The caption my sister used for this photo in her Facebook album is "ladybird books what have traveled the globe."Ladybird Books is a UK line of first-books-for-kids. These were ours when we were small, and travelled the globe they have. In this snap, I see our early childhood years -- England, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Canada -- and of course the emphasis our parents put on reading. I'm the eldest; our mother read to me all the time, and says I was reading on my own by the time I was two.
Our family history includes the story of our gutsy Mum, who left Trinidad at 19 to become a nurse in a big hospital in London. This photo was taken on departure day. That's her younger sister Beulah, on the left; their mum and our grandmother, Apo, in the floral dress; and Mum, sharply dressed, utterly polished (wow, 19 sure looked different back then).
In England, Mum met our dad when she was in her mid-20s -- apparently Dad had spotted her in church and spent two years trying to meet her. About a month after that, though, they were engaged. Eight months later they were married, and soon moved back to Trinidad, where I came along a couple of years later. In the above photo, we're back in England, at Dad's childhood home in Surrey, south of London. I'm two. That's Mum, and Karen, just 8 days old. I probably have a bunch of Ladybird Books already; I'm about to learn how to share.
Now we're in St. Vincent; we moved there when Karen was two months old. Sister is the cutest toddler ever. Mischief-face.
We lived in a house in an area called Cane Garden, in Kingstown, St. Vincent. The hillside house had a huge balcony -- that's where we are in this photograph, taken in May or early June, 1972. Karen is just over two. Apo (we pronounce it app-wah) is holding our new brother Simon. I'm nearly four.
This is one of my favourite photos from St. Vincent. My sister's face is so animated -- she has such big eyes -- and Simon's nappy is huge. It was a time before Pampers. How cute are those pjs?
Outside in the front yard in Cane Garden. I haven't a clue as to why I'm so dressed up (gah! bow!) while Karen isn't. She's three, here. I'm five. By now I'm reading stories by my favourite children's books author, Enid Blyton -- Ten-Minute Tales, Fifteen-Minute Tales, The Naughtiest Girl in School, The Twins at St. Clare's, The Adventures of the Wishing Chair, and later The Famous Five (the five find-outers and dog!) and The Secret Seven. Blyton was my J.K. Rowling. Sister is not yet into those books.
Cute overload: my little sister's pigtails and cheeks kill me in this photo, taken in the house's carport. You can see my Dad and his camera reflected on the bumper (lower right) of the family Fiat 124. And that's my self portrait on the chalkboard.
This is in Trinidad, at Mum's childhood home on Nelson Street in Port of Spain. I think this was a visit on our way to Canada in 1976. Apo is feeding us something we call chook -- better known as congee. One of my favourite things in the world. Funny to see Sister having some here. She detests rice. Simon's trying to escape. He's nearly four at this point. Karen is just five; I'm a few months from seven. All our books are packed in crates and enroute to Toronto.
2085 Islington Avenue, Etobicoke. Apartment 802. Our first home in Canada; we're on the balcony here. Simon is about five, Karen's around seven, I'm nearly nine. Shortly after this we move to Thornhill, and within moments of arriving at 180 Dudley Avenue, Mum whisks us off to the neighbourhood library to check out the books while the movers unload the truck at home. Simon, though, stubbornly refuses to read. When he's seven, Mum tries to bribe him, $1 per book, 40 books in the box. He refuses the bribe. And oh, we get a new brother, too. Four kids, each born in a different commonwealth country -- I call us a commonwealth family.
This is my little sister Karen, who with one little iPhone photo on Facebook sends me back years and makes my heart smile. She took this photo of us too, at her friend Pamela's wedding a couple of years ago. She still has such big eyes, great brows despite having used scissors to cut them buzz-cut style when she was 12, and of the two of us is the more voracious reader. I think her Kobo Touch is one of her most treasured possessions; Mum also has one. As for our childhood Ladybird books, they're part of Sister's treasure collection too.
True about a photograph being worth a thousand words, huh?