CHRIST CHURCH, BARBADOS, May 24, 2012 — Zuri, my sister-in-law Tracy and I are in Barbados for a little R&R after a whirlwind Spelman Commencement Weekend. It also happens to be my father’s birthday. He would be 115.
In a column he published shortly after his 43rd birthday in 1940, he uses the occasion to commemorate Empire Day, the birthday of Queen Victoria, with whom he shared a natal day:
“It is difficult if not at all impossible for ye paragrapher to forget Empire Day, though we may be many years removed from the British Empire, because it was on that day our late beloved mother told us we ‘came from somewhere in a box.’ Most readers of this column think we should have been left in the box.”
Tomorrow, I have an appointment with a specialist in Barbados genealogy who is going to try to help me get to the bottom of that box.
For today we’ll take a tour of the island, hit the beach and pour a ibation in honor of Ebenezer’s birthday.
My dad, left, with family friend Hughart Wright. I have no idea where this was, since there were no beaches in Pittsburgh.
Gemini men. My favorite cousins — David Browne and Russell Williams — celebrate their birthdays this week. My ex-husband and fellow co-parent is a June Gemini. My late Uncle James, who stood in in the absence of my father in so may ways, would celebrate his birthday June 10.
And then there is my father himself, who would celebrate his 114th birthday on Tuesday, May 24. (No, that is not a typo!)
The column below, which he published just after his 36th birthday in 1933, is part birthday lamentation and part history lesson. I had no idea that every territory of the British Empire celebrated Queen Victoria’s birthday. Back then it was called Empire Day. (And we thought declaring Kate and Will’s wedding day a bank holiday in Britain was a little much.) My dad apparently didn’t think much of “present horseman and apparently future bachelor king” Edward VIII — even before he abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. Continue reading