youthful looks belying her 43 years, Makeisha Walker fought to hold back tears on Tuesday when her daughter, Alexia Hibbert, surprised her by turning up in graduation gown at her workplace — Crab Circle — from where she has toiled for years to fund her daughter’s university tuition.
About noon, shortly after the Tropical Storm Lisa rains held up, Hibbert tiptoed up to her mother’s stall located at National Heroes’ Circle in Kingston and greeted her with a hug, just after Walker had finished serving a customer a cup of soup.
Walker had no idea Alexia would be showing up at that hour of the day. When she had left home that morning, there was no indication that a plan was afoot.
“We have to rent the gowns for graduation, so it was at my home for a while. My mom knew the gown was supposed to be home, but she didn’t expect me to pull that surprise on her, she just thought I brought it home for graduation,” Hibbert told the Jamaica Observer, adding: “The surprise was worth it.”
“My mom has been working very hard. Even if she is tired and doesn’t feel like going out to work, she gets up, knowing that she has two girls to send to school and that we had to make it out successful,” said Hibbert who will graduate this Friday from The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, in St Andrew.
“We are actually from Fletcher’s Land, downtown Kingston, but she moved us away saying she didn’t want the ghetto life for us, so she had to push. Since I know she always comes out and keeps it going, I decided to come out here today to surprise her,” said Hibbert.
She said that her father supports her, but her mother did the most for her financially during her university years.
The 23-year-old admitted that being the first of her relatives to graduate from university makes her even prouder. She now holds a Bachelor of Science Degree with honours from The UWI after pursuing a major in political leadership, strategy and management and a minor in political science.
“Bwoy, I feel very good. Some people don’t even make it past first year, some of them drop out. So I feel very proud of myself. The fact is that I am basically a role model for my sister and my cousins, because I think I am the first graduate in the family, so I realise that most of them are following in my footsteps,” she said.
“They went to sixth form just like I did and my sister just started University of Technology, Jamaica, so she is actually looking up to me. Because of that I had to push through, and because of my mother as well, because I wanted to make her proud,” she said.
Recalling moments when her mother went the extra mile to make a living for her family, Hibbert said even if her mother wasn’t doing well physically or there was bad weather, she was determined to sell her crabs and soup.
“I remember one time she got burnt by the soup, but she got up for work even though her hand was badly scorched. She wrapped it up and came out here. Sometimes, even when it is raining heavily, she is out here doing her thing,” Hibbert told the Observer.
She said, too, that she was never ashamed of her mom’s hustle, even when her friends seemed surprised about what she did for a living.
“Some of my friends actually think that I am from the richer side of the world, not to say that I make it seem like that, but to how we put ourselves together it seems like we have money. Mi tell mi friend dem seh mi mother work hard out here and dem come and support, saying, ‘Alexia, mi neva know seh yuh madda work out here a sell crab.’ But every school fee she pay, she doesn’t owe anything,” she said.
Hard-working and business-minded are just a few of the adjectives she used to describe her mother.
Walker was equally elated about her daughter’s success.
Reflecting on how surprised she was as her daughter, in graduation regalia, suddenly appeared at her workplace, Walker told the Observer in-between serving her customers: “I’m overwhelmed. My eyes were filled with tears, I had to try to hold it back.
“Mi wake up before daylight from 3:00 every morning to come here to sell, all when gunshot a fire downtown — all of those little things. It was rough, but worth it. Mi proud ’till mi waa run cross the road and jump,” she added.
Affectionately called Munchie, Walker said she has worked tirelessly over the last 20 years as a crab vendor to ensure that her children were taken care of.
“Growing up we didn’t have this opportunity. I wanted to study nursing, but my father couldn’t afford it. So when mi see my kids come and want to go out there and get it, what more is there to do than try? Four years later I am a proud mommy. Mi and God do that. If it wasn’t for the help of my customers, mi couldn’t do it, mi thank dem too,” said Walker.
In the meantime, Hibbert said she will continue to make her mom proud. She is now pursuing a master’s in human resource management.
“I graduated from university with second-class honours, and I can say to her, ‘Mommy, I did it, and we going on to the next level because I am going to pursuing my master’s as well’,” she said.