of an empty showroom?

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The door hasn’t been installed yet, so for overnight security …

Still good old tuk tuks are the go-to mode of emergency transport, I’ve often resorted to myself.  A wild ride.  Kids find it a hoot.

Uber is the latest trend, though, and so much cheaper with heavenly airconditioned vehicles …

I was up all night for the first ten days,  Jet lag kills me.  It gets worse with the passage of time.

The early walks with Aunty Rom were my day’s highlight. 

In spite of these urgings –

and the necessary tools left lying around —

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Road sweeper’s ekel broom on the sidewalk,  leaning against a tree 
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Garbage collector’s handcart 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… and these willing workers

— the streets looked uncared for, garbage piled up in corners, picked over by crows and stray dogs.

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The instructions are pretty clear
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Check out the mess under the sign …

 

 

A disappointing regression since the government changed hands.

The supervised disposal of crow’s nests has been abadondoned, Aunty Rom tells me.

Animal rights activists or government cutbacks.  Don’t recall  …

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Mama crow guarding her nest. These raucous scavengers are becoming a problem again. 

The morning walks energized me, Judy. I began each day embracing the essence of the city with all its quirks and complexities.    

I remember this woman from last year —

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This gentle homeless woman has a puppy in her arms today.  
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This was her last year with just the one dog. (Click here : Good Morning Colombo! for story)
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Aunty Rom and me as the sun rides highter
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Dawn over Colombo city.  My favourite time of day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The homeless slumber on –

… and the dogs —

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The stray dogs – all mild and minding their own business –  have increased in numbers since I was last here.  A troubling threat of rabies.
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Abandoned coverlet and water bottle.  Someone just woke up

Vigorously cleaning business premises —

At the bus stop. To school and work –

And so the day begins –

Early morning moments –

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Beggar freshening up at public tap
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Maid going to work at the big house
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Young vagabond with electricity in his eyes …
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Dust pan and broom seller
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Newspaper delivery – motocycle and …
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… by bike. (Sarong tucked up high)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of my favourite moments, captured just for you, Judy –

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Walking his employer’s dog
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Happy to pose for camera lady
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“Where’s that wife of mine? …”
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“… where the heck is she?
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Lady in red 
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“Just dropped in at the temple …”
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Jaunty three-and-a-half-legged dog …
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… pausing to check out a pile of garbage before hopping merrily on its way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Whats App, Doc?”

The streets at peace half an hour before morning mayhem breaks out –

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Peeping Tom
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Laurel and Hardy. These billboard pasters came rolling up and spilled out of a tuk tuk ..
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… and asked to pose for a second picture, pot of glue and all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Graceful lady cop
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Flock of nurses off to work
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What’s in the hand?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Breakfast from the corner vendor

 

 

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“Hey, thanks for the brekkie money!”
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In a mighty hurry
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Shoolgirls packed like sardines into a private van.

Business is brisk at the food truck –

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At the corner of Dad’s street

Aunty Rom and I pass these two every  morning –

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Determined walker. This one means business, down to the nifty running shoes
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On her way to work?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aunty Rom pauses to pick up her newspaper –

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A moment to chat with the vendor.  English newspaper, please.

From time to time she suprised me with a detour.  Like the time we popped in at Uncle Chandi and Aunty Christine’s home and sat for a while chatting.

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Aunty Rom with Uncle Chandi and Aunty Christine (not my uncle and aunt!), aunty Rom’s cousins and my cousin’s in-laws.  I met them for the first time last year when we ‘dropped in’ during one of our walks.  
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Uncle Chandi’s  lovely garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I acquired a new aunty when I took this picture last year. 

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Her name is Welai.  Met her at the corner store by the church, early one morning last April. (Click here for the story in Good Morning Colombo)

Found out later that the smiling woman was the employee of Aunty Rom’s friend, Sharmini.

Only in  Sri Lanka …

Newest aunt, Sharmini, invited us both over for breakfast one Tuesday morning. Aunty Rom and I walked over.  We’d been Facebook friends since the photo incident, and met face to face for the first time today.

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Aunty Sharmini (right) in her beautiful home (with Aunty Rom)

Warm, generous Sri Lankan hospitality …

Welai had prepared a delicious meal of pol roti, chicken curry and spicy, accompaniments. Fresh bananas for dessert.

So good …

She was all dressed up to meet us and quite overwhelmed to encounter the camera lady once again!

 

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Welai, feeling shy, in her Sunday best.  All dressed up for Aunty Rom and me

New aunty has a lovely Secret Garden.

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Aunty Sharmini and Welai at the entrance to the Secret Garden. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welai looking coy and posing in the garden wearing her regular work clothes!

 

 

The sun rode high in the sky.  Too sticky to walk.  Aunty Rom and I took a tuk tuk back home.

The next week,  Aunty Rom, New Aunty and I went to breakfast at the Commons Coffee House, steps away from new aunty Sharmini’s home.  

Scrumptious cheese toast with good friends, all because I made a random click on my I Pad …

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Singing in the rain.  Aunty Sharmini (left) and Aunty Rom outside Commons Coffee House, Cinnamon Gardens.  

 

 

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Sri Lankan Menu (Commons Coffee House)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some mornings Aunty Rom surprised me with a different route (to feed my appetite for photography), pointing out stately homes.  Many of them are commercial buildings now.

The remaining single unit homes lurk behind high fortress-type fortification walls and iron gates.

A handful old mansions still remain private residences –

… a couple of them in varying stages of disrepair.

Love how flowers and foliage create waterfalls of colour along walls and from balconies —

Destructive love language along the sidewalk …

Architecture and construction accommodate behemoth trees –

The iconic Cricket Club Café has changed locations. There seems to be some confusion as to whether the old location is for sale —

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FOR SALE proclaims this gate …

… or not!

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NOT FOR SALE declares the gate at the other end.  Didn’t notice till Aunty Rom pointed it out.  Someone can’t make up their mind!

Paradise Road Galleries on Dad’s street has been torn down –

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The rubble of Paradise Road, a classy tourist shopping spot
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Took this pic last year

 

 

 

 

 

to make way for yet another highrise.

Found time to browse at Dean the Bookman’s secondhand store – 

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Discovered Dean at the Saturday pola (farmers’ market) at Torrington Square last year.  Bought this copy of short stories by Guy de Maupassant
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A 20 volume collection of Dickens novels, over a hundered years old, on sale for Rs. 20,000 ($200 Canadian approx)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the old colonial cemetery where we buried Mum two and a half years ago, Judy.

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Kanatte Cemetary.  I never saw it as a place of beauty until now

I’ve just discovered the beauty of  the old memorial monuments.  Wonder why I’ve never noticed before. I was almost tempted to stand in the sunshine and recite Victorian elegies, surrounded by discoloured Italian marble gravestones.  Some of the sculptures are really quite exquisite.

China is pumping money into this country. Thousands of Chinese construction workers are swarming all over the city of Colombo. 

This is the future Port City, a Chinese enterprise –

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View of Port City from lighthouse.  Reclaimed land, stretching fifteen miles out into the sea, leased to China for ninety nine years. 

The ocean at Galle Face, where generations of Colombo dwellers came to relax and enjoy the fresh, salt air is gone.  The Galle Face Green where you could fly kites, buy a cone from the Alerics ice cream van and have a ride on a sad, mangy pony, barely exists anymore.  What’s left of it is all withered and brown.

Not sure how smart an idea this Port City is, politically speaking …

Slave Island is the dizziest hub of construction in the city –

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The star of them all is the Leaning Tower (Altair building).  By day …
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… and by night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sights and sounds of Sri Lanka, Judy, are very much like India, with a lot less people, of course, and not as colourful.  And less dirt, I suppose.

The varied face of Colombo fascinates me –

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Working girl carrying her saree with grace
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Beggar commencing his day

 

 

 

 

 

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Woman and street dog: crossing the road in opposite directions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shoe shopping
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Cool dude!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Cheque, please!”

 

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Dapper gran’pa …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Texting and walking

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flexibilty of the Sri Lankan woman is pretty amazing …

Umbrellas, come rain or sun —

Tried my hand at rainy day photography.  Quite pleased with the outcome –

The street of my childhood grows less recognizable each time I go back.

Uncle Gerry and Aunty Doreen’s home is one of the few original houses in the old neighbourhood.

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Uncle Gerry and Aunty Doreen at their front porch. The last of the original homes.  They lived two doors down from us. She was one of Mum’s close friends.

A highrise is under construction on the premises of  #13 where my old home used to be located —

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A highrise at #13, stomping on memories of the past

I’m embarrassed to admit that lunch become another highlight of my day.  Latha excelled herself –

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Red rice and curry accompaniments.  Three meals a day, served up on Mum’s Noritake dinnerware, with linen napkins and everything.  I packed on the pounds fast!

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I miss the leisured  simplicity of life as it used to be when I was growing up.

Change is inevitable of course.  It just took longer coming to Sri Lanka …

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Sidewalk strewn with temple flowers (frangipani) before the sweepers get going
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Betel juice.  An ungenteel ‘provincial’ habit that needs to change. Red spittle on the sidewalk from chewing betel leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The old Parliament building from colonial times

 

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Colombo lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

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Galle Road in Sinhalese, Tamil and English.  The city’s main thoroughfare, leading all the way down to Galle down south

 

 

 

 

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View from the lighthouse

 

 

 

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Little Lion ice cream from Top Shelf.  Consumed copious quantities of it as a girl!

 

 

 

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New concept.  Hindu temple (golden dome visible) atop a highrise.

 

 

 

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… and Elton John!

 

 

 

 

 

Judy, have  I mentioned the research I’ve been doing towards writing a  book on Mum’s ancestry?  I chased clues all over the city.

Felt like a character in The Da Vinci Code

I spent fascinating hours with Mum’s cousins and some distant relatives I’d never met before –

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Aunties Daisy and Sybil (real aunts!), Mum’s cousins with old photograph albums. 
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Mums’ cousin, Paranidhi.  Met her for the first time.  Went back to visit twice more.  A fount of old family history and intriguing insider stories.  

 

 

 

 

Heard some incredible stories from the family archives, gathered a goldmine of information and tons of old photos.  A  mountain of notes to be transcribed. Almost wore my hand out writing in longhand as fast as it would move!

So when Daughters enquired (during a Whats App phone conversation) if I was bored, I answered: “No, I create my own adventures.  There’s a new one every day and I can barely keep up with them all!”

The plan was for Husband to fly out from Toronto and join me after two weeks. While talking on the phone before he arrived, we decided, on the spur of the moment, to visit the Jaffna peninsula together.  This area, a war zone for decades, is where our ancestors hail from. 

With only days to go and a specific cut-and-paste tour in mind, I had to figure out how to make it happen.

Then I remembered … Jungle Fowl!              

Jungle …what?                                                                           

I’ll tell you all about it in the next post. 

Until then, take care, my friend. I intentionally recorded every detail of this trip just for you, so you were sort of travelling along with me, you know.

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Judy with  her grandson, Eamon, and JOY on the windowsill
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My friend, Judy, chooses to live out her diagnosis of ALS with joy.  She is an inspiration to everyone she encounters.  Click here to read Judy’s story in Love Those Bhangra Boys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I’m thankful for you, Judy.  You inspire me to keep living out joy, because joy doesn’t depend upon external circumstances. It comes from within.  

Love always and thinking of you, my friend,

sincerely

p.s  Woke up to our first snowfall this morning.   Oh Canada …

Just got a text from Aunty Rom.  She wrote:  A few days ago, I met the dog lady.  She said the puppy had been run over.  I was happy for her, so she didn’t have to find food for another mouth. This morning, she had another, carried in a box!

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When We Were Very Young

“My dear Beatrice …” Mum read aloud from the letter in her hand.

Postman has just delivered the mail …

Sister and I dared not meet each other’s eye. Bit our lips to keep from giggling.

“I don’t think you will recall me.  I was a friend of your cousins, Daisy and Rosie, and have met you in their company on a few occasions in our young days.”

Mum’s voice rose to a squeak.  “I write to you now regarding my son …”

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Some mother’s boy …

Sister and I held our breath.  Our lips trembled with mirth.

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Hmm …

“He is a good boy.  Very sober and steady (no vices whatsoever).  He graduated as a doctor …..”

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Mum’s eye popping out of her head …
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So his mother says …

Sister swallowed hard.  Her shoulders shook.  I covered my mouth with my hand.

“We have heard about the goodness of your daughters.  People all say they are good and smart, clever girls …”

No vices whatsoever/ the goodness of your daughters … good grief … who even writes like that?

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And so the letter went (in sister’s heavily disguised handwriting ) …
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From one mother to another …
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Sis and I barely contain ourselves …

 

Mum eyes continued to scan the handwritten lines. “I would be so happy to hear from you regarding this matter if your elder girl is still unattached.  My friend, Mrs. M. tells me she is 22 years of age.  In fact, your sister, Ruby …”                    

I’m the ‘elder girl’ …

“You may remember the times we shared as children.”  Mum began to look puzzled.

Her jaw finally dropped when she came to the end of the letter.  “PS:  We prefer a spacious house in Colombo with garden and attached baths.”

Dowry details!  Eek …

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Who better than a boy’s fond mama to take the bull by the horns …

We could almost read Mum’s thoughts –

What cheek!

 “I don’t remember this lady,” Mum mumbled almost to herself, and ran to the phone to dial Aunty Ruby’s number.

Hello, how are you dear? I just received a strange letter … sounds a little eccentric … who are these people?”

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Definitely not!

Sister and I held our sides and roared.  We laughed ourselves into stitches.

It all began some months before, when a close school friend of Mum’s asked if she would contact a certain family (who had an eligible son) regarding a formal proposal of marriage for their youngest daughter.

Girl in question was pretty, a recent university graduate, now on the Marriage Market. Parents were anxious to have her fixed up and settled.

True story, honest (down to the phraseology)! Absolutely no embellishment …  

Older sister of said Young Lady got entangled with Completely Unacceptable Young Man and eloped when well-to-do Daddy refused to give his consent.  Daddy disowned her.  A year later, when First Grandchild was born, Starving Couple were ushered back into the family fold.

Get the picture? God forbid that history should repeat itself, right? Okay, so stage is set …

Mum obliged and our home served as venue for introduction between Sweet Young Thing and Very Acceptable Beau.

Cousin Ranji was staying over that weekend.  She, Sister and I eavesdropped from behind the drawing room drapes.      

No TV in Sri Lanka then.  This was far better, delicious entertainment, served up on a platter …                         

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Me (left) and Sister (centre) with Cousin Ranji, possibly that same weekend. 
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We had too much fun to miss TV when we were kids.  (Pic. of Daughters celebrating 12th birthday at Disney World)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young Pair sat at one end of the room to get acquainted.  Mothers made small talk close by.

Recipes and stuff …

Two dads at farthest corner.

Mum and Dad sat in on the powwow – being it was their home and all.  Awkward …

Things suddenly grew ugly.  Raised daddy-voices.

Dirty dowry matters …

Young Man’s father haggled for more. 

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What Girl’s Dad said …
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What Boy’s Father hoped to hear …

Sweet Young Thing’s father finally agreed to throw in a lorry along with the house and land.  

Or something like that  …

Cousin Ranji, Sis and I are horrified. 

 We’ve travelled back into antiquity …

 Deadlock.  Evening concludes in chilly huff.

But no one counted on Young Pair falling madly in love.    

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Definitely! Head over heels for each other …

Completely unexpected turn of events …

Now unacceptable, Young Man contacted and romanced Sweet Young Thing on the sly.

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Was it ever! Boy, oh boy …

 

 

 

 

 

Mum politely declined when asked to intervene.

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He won’t!

Sweet Young Thing phones to weep on Mum’s shoulder …

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Persistent suitor 

Romeo and Juliet elope to overseas destination.  Daddy disowns Little Girl, then throws arms wide open when she returns from honeymoon with baby on the way.

 Yay!  Forgive and forget …                                                                         

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They defiantly tied the knot

Found out later that Rejected Romeo and one of the cousins were co-workers at the time of Nebulous Nuptial Goings On.  They were  quite good friends and  I’d met him at one of her birthday parties.

Only in Sri Lanka …

…………………………………………………………………

Found an old scrapbook of letters and cards written by Sister, cousins and me when we were children.  Carefully dated and captioned by Mum.     

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Mum was sentimental about everything.  She would have kept every birthday and Christmas card she ever received if Dad hadn’t protested.

Sis and I wrote little notes and longer letters all the time.

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Me (left) with Sister.  Probably born with a pen in my hand!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About everything.

Hilarious notes from Sister …

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Thank you for being so kind.  Please buy peppermints! (No idea why she asked for prayer …)
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Forgive me for being so rude.  I am very hungry … (Looks like she went  to bed without dinner.  Don’t recall the incident.)
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I fell ill today.  Feel very much down in the dumps.  (Sis was a precocious little thing)
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From me. My dearest Mummy … Written while spending some days with Cousin Dili at Aunty Ruby’s home.  The younger cousins all went to Sunday School together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mostly to Mum.

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Sister’s handwriting

 So when it came time to play a prank on a long-suffering mother, inspired by              recent events, one would automatically resort  to letter-writing.

“My dear Beatrice …”

Poor Mum.  We teased her unmercifully and she was always such a good sport about it.  Don’t think Sister or I ever ‘fessed up or divulged the source of the written proposal of marriage that once came my way.        

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We kept out lips sealed!

Dirty deeds!

And now I’ve two daughters of my own.

Full circle.  What goes around surely comes around!

The memories flooded in when eyes wandered over the yellowed sheet of notepaper taped to the fraying page of Mum’s scrapbook.

With sister’s heavily disguised handwriting on it.  She must have figured it out …

Thankful for Mum’s sentimentality that induced her save all this stuff.

Pure gold …

Like these home-made cards from her nieces –

A definite artistic bent in the family …

 — and the self portrait I drew.

A fairly good likeness of my gawky pre-teen self …

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The unflattering self portrait!
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The real bespectacled me with Sis (and Dad inside car)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sister needs to work on her spelling in this one –

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S ..EPRISE!!!

Golden memories.  A sweet, mellow time.              

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Strolling down the quiet corridors of memory lane ..

When we were very young …

Until next time,

sincerely

 

 

 

 

 

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Birthday Cakes and Secrets

On the first family trip to England, Mum had us pose in front of Buckingham Palace while she attempted to take a picture of Dad, Sister and me against the backdrop of the Changing of the Guards.  

The guards had changed and gone their way by the time the picture focused to satisfaction. Sister and I  teased her about it for years to come.

Smile please …                        

Everyone was using pocket cameras.  Sis and I were embarrassed by the ghastly contraption Mum still wielded with pride!

We flew on to Singapore where Dad bought us girls a Kodak Instamatic with disposable flash bulbs.  

Colour pictures … yay, finally!

Shudder to think of the environmental impact from all the used  flash bulbs we gleefully dumped in the trash can.

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“Smile please,” for the Yashica, at the Trevi Fountain, Rome.  Me with Dad and Sister (centre).  Have to check if Sis has the Palace picture (without the guards!)
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Dad, Mum, me (in rising order) on moving escalator in Zurich, Switzerland.  Instant focus with the new Instamatic captured moving subjects.  A new era in family photography.

Mum discovered the joys of photography around age 12 when she got a gift of a Brownie camera

She still had it when Sis and I were kids …       

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Kodak Brownie.  A later version of Mum’s camera. (Courtesy Google images)

Mum’s crisp black-and-white photos display an instinct for capturing the ‘moment’ and an unerring eye for placing and composition.

When sister and I were little, Mum acquired the Yashica, also sort of box-camera-ish

Sleeker, less ‘primitive’,  more sophisticated  …

It took ages to focus with Mum staring into the open Yashica ‘box’ in her hands, at an upside down image. 

She’d  murmur, “Smile, smile” through fixed grin and puckered brow, our features remaining in frozen limbo until we heard the click and a cheerful ‘thank you’!

Felt like forever!                                                                   

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Mum’s Yashica (courtesy Google images)
Latest in modern technology! Kodak Instamatic with disposable flash, wrist strap and film

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum often said she wanted to get an ‘unawares’ shot.

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Preoccupied with underwear. What Sis and I thought we heard Mum say.  We’d go into hysterics! 

Sister and I heard … underwears! 

We hadn’t the foggiest notion what she meant.

 

 

 

 

 

She caught us unawares all right.  The delightful album-memories bear testimony to the fact.

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Puzzled.  “Okay, so what IS it?”  Little sister and me with oldest cousin, Sri. 
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“Did you hear that?”  Sister (right) and me
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Sheer joy, unawares.  Sister (left) and me with Dad.

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Mum’s was the era of stay-at-home mothers. Those who were in the professions were nevertheless the proud masters of the housewifely arts.  They cooked, sewed, hung for hours on the telephone with other women, shared recipes, discussed the current price of important commodities like sugar, rice and eggs, wrote lengthy, polite letters and never forgot birthdays and anniversaries.

At family concerts we kids ‘did’ Mum and aunties talking on the phone …

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Me pretending to be Mum on the phone with one of her sisters 

When Sister and I got married, we each received a special gift from Mum.    An album of photographs – mostly black and white photos and some washed out Kodak and Polariod colour pictures – each one tailored to document our lives from birth to early adulthood.

All meticulously labelled …

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A gallery of our early lives, with love from Mum.

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 With Mum’s unexpected passing two years ago, I lost my best friend and discovered a treasure trove of old pictures while cleaning out cupboards and putting things in order for Dad. 

Eyes popped out of my head as a pictorial record of family history unfolded …

Who ARE these folks? (Dad has no idea. Dying to know!)

Entered a new realm.  Memories of bygone days surfaced from boxes, dusty files and disintegrating albums.

Mum’s voice recounting fragments of family legends echoing in the recesses of my mind …

The past came alive in a way that didn’t seem possible.  Moments in time frozen on faded bits of glossy paper,  pictures worth  thousands of words.

Family.  Grandpas, grannies, aunties, uncles, cousins …                                                      

Cousins might not necessarily be immediate ‘first’ cousins.  Sometimes you might not be quite sure how you’re related!
Me (left) and Sister on a play date with Mali (centre), our THIRD cousin.  Her grandpa and ours were first cousins.
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Birthday parties – just the cousins were crowd enough. (Me, a baby in cousin Chris’ arms, far left)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weddings were a huge deal, grand affairs.  Guest lists could run into the hundreds.  Your parents’ friends and business associates and in-laws’ in-laws might be invited. And the neighbours, of course.

No fib. Honest!

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The workers from Mum’s family’s firm at her wedding.  They arrive bearing a gift-wrapped china dinner set  (I own it now and use it on special occasions)
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Dad and Mum’s wedding

Little girls were dressed to the nines in scratchy, organdy dresses often ‘smocked’ by hand,  with stiff  ‘can can’ skirts underneath.  A nightmare to sit down in.  

Detested those cancans …

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Cancans and bows for Aunty Elizabeth’s engagement party.  Sister (left) and me outside Westholme, Kinross Avenue, Mum’s family home.

Engagements were solemn, formal family affairs, with a priest/ minister to officiate.

Pretty much as  binding as the marriage ceremony itself …

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All the cousins, uncles and aunts on Mum’s side at Aunty Elizabeth and Uncle Selva’s engagement.  Toddler Sister seated between the couple.  Cousin Shiro the only one still to be born.

You were as important to the aunties and uncles as their own offspring –

The aunties even cared enough to tell  you off as if you were their own!      

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She does!

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Sister (left) and me with Babby (Mum’s younger sister, Elizabeth), my godmother.  I lived with her family for two years while Dad worked in West Africa.  She sewed some of my clothes and treated me as her own. 
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Uncle Prince, my godfather, recently celebrated his 95th birthday.  (Mum’s sister Ruby’s husband).  He’d always visit, very late in the evening after work at his clinic,for as long as we were laid up in bed with sundry ailments.  He never billed patients who were financially in a bad way.  Treatment was free for clergy of all religions.

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Sister and me with Uncle Peter (Mum’s older brother) who lived with us for some of his bachelor years after Westholme, the old family home, was sold.  Sis and I hung around in his room whenever we got into trouble, until the situation cooled, knowing he would intervene if Mum hunted us down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chances are your best friend was a cousin, the one closest in age to you  –

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Me (lying on mat) and cousin Dileeni.  Besties since we were babes.
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Gotta have a sun hat!  Rarely apart.  Dileen (left) and me.

Such secrets you’d share!

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And she whispers in mine …
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I whisper in her ear …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You both could be flower girls together, several times over –

Two for the price of one!

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Little flower girls.  Dileeni (to bride’s right) and me at Babby and Uncle Selva’s wedding.
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Flowers girls again!  Me (left) and cousin Dileeni at Aunty Betty’s (Mum’s cousin’s) wedding
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… and again!  Dileeni (left) and me, experienced flower girls at our oldest cousin Sri’s wedding.

No need to wonder why Getting Married and Having A Baby used to be our favourite dress up games!

We created our own entertainment, inspired by the Enid Blyton books we devoured. An active imagination and a bunch of henchmen was all a handful of cousins required. 

We all loved to read.

No one called you a nerd or geek.  It’s what kids did …

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This little girl reminded me of myself as a kid. 
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Puppy posing with some favourites from my childhood
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Sister and me with my doll, Cynthia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endless doll’s tea parties – 

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Dileeni (right) and me
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Sis and me With Baby Cousin Shiro and my dolls Cynthia, Diana and Minerva (Mum named them, probably)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never seemed to outgrow the toys and board games.  Played with them for years.

Those were the days …

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Me with cousins’ toys.  We all shared.

Don’t recall ever being bored as a child.

Two cousins, Sister and I once crawled into our pretend kitchen, a curtained alcove under a desk space, to melt squares of chocolate over a burning candle.

Melted  chocolate is delicious spread over Marie biscuits …

We could have set the house on fire.

When best friend/ cousin set up a lab at home, you  followed suit. 

My lab sat on a rickety table in a corner of the kitchen …

Best friend/ cousin obtained test tubes from her dad’s clinic.  Litmus paper too.  And needle-less syringes.  She always shared.

We performed acid/base watch-the-colour-change litmus experiments with vinegar and lime juice …

There were those school-holiday cousin sleepovers, Monopoly games that went on for days, birthday parties and breathtaking birthday cakes –

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Sister and Me with my 7th birthday Humpty Dumpty cake made by Mum.  She handcrafted Humpty Dumpty out of parchment icing and painted him in with food colouring.

Rocking horses and fluffy pets –

Piano lessons and picnics, seaside frolics, Sunday School.  And cousins, cousins, cousins –

A kinder, gentler time, a different world.  No TV.  

Innocent and enchanted …

Though a late bloomer, I think I’ve inherited Mum’s love of photography and her desire to record the precious, never-to-be-replicated moments. 

And like Mum, I’m in less than a handful of photographs in my immense digital library!

So thankful for this gift of photo-memories from the past. 

Much to remember, much to write about.   That’s what next times are for.

So until next time,

sincerely

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Cousin Dileeni (left) and me.  Still close friends though we live at opposite ends of the world.

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Faith We Follow

“There was a crash.  The knife came down, barely missed my eye. Blood everywhere…”

I can almost hear Mum’s voice.  Wish I’d paid more attention to details.

Her tales often commenced with all six of us.  img_8482

Pearl, Ruby, Peter, Dan, Beatrice, Elizabeth …  

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“All six of us” (1976).  Seated (left to right): Beatrice, Pearl, Ruby, Elizabeth.  Standing (extreme left): Peter, (extreme right): Dan, the brothers-in-law behind their wives -(Left to right: Prins, Sub, Prince, Selva)

Mum:  So all six of us climbed into Babby’s cot with the cake Alice baked.  We found it on the kitchen table.  Just as Petes lifted the bread knife and said, ‘Let’s have a piece’, the cot collapsed.  The knife came down on my forehead.  It narrowly missed my eye.”

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Alice, the family retainer who helped cook and keep house, the hapless victim of boyish pranks.

Peter and Dan – Petes and Danma to us nieces and nephews – youthful villains.

Baby Elizabeth was Baba.  Babby to the next generation.

Me: (doing mental calculation) But Mum, if Babby was say … five, and you … eight, the others would have ranged in age from eighteen and under.  How could all six of you have squeezed into a baby’s bed – with a cake and knife?

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Gifted teller of jokes and stories,  writer, mimic par excellence.  Mum loved to laugh.    

 Mum’s a storyteller, not a mathematician.  It’s how she remembers …

Mum:  On Sunday evenings we had family prayers.  On our knees.  They went on forever.

Her eyes are brimming with memories …

Mum:  We quietly slipped away into the kitchen to have a feast.

Me:  All six of you …

Mum: Poor Alice.  No one listened to her protests.  The patties were for the visitors.  She made lovely patties.  We ate everything we could find and crept back to the living room, knelt down and folded our hands.

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They did!

Me: And No one noticed?

Mum:  No.  And E.T.S Aunty was so impressed by our piety,   we all got  toffees.  She said we were good children!

E.T.S Granny (always known by her initials), Grandpa’s widowed sister, frequent visitor, devout, determined lady, given to eloquent, lengthy prayers.     

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Lo-o-ong prayers

Mum:  One Sunday evening, Geo Uncle came to visit.

Me: At prayer time?

She’s chuckling …

Mum:  Petes used a coat hanger to start Uncle’s car.  We all climbed in.

Me:  All six of you …

Mum:  He drove to Geo Uncle and Malar Aunty’s house.  We ate all the goodies Malar Aunty fed us and drove back home again.

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George  (Geo Uncle, poet, man of letters) and Malar Perinpanayagam on holiday in hill country with Beatrice (Mum)  She spent a lot of time with them in their early married life.

Me:  And their eyes were closed, they were still praying?

I’m laughing with her …

 Mum:  He never knew!

Me:  And Malar Aunty?

Mum:  I don’t think she ever told him.

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Lest we forget!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Shadrach Samuel Esquire, aspiring businessman aged 32, won the hand of Miss. Mercy Newton of Chundikuli, Jaffna.  As legend has it, the friends of the sixteen-year-old bride called out over the fence as she walked past the schoolyard of the local girls’ school, on her way to church to be married.         

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Miss Mercy Newton, second daughter of Charles and Rose Newton of Chundikuli, Jaffna

Shadrach and Mercy set up home in Colombo, sleepy metropolis of colonial Ceylon.  

He founded the iconic engineering firm, Samuel Sons.  

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Samuel Sons, founded 1922.  70th anniversary commemorative mug.  Uncle Peter, an artist, designed the logo.

                                 

 

 

 

 

The union produced six children.

  A seventh, Mum remembers as Bertie, succumbs to an untimely demise as an infant …                                                       

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Shadrach & Mercy Samuel and offspring.  Left to right:  Ruby, Pearl (seated), Dan (seated) and Peter.  Baby Beatrice held by Dad.  (Elizabeth was born a year or two later)

Grandma Mercy died in her sleep at age 33.  Cause of death unknown.

Mum recalls asthma and a family history of heart disease  …

Rajes Aunty, seventeen-year-old bride, moved in with new husband, Thurai Perinpanayagam (Grandma Mercy’s cousin) to help take care of a brood of children, some of them almost her age. 

To this day, Rajes Aunty occupies a special place in all our hearts.

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Looking good!  Aunty Rajes Perinpanayagam celebrates 90 years (2015)  Husband and I made a detour on a summer road trip, to attend the surprise party at her son’s home in Connecticut

The siblings grew closer to one another.                         img_20150805_222918

All six of us …  

Grandpa Shadrack never recovered from his loss.  Well meaning aunties and clucking grannies suggested umpteen prospective brides to grace his hearth and mother the children.

Mum:  He always said, “There was only one woman for me.  God who took her away from me will take care of my children.”

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Grandpa’s was. (Photo of picture hanging in friend Evelyn’s home.  Painted by her niece.)

Me:  Do you remember her, Mum?

Mum:  Of course!  She was slim and pretty, darling, gentle, soft-spoken, a lady through and though. Always simply and tastefully attired. She was an artist, she painted beautifully.  I remember whenever she baked a cake, she let me stir the batter and lick the spoon.  I got a new dress every year, for my birthday.  She cut it out herself and made me turn the wheel of the sewing machine for her.  She used to call me Pambaram.

Me:  Pambaram?

Mum:  Because I was a tomboy.  I could never sit still.  It means spinning top in Tamil.  She played the piano.  On Sundays, all six of us would stand ‘round and sing hymns.

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Tomboy Beatrice.  How she was allowed to pose for a formal picture dressed like this is a mystery.

Me:  It must have been awful after she died.

Mum:   We had Daddy.  We loved him. He was strict, of course, but such a kind, generous man. He helped everyone.  Babby and I secretly called him Dixie Daddy from a song on the radio hit parade.  We giggled every time we said it.

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Dixie Daddy!
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Super Daddy Samuel …

 

 

 

Me:  Did you miss having a mother, Mum?

Mum:  Of course, darling.  On the day she died, I  asked God why he took my mummy away.  I was six.  Babby was only three.  I made up my mind to eat all my vegetables and grow strong, so I would be fit and well and never die and leave my children all alone.  But we had each other, it was a happy home.

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All six of us …

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Picture of Dixie Daddy on Mum’s autograph album
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1954.  Grandpa’s signature in Mum’s album:  S.C. Samuel.  He wrote:  “Let kind thoughts, words, wishes and deeds and the spirits thereof be ours and of those around us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Church was an important part of family life.

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St. Paul’s Milagiriya, Colombo, where the Samuel family worshiped and most of the children and grandchildren (myself included) were married.  (Mum and Dad in bridal car, Beatrice’s wedding, 1961)
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Dad at St. Paul’s after morning service on his 80th birthday (2016)

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And faith.

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Malar Aunty wrote in Mum’s album in 1955: “Behind life’s darkest clouds, God’s love is always shining …”

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As cousins, we have childhood memories of our mothers and aunts talking for ages on the phone.  Cousin Dileeni and I often recreated these conversations – to loud applause and gales of laughter – at family-gathering kid-concerts, 

“How are you, dear?” ” Did Alice come today?”  “Can you believe the price of sugar these days?”

They couldn’t do without each other.            

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Sisters:  (Standing left to right) Pearl, Ruby, Elizabeth.  (Seated)  Beatrice

Time marched on. 

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Pearl and Sub (Dr & Mrs J.T. Subramaniam)
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Ruby and Prince (Dr & Mrs R.P. Rajakone)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pearl and Ruby married their doctors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter and Dan sailed off to the United Kingdom to pursue engineering degrees.

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Dashing sportsman, artist, dreamer.  Uncle Peter (left) engineering student in  England. (1950s)
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A brilliant mind.  Uncle Dan (front left),  also engineering student, England (1950s)

   

             

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Uncle Dan never married.  There were whispers of a mysterious Swedish lady who  broke his heart.

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum kept house for Grandpa and played doting aunty to a growing circle of adoring nieces and  nephews.

They called her Bety …

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The tribe of Samuel grandchildren at Mum and Dad’s engagement party.  Waiting to be born: Sister and Me, and Shiro (Babby’s daughter)

Tragedy struck again.  Grandpa Shadrach died unexpectedly, after routine surgery.  He was only 63.  Mum was 19 years old, Babby just 16.        

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Newspaper clipping.  Obituary notice.

Shadrach and Mercy united in death, buried side by side ….

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Together forever, Shadrach and Mercy (Anglican Section, Kanatte Cemetry, Colombo)

Mum and Babby clung to each other –

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Beatrice and Elizabeth outside Westholme, Kinross Avenue, the sprawling family home by the sea
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Babby wrote in Mum’s autograph album:  “There’s no friend like a sister, in calm or stormy weather …” (Signed: Beth)
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Babby, an artist like her mother, probably painted this page for Mum
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Mum’s signature on her autograph album.  Her maiden name.
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Dr Elizabeth Samuel.  Congratulations!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter took over the headship of the firm.

Elizabeth attended medical school. 

Mum ran the family home for Uncle Peter, wrote wonderfully imaginative short stories that were published in the newspapers, taught Sunday School and created exquisite cakes for nieces and nephews, an abundance of relatives and friends. 

The artistic, thespian, writing/storytelling genes run strong in this family line …

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Grandpa was a man of faith, a praying man.

His example rubbed off.  Mum was a staunch believer in the power of prayer. 

I remember Sunday evenings with Mum at the old piano of her girlhood (now situated in her own home), singing the same beloved hymns she sang as a child.

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Mum taught Sister and Me this hymn

I remember us as little girls – Sister and I – kneeling by our beds as Mum taught us to pray.  I remember Mum reading from a book of devotionals, holding hands with Dad, Sister and Me (in our tiny school uniforms) and sending us off for the day with a prayer.

Sister and I often made fun, called her Saint Beatrice.

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Mum learned from Grandpa Shadrach. 

They prayed, things happened …

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Hanging in our home

               

I learned from Mum.  

Much older now, I’m an ardent            believer in  the mountain-moving      power of prayer.

 Faith we follow …