Me Han Ful


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The calendar says March 1977. Belize was still a colony then. That’s the year we, my family and I, arrived. Not many people living in rural areas had electricity. There was only Radio Belize and everyone had a picture that was printed at the Government printers in austere black and white, of George Price hanging on their wall. Village life was simple and mothers were at home taking care of their children, that is the mothers that didn’t go to “the states” to try to find a better way of life leaving the granny to take care of the children.

There were few fancy things. The Marley on the floor was an exception. I, as the artist, have a special feeling for this Marley. I could have painted it with a pretty floral pattern in soft rose and white with little bits of yellow and green as accent colors. But I wanted to make a statement. You see, if some new rolls come in and you happen to be there, you get the best colors and the nicest patterns. Otherwise, you take what is left, those designated for the “cheap sale”, the items that no one else really wants. Now, I can assure you, Rosalie’s favorite color is not pea green and she has much better taste than this floor covering would indicate but sometimes you just take what you can get and make the best of it.

That is also pretty much the origin of cow foot soup. A struggling mother had to feed her children and the cow’s foot was all the meat she could get. Turns out, you add some onion, cassava, garlic, salt, pepper and thyme and you have just created the national dish. Little Henley is considering the collection of food stuffs on the side board, particularly the blood oozing from the cow foot and wondering if he will be required to eat it. He is too young to appreciate the magic of his mother’s hand, that of taking the most unsightly and even cast off items and making something not only delicious but nutritious as well.

Notice however, the fullness. The pot is full. The bread pan is full. The flour sack is full. The wood bin is full and yes, the belly is full and the hands are full.

I believe some Christmas to come, Rosalie will paint inside her house bright blue or maybe pink and make some new curtains as well. The cat won’t get away with stealing cheese off the table and the toys will all be picked up and put away. She will have a proper closet to hang her clothes instead of a broom stick for a rod in a corner. For now, though, she has to plan for the new baby. It will be soon, very soon and then it will be even harder to keep up with everything.

The best mothers, as often as not, without a man to help, know how to make the glass half full rather than half empty for their children and everyone else that depends on them. They can take the condiments and ingredients of life, the pain, joy, good times and bad. They know how to make the best of it and what is finally put on the table will sustain them.

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