From the Root to the Fruit: Rising Above Adversities
Shanae Cooper- Robinson
DayeLight Publishers, 2022
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From the Root to the Fruit: Rising Above Adversities is a memoir that documents my journey from nothing to something, struggle to triumph. It highlights my resilience and determination to rise above my numerous adversities without allowing them to be my doom. This book clearly outlines how I used my disadvantageous circumstances as steppingstones to discover my purpose. It promises to give readers the willpower to rise above their adversities, push beyond their limits and fulfill their God-given purpose.
Shanae is an award-winning public speaker, poet, Amazon best seller author, book reviewer, educator, and generativity strategist who believes in passing on her knowledge and skills to the upcoming generation. She is the author of From the Root to the Fruit: Rising Above Adversities. “Education is the master key for any door” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” are the philosophies that Shanae holds firmly.
I wrote this book after having the idea of leaving a legacy for my children. I want them to use the hardships I went through in life as reference points to appreciate what they have and take nothing for granted. I hope that they will utilize every skill and talent they have as well as allow none to be dormant or go to waste. My zest for writing this book was further stimulated by one of Denzel Washington’s greatest speech. The part that resonates with me the most is, “How many ghosts will be by your bedside to represent the unfulfilled dreams that you didn’t act upon?” Every time I hear this, I think about all the talents, skills, and knowledge I possess. Therefore, one day I decided to permanently ink my life experiences. This book documents just a mere fraction of all the things that I have been through in life. This includes my grassroots encounters and upbringing as well as my triumphs, achievements, and successes. It might also be called a book of resilience, dedication, or perseverance. My life experiences shaped me into the individual I am today. I have had numerous disappointments and belittling encounters in my earlier life, but I did not make those dissuade my dreams and aspiration. I took all my stumbling blocks and used them as instruments to complete my hurdle relay of life. Life has also given me many sour tamarinds and lemons that I have used to make tamarind balls and lemonade. All my encounters and experiences have helped to thicken my skin as well as build my character. Every step of the way, my God has been my constant guide, sustainer, and way maker. He opened closed doors for me that were welled in metal. I am forever indebted to Him. He filled the emotional and psychological gap that existed in my life due to the lack of love, care, and attention of a father. With divine intervention and a positive mindset, I coached myself out of the situation and insisted that I would never embrace that lifestyle or walk the path that would lead my children in a similar situation.
My Root Experience
“It isn’t where you come from; it’s where you’re going that counts.” —Ella Fitzgerald
Stemming from the bowels of poverty, from an early age I had the zest to change the norm. I was driven to be the change I wanted to see. I am from humble beginnings; dirt or dire poorness. I grew up in a household that was headed by my mother. She was and still is the most hardworking lady on this earth. Her work ethics are unmatched. She has six children (Julie- Ann, Andrea, Andre, Ricky, Oshane and I), and of that number, four of us were fathered by her; the daddies were not available. My father was absent from our lives. Mummy had to capitalize on opportunities; she worked odd jobs in order to cater to our needs because our wants could not be catered for. As a child, I could only fantasize about having my mother around in the early mornings and late nights. Her day started when ghosts were walking and would end when dogs were afraid to bark or were sleeping. From Mondays to Fridays, she went to do days’ work so we would not have to miss a day from school. On Fridays, she trod the lonely streets of Hopewell, Lundie, Taithwood, and other far places to get all sorts of bush or herbs to go to market on Saturday. Most times, because the journey was so long, when she returned, she would be so tired, weary, worn, and physically drained. I can recall many nights when she came home from those places, and I would have to pick the ticks that fastened to her flesh and rub the areas with alcohol. After that, I would pick the bushes that were in the mints and other herbs; I pulled crocus bag cords to tie them, then finally packed them on the roof so they could be kept moist and fresh by the dew. Additionally, if she got any bissy, I would have to scrape and then grate them. When I was through, my hands would be stained with redness and rougher than the coarsest part of steel wool. On Saturdays, I would accompany her to crossroad with loads, where all vehicles would commute to and from Darliston and Savanna-La-Mar (Sav). This was apparently five to eight minutes away from our home. Sometimes I would carry a bag on top of my head and maybe one or two in my hands. I never liked Saturdays because they reminded me of Labour Day, which was the day I did the most work. When mummy left for Savanna-La-Mar market, I had to clean the house, wash, cook and sweep the yard. Before my younger brothers went to live with their father, I had to be their caregiver when mummy went to make ends meet. I had to wash their clothes, insist that they take their shower, iron their khakis as well as take the chance cutting the young one’s hair. One day I was scolded for that. Whenever my mother went to market, I was so worried about her because she did not get home until about 1:00-2:30 a.m. Sunday morning. She did not have a phone because of financial instability. She commuted to and from some of the most deadly and volatile streets in Savanna-La-Mar, which included but were not limited to Russia, 12 Streets, Dalling Street, and Dexter; you name them, she travelled there at some point in time. Watching my mother while growing up as a child was very heart rendering. There was no limit to the things she did or the risky path she took. She never rested or stopped working. Looking back and having her here now, I really have to give God thanks because she went through “the valley of the shadow of death” and still managed to walk away unharmed and alive. I remember she shared once that she waited so late to get home from Savanna-La-Mar market that all the buses and taxis left her. Consequently, she managed to make it to Whithorn on a late Montego Bay bus. While being there, she was eager to get home, so she started footing it to Darliston, which was approximately sixty kilometers away. With the loads in her hands and on top of her head, she hit the road. While walking, a vehicle stopped at her feet. She looked up and realized that it was a jeep loaded with men brandishing long guns. One of the men uttered, “Lady, weh yuh a goh? Wha mek yuh a walk dis time a di nite? Come in the vehicle!” She was very much terrified and perturbed but later realized that they were soldiers.
Struggles After A Broken Home
I grew up in a very broken home. My sister’s innocence was taken at six years old. Shortly after that, my mom lost her sanity. At that time, my youngest brother was a baby. My mother made many court appearances. For each court appearance, she was dumb; nothing could come out of her mouth. That went on for months until she lost the case, and the rapist walked away as a free man. Our home was shattered. The incident affected us emotionally and psychologically. So much transpired; we had to migrate, and it was at that point I went to live with my grandmother, then aunt. Growing up with a single parent was beyond hard for my siblings and me. We were forced to leave our childhood home because of that distasteful situation. Mummy was roaming the streets with a baby boy on her head in the rain and sunshine—up and down—but God watched over them and protected both she and the child. Our home was broken; my stepdad went his way, and my mother went hers. We stayed with our grandmother back then. It was there I felt the full wrath and length of hardship. My granny had a one-room board structure home. She used a lamp, cooked on a wood fire, washed with pond water, and stored drinking water in a bucket or drum before wall tank and black gallon drums were quite affordable. I spent one-third of my life at my grandma’s house. She sent me to school. While I was there, things were painfully rough. I had one uniform, one panty and a white blouse to wear to school. Every evening after coming from school, she would wash that blouse, ring it dry using even dry clothes, and put it beside the lamp in the night so the heat would dry it for the next day. I had to wash my underwear to have it for school the next morning and go bare or wear shorts. Gran could not afford the price for school lunch, so she had to prepare her own cooked meals such as turn cornmeal, callaloo cooked with custard, bread sandwiched with home-made guava jam, and quenchaid or lemonade “suck-suck.” We had no refrigerator, so we had to buy ice from the shop and corned (salted) all our meats. We could not afford supermarket items or to buy in bulk, so we went to the shop every day to buy a pound of flour, sugar, rice, little oil in a clear bag, or a stick or ounce of butter. If she had enough money, then we would buy either a quarter pound of saltfish or a half pound of mackerel. Like my mum, my granny was into the market “gallanging” as well. I had to adjust to that. My most memorable days were watching her leave for market on Saturdays before day at 3:00–4:00 a.m. She used her torch lamp made from bottle, kerosene oil, and gleaner or tissue paper, and sometimes “moonie” or “shineshine” would be placed in a clear bottle. Unlike my mother, gran went to market very early and returned soon, by the latest 8:00 p.m. My expectations of her coming from the market was very high, since I knew that she never disappointed me, not even once. She would never come home without her tan-tan bread, a bag of “buss mi jaw” aka donkey corn, police button, candy, and her coconut, peas, and a piece of pork or chicken to cook her Sunday dinner. Life was hard, but looking back now, I can say it was nice. While living with my grandmother, even though I was young at the time, I felt much hardship and the pains that were associated with it. I have looked at her weary face at times, trying to make ends meet, mastering survival skills, and thickening her skin against the odds presented. When I was with her, my thoughts and mind were with my mother. Shortly after, I went to live with my mother as her sanity recuperated. After all that happened, we left our childhood house for good. Consequently, we were desperately in need of a place where all of us could live again and call home. My Aunt Quite, affectionately called Q, exercised her highest level of generosity when she opened the door of compassion and her home. She welcomed us into her one-bedroom house. I learned how important it is to have a roof over my head to call home than to be comfortable. In that little space, as small as my siblings and I were, we still had to make ourselves smaller to fit. There were fourteen of us in the little room. My mother, with her six children, and my aunty with her half dozen, were all in the room. As active kids, we did not have any space to move about, so we did everything outside except for sleeping. We played, ate, took our bath, cooked and everything else. Life was by no means fancy for us. We had gather wood from a very far bush area called Egypt to cook. We went to Markom Pond to wash our clothes and get water to use for domestic purposes. We cleaned the floor with wax or genie polish and used a dry coconut brush to shine it. Later on, we started to use self-shine polish. Since we could not afford a rake, we made bush-broom from broom weeds and sometimes used the coconut broom to sweep our yard. There were so many things that we could not afford, but we learned how to improvise. When our lotion was finished, and mom could not afford any right away, we used coconut oil to rub on our skin and used the conditioner to coat it. When roll-on was finished, we would use drinking soda and lime instead. The purelene lotion, rinju, rubee, and cocoa butter were some of our favourites. Life was not a bed of roses for me in no way, shape, or form. Whatever I did not have, I went without. Of all my mother’s children, I had life the roughest because I was the well-behaved one who did not leave mummy at no point or “walk bout” even when I had no form of entertainment at home. We had no television or radio, but I stayed home. I forfeited my childhood because of my ability to do things like an adult from a young age. I was nicknamed “Likkle Miss.” I first started cooking at nine years old, so I had no freedom. When I was going to primary school, I had to come home to cook every evening, even though I was not the eldest. Sometimes even in the heavy rain, I had to gather wood, cut them up, and light the fire in the front of the yard on a piece of concrete that was built to hold a black five-hundred gallon tank. No kitchen was erected at one point, so even in the falling rain I had to cook. God was so good to me that I did not catch pneumonia cooking in the rain over heat simultaneously. I had no fun or time at hand during my childhood days. I thought I would have gotten a break from cooking when I moved on to high school, but I had to cook for the better. My older sister and brother had morning shift, but still I had to come home to cook evening after evening, while having extra lessons as well. After walking miles from school, I was absolutely tired and burnt out at times but I had to keep going. My Aunt Q usually blamed as well as jeered me when I complained about how burdensome it was to cook every day after school without a break. She said, “Good fi yuh. You neva shouda mek dem know seh yuh can cook.” She was indeed right. I didn’t enjoy my childhood or adolescence life because of some of the responsibilities and roles I had to play.