Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Monday, February 4, 2013

The marriage that made me

My parents were married 62 years ago today. Born 259 days later, it's easy to conclude that February 4, 1951 - or some day near to it - was my date of conception. Their honeymoon which was in Bombshell Bay (now Gaspar Grande) - accompanied by the customary lime of best friends and family - had to be aborted when Dad dived onto a rock and buss his head.

Cecil Wong Chong and Yvonne Assing, circa 1950
The wedding itself - on Carnival Sunday at All Saints on the Savannah - was subdued because my grandmother, Mummy's mother Ellen, was dying. I wasn't given her name, and was christened instead for an Irish nun at St Joseph's Convent who was one of the few teachers that impressed my mother. My sister, born one year after me, was given a version of Granma Ellen's name, Helen. My daughter was given Ellen.

So few photos remain from those days - and those that do are so faded, the faces little more than pale blurs. It is hard to discern what two young persons in their mid-twenties might have been thinking, far less feeling. How long did they know each other? One story had it that he met her when she was teaching English to Chinese immigrants. Did they go to the cinema together - he was an avid movie fan, loved westerns and war films. Were they good dancers together?

Was marriage an end in itself, the proper way to sanctify physical attraction, a departure, an entry into a world with a partner and helpmeet. What expectations might they have had of each other, or themselves. The husband's and father's job would certainly have been to provide. It would be the job of the wife and mother to make sure the home was comfortable and the children healthy and sensible. After they were married, or maybe after I was born, my mother stopped working at LJ Williams where she did secretarial work, and joined my father in the shop. She spent the rest of her life pursuing, organising, supporting his vision -  which was mainly about being his own man, making his name in business through farming - and then ensuring that five children could take care of themselves. Only once did she go on a vacation with her sister, without us; and we were lost for the three months she was away.

More than sixty years later, we agree that as parents they fulfilled their roles to excellence. The jury is still out on how happy they were in themselves, or together. Perhaps happiness is over-rated; be productive instead! Today, however, we remember the anniversary of their wedding day, and the union that produced five children and ten grandchildren.

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