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Caymanian Culture by Alta Bodden Solomon

December 12, 2012
Alta Solomon

Alta Solomon

Whats my culture?

For me my culture is my forefathers/mothers way of life, my way of life. I think culture is different for everyone of us and the same IN everyone of us Caymanians.  My intimate knowledge of my family stems back only to my grandparents – yet I’ve always wanted to know about and asked about and continue to learn through oral avenues of the older generations – by my parents and aunts mostly.

It is the love that generations of Bodden’s and Ebank’s/Scott’s and Henderson’s from my family tree have established either in the words they passed down through poems and songs or conversations. The recipes they used that are still being cooked in our kitchens.  The love of the earth and the fruits/food it gives to plant and care for our “grounds”.  The call of the sea to be cleansed and to catch our meals. The bonds of a love I have not found in any other family except mine, which may exist in yours – and the respect of family and forgiveness we extend that is foreign to some and known to many.

My Great grandmother Isador Henderson (Tibbetts) a midwife with hands that brought many babies into the world and sewed clothes to make a living. Left widowed by husband, Greatgrand father Alfred Henderson, drowned at sea on the “Noco” while in route to/from Tampa delivering cargo, 9 children to care for and never to remarry

My grandmother Alta “Tiny’s” Henderson’s (Scott) love for each grandchild by making cotton pillows from the cotton trees in “Cotton Tree Bay” CYB – I still have mine, and it is enjoyed by my son now. She was welcoming to any and everyone to her home and at her table with a quirky and jolly personality and quick temper – from her “Red Head”.   My grandfather Alford Scott’s love for God – to preach, tell the Word, his nomadic ways that made him uproot his family of 12 and move from one island to the next on a whim time and time again and his hot tempered disposition that would shake the roof of a house with anger.

My Great grandfather Atwood Bodden who moved to Little Cayman after retiring a Quarter Master on the schooner that sailed so far away they though they’d never make it back home.

My Grandmother Iva Ebanks (Bodden) food, the little made with lots of love and shared with out restraint, but grumble of the hard work it took and still given with a smile. Her thatch baskets that were priceless in her eyes and the scent of the tops drying in her hall way. My grandfather Winston Bodden’s wayward ways that let one wife with children to find another in Jamaica and make a home – to leave and find another ….(and another?)

My great Aunt Vedell’s poem “The Old year’s long campagin” I heard her recite until she went “home to Jesus” and learnt it so I could pass on and stories of her young days in Northside and relocating to Little Cayman with her Father and mother and of my own child hood days she’d share. Her story of a “late in life marriage” to Uncle Arthur, a Jamaican who was living in Cuba as a farmer, then when the war was over came to Grand Cayman to be told of a woman in Little Cayman who he could marry – and their walk on the dock in Little Cayman to meet each other for the first time and to be engaged.  The story of Uncle Arthurs one regret she’d tell me of time and time again, as if she had not told me once – “Not meeting you sooner Vedell, not meeting you sooner” was what he said was his one regret in their relationship.

Cayman Cat Boats

Cayman Cat Boats

The shipbuilders from Cayman Brac, the Scott’s (My Great great great Grandfather – ship builders and sailors came from England, dissembling his boat and building his home and shop from it’s remains on Cayman Brac) He and his generations hands made Schooner’s for brave men, some who would never know them and they would never know. To make Iron Men lifted into history and respected forever by their Caymanian generations.  (And of late I’ve learned that my Husband’s great grand father sailed aboard my forefather’s ship)

My culture is the way my mother Shirley Mae Scott (Bodden)and father Alva “Billy” Bodden lived in their youth, harvesting from Little Cayman waters and enjoying cat boats rides with nothing but the wind to hear.

Daddy quietly wading into Tar Pond to shoot Whistling ducks for fresh meat,  and “proging” for squab at night in the shallow waters and whelks on iron shore. He left Little Cayman at age 13 to support his mother, brothers and sisters, a boy among men on deep seas with broad skies.

A Little Caymanian – traveling from the Amazon to France, Ethiopia to India, and New York to the Ivory Coast and too many other places to mention.

My mother, a young wife, her drive to build her own home while daddy was away to sea; cement blocks she made in Grandfather Alford’s block “factory” and coloured tiles made in the same place, grace our family’s home floor, making a remembrance of their strength, mentally, spiritually and physically to us every time we walk through the doors.  Her entrepreneuring spirit; she saved a few pounds and pence to purchase goods and re-sold making a business from nothing, over 40 years “Billy’s” Supermarket has been open on the Brac.

It is my mother’s talent of writing that has been passed on to us, for poems, and reasoning’s and songs.

My culture is the pot of sea grapes (that many would have walked by – or on)  bubbling away on my electric stove with sugar making a jelly that you’ll never forget.  Stewed fruits and jams are my specialty – learnt by watching Granny Iva and mommy, finding nothing more fascinating than the making or tasting of their “waste not, want not” creations….past down to generations from generations.

It is diving conchs with my four sisters in Little Cayman’s clear waters and Gina breaking the shell with speed and precision, Teresa and I cleaning them and Lolita clearing a place for “the Kitchen” under the coconut tree and Mia preparing the conch- marinated, on the “Key” (Quay – Owen’s Island) that was once partly owned by our forefathers. It is seeing my Uncle Franky and cousin Justin pulling ashore his catch and my aunt Eulalee talking of the meal it will make and all our mouths drooling!

It is the lines in the faces of the older generation that are now faster and faster being laid to rest, weathered skin, tanned and salted by a harder and simpler time that now.

It is my need to share all these things with my own children, my own people – this is my culture, this is who I am and what has made me – us.

And then again it is still so much more.

Alta E. Bodden-Solomon – 20.11.11

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 27, 2012 7:37 pm

    What an interesting family background! Before I read the part about Jamaica, I kept thinking you might have some Bodden family members here.

    • December 28, 2012 8:01 am

      Hi there! Thanks for stopping by. I’ll let Alta know about your comments. She is an interesting lady…and her husband Gordon. They are both Caymanian artists I met on my travels. I’m loving learning more about them and their culture.

      Happy holidays to you!!
      Tanya

    • December 30, 2012 11:35 am

      Thank you InsideJourneys….it’s all of me 🙂 My Grandfather (Father’s father) married a 2nd time in Jamaica and had children there. My mother’s first born was birthed in Jamaica, but was still at birth, she always felt that “he’d been taken away” though. Maybe he is out there somewhere? – Happy New Year to you!

  2. Clifford(pappa) Quimby permalink
    June 5, 2016 6:44 am

    Alta, having known you since you were a very young lady, it brings happy tears to my eyes as i read your story if culture and heritage. It makes me proud to have known your family and have been close to them all of these years. It makes me feel even close since I find that I know and have known so many of your historic relatives. I wish you well and keep up the great work.

    • June 5, 2016 7:30 am

      What a nice note for Alta. She and Gordon are very special people. I too feel lucky to know them. Thank you for your thoughts, Clifford. All my best to you! Tanya – Travel Gal

  3. Carol Cooper permalink
    June 3, 2017 2:40 pm

    Alta! I love your blog. Look forward to reading them when I see them. It is so interesting that we as Caymanians, have such intertwined lives. We can only go back a generation or so but have so much in common with each other.
    My Mother taught me to sew, not a lot of cooking knowledge passed on to me but I still love sewing and thank her every time I go near my machine.
    I am afraid in this digital age we live in, a lot of our youngsters are not going to have much of any experience to talk of.
    Love to the family.

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