edge

​Garden of Jessie-Marie

Picture Courtesy Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy name is Jessie-Marie Chaves and I take my young children to the Botanical Gardens for early morning walks during their school holidays.

That hyphen in my first name has caused me serious grief all my life. I’ve had to walk around with affidavits saying that Jessie-no-hyphen-Marie and Jessie-hyphen-Marie are the same person. Me.

I’ve lived in Cascade for 15 years but I grew up in South. My family lived on Circular Rd, San Fernando, a stone’s throw from the city, until I was ten. After my Common Entrance, we moved to Palmiste, where my parents still live. We’d had so many burglaries on Circular Rd.

Petty thieves would climb the fence to steal from the plum and avocado tree in our yard. Back then, not that it is much different from now, money was tight, so my parents would sell the avocados to help bring in extra. It would really upset my parents when the precious zabocas were stolen. What would upset me was, I would look forward to coming home and picking my plums but thieves helped themselves first.

One morning, my dad woke up and discovered thieves had broken into his car and stolen the CB radio he used to talk with his dad and brother. My father has always worked hard for what he has, no handouts or lucky breaks, just hard work and sacrifice. He sat in that front seat and wept. It was the first time I saw my father cry. I was a little girl, sitting in the passenger seat, in my St. Gabriel Girl's uniform, ready to go to school, watching him. His emotions were so raw, so deep. That memory has stayed with me.

I have younger twin sisters, Danielle and Dominique. On my mum's side, the May's, her only brother emigrated to the US when I was little and he has no children. On my dad's side, the Wittets, I have two uncles and an aunt. I only have five Wittet cousins. I am the eldest.

I was married by 21 and motherhood began when I was 23. My husband, Nicolas, and I have three children, Michael, 12, Gabriella, ten and Daniel, seven. We met when I was seventeen. He journeyed with me through my UWI days. As part of the programme, I spent two weeks in Guadeloupe and six in Colombia. While I was away, he bought the ring and proposed to me later that year. I was married just months after graduating. He knew he had a keeper.

I pursued a double major in Spanish and French at UWI, St Augustine, because I just loved languages. As a child in airports, hearing different languages, I would wonder what people were saying. I performed better in the sciences, but my heart was with the languages. I never gave a thought as to where it would take me. I never once had a career goal. My goal in university was to graduate with first class honours and I did. My husband encouraged me to become a teacher.

I wrote a children's book, Big Tummy Mummy, about my family's preparations for the birth of Daniel. My Gabz called me that one evening when I was pregnant with Daniel. We all laughed and I thought, “That would make a good book!” It took over my every thought when I was at home with one-month old Daniel, even while I was up at all hours, feeding, burping and changing diapers. The baby was burping, not me. I am not much of an advertising and marketing sort. When some friends discover it, they can't believe they did not know.

I am Catholic and talk to my Jesus and Mary daily. Mostly asking for patience, courage and strength in dealing with my lovely children. Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

People ask, " Why me?" Well, "Why not you? What makes you more or less special than anyone else? In God's eyes, we are all equal, all loved. What makes a situation “good” or “bad”? [It’s us who] put the adjective on it. Once, I said to a friend. “I know God is not going to sh** on my husband." She said, "If he does, it is fertilizer to help him grow”.

This earthly journey is just a stage. We are spiritual beings. Spirit lives on. I speak to my grandparents, even to my husband's grandparents. I never got to meet them, but I know they look after him in times of need.

There is so much in the realm of the divine that I do not understand, nor can I explain. I am comfortable in my ignorance and, it is hard to explain, but I have a knowing. It is something that I feel. I actually marvel at the inexplicable, at the mystery that is God.

I have always wished I could be a dancer. I did ballet as a little girl but stopped because it clashed with Bible classes. And all of my friends were in Bible classes. My daughter, now she's the performer. My heart fills with such joy watching her shine while she dances.

“Relax” is not a word I am familiar with, but I maintain my sanity by walking and jogging in the Botanical Gardens on mornings. The green, the birds, the breeze and the friendly faces, all do my soul wonders. I have great walking partners who are more like therapists. We vent, we listen, we support, while we walk.

I loved this year’s song Savannah Grass. Although my children would argue that the Savannah only has ti-marie.

Once my people are happy, I am happy. I treasure my time with them because I know it goes by so fast.

I prefer watching movies at home than going to the cinema. If the movie is a true story, then I'll cry. In which case, I rather be home, thank you very much. No red nose in public.

I have two footballer sons, so I have grown love the sport. In La Liga, we are a Barca family. For Premier League, we're divided: one son backs Man City, the other, Man U, and I like Tottenham, so matches where they play against [generate] ots of talk in our home.

I can still taste the steak I had 15 years ago at a restaurant in Venezuela restaurant called El Alazan. It was the night before my lasik surgery, and I was not my usual self…but that meal was incredible! My husband and I still talk about it.


I started taking my first son, Michael, to the Botanical Gardens as a toddler, when I picked him up from day care after work. To get him out of the house, to get some fresh air. As each child came along, we just continued our afternoon outings. I encouraged the exploring, the climbing and the discovery of plants and insects.

My dad came from Forest Reserve, in the deep, deep South. Outdoors was all he knew, so it was just normal for us to be outdoors. As a child, I spent my afternoons in my backyard. I live close enough to the gardens now but I always drive there. It's too far for me to walk with children. We have no garden at home.

I have never felt unsafe or threatened in any way in the gardens. I feel very comfortable. On mornings, the workers look out for us and call, “Mornin’.” They are very friendly. Everyone loves when the kids come along. In the same breath, I am always observant and vigilant of my surroundings.

I walk five days a week, once my children are at school, for at least an hour. When kids are on vacation, at least once or twice a week, we come out together. Other than the physical benefits, I encourage them doing something together as siblings. The walking also leads to some great conversation.

My kids enjoy the gardens. They run, they explore, they play. We are not always the happy family, holding hands and skipping along all the time. They squabble and argue and get angry with each other. I often ask myself, “Why do I do this?” I could just leave them home on a screen, and get on with my list of chores. But I take a breath, find some residue of patience, and try to help them find a solution. So the "family circus" can be exhausting, but it’s all worth it in the end.

Being in the company of miserable people makes me miserable. I hate negativity, selfishness and self-centeredness. It kills the spirit. It's draining. Everybody is going through something or has been through something.


I hit my son Michael once and I regretted it terribly. The look on his face will always stay with me. I was deeply disappointed in myself and upset that I had emotionally hurt another.


A Trini, to me, is friendly, warm, approachable, and welcoming. Someone you may have only just met, but they are quick to strike up a conversation, feed you, or look out for you in some way. Trinis are kind people.


Not to sound cheesy or cliché, but Trinidad & Tobago is home. It is not perfect, some improvements are needed – but the foundation is solid. If everybody does their part, however little or big their influence be, we can make it even greater.


​Garden of Jessie-Marie

Picture Courtesy Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy name is Jessie-Marie Chaves and I take my young children to the Botanical Gardens for early morning walks during their school holidays.

That hyphen in my first name has caused me serious grief all my life. I’ve had to walk around with affidavits saying that Jessie-no-hyphen-Marie and Jessie-hyphen-Marie are the same person. Me.

I’ve lived in Cascade for 15 years but I grew up in South. My family lived on Circular Rd, San Fernando, a stone’s throw from the city, until I was ten. After my Common Entrance, we moved to Palmiste, where my parents still live. We’d had so many burglaries on Circular Rd.

Petty thieves would climb the fence to steal from the plum and avocado tree in our yard. Back then, not that it is much different from now, money was tight, so my parents would sell the avocados to help bring in extra. It would really upset my parents when the precious zabocas were stolen. What would upset me was, I would look forward to coming home and picking my plums but thieves helped themselves first.

One morning, my dad woke up and discovered thieves had broken into his car and stolen the CB radio he used to talk with his dad and brother. My father has always worked hard for what he has, no handouts or lucky breaks, just hard work and sacrifice. He sat in that front seat and wept. It was the first time I saw my father cry. I was a little girl, sitting in the passenger seat, in my St. Gabriel Girl's uniform, ready to go to school, watching him. His emotions were so raw, so deep. That memory has stayed with me.

I have younger twin sisters, Danielle and Dominique. On my mum's side, the May's, her only brother emigrated to the US when I was little and he has no children. On my dad's side, the Wittets, I have two uncles and an aunt. I only have five Wittet cousins. I am the eldest.

I was married by 21 and motherhood began when I was 23. My husband, Nicolas, and I have three children, Michael, 12, Gabriella, ten and Daniel, seven. We met when I was seventeen. He journeyed with me through my UWI days. As part of the programme, I spent two weeks in Guadeloupe and six in Colombia. While I was away, he bought the ring and proposed to me later that year. I was married just months after graduating. He knew he had a keeper.

I pursued a double major in Spanish and French at UWI, St Augustine, because I just loved languages. As a child in airports, hearing different languages, I would wonder what people were saying. I performed better in the sciences, but my heart was with the languages. I never gave a thought as to where it would take me. I never once had a career goal. My goal in university was to graduate with first class honours and I did. My husband encouraged me to become a teacher.

I wrote a children's book, Big Tummy Mummy, about my family's preparations for the birth of Daniel. My Gabz called me that one evening when I was pregnant with Daniel. We all laughed and I thought, “That would make a good book!” It took over my every thought when I was at home with one-month old Daniel, even while I was up at all hours, feeding, burping and changing diapers. The baby was burping, not me. I am not much of an advertising and marketing sort. When some friends discover it, they can't believe they did not know.

I am Catholic and talk to my Jesus and Mary daily. Mostly asking for patience, courage and strength in dealing with my lovely children. Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

People ask, " Why me?" Well, "Why not you? What makes you more or less special than anyone else? In God's eyes, we are all equal, all loved. What makes a situation “good” or “bad”? [It’s us who] put the adjective on it. Once, I said to a friend. “I know God is not going to sh** on my husband." She said, "If he does, it is fertilizer to help him grow”.

This earthly journey is just a stage. We are spiritual beings. Spirit lives on. I speak to my grandparents, even to my husband's grandparents. I never got to meet them, but I know they look after him in times of need.

There is so much in the realm of the divine that I do not understand, nor can I explain. I am comfortable in my ignorance and, it is hard to explain, but I have a knowing. It is something that I feel. I actually marvel at the inexplicable, at the mystery that is God.

I have always wished I could be a dancer. I did ballet as a little girl but stopped because it clashed with Bible classes. And all of my friends were in Bible classes. My daughter, now she's the performer. My heart fills with such joy watching her shine while she dances.

“Relax” is not a word I am familiar with, but I maintain my sanity by walking and jogging in the Botanical Gardens on mornings. The green, the birds, the breeze and the friendly faces, all do my soul wonders. I have great walking partners who are more like therapists. We vent, we listen, we support, while we walk.

I loved this year’s song Savannah Grass. Although my children would argue that the Savannah only has ti-marie.

Once my people are happy, I am happy. I treasure my time with them because I know it goes by so fast.

I prefer watching movies at home than going to the cinema. If the movie is a true story, then I'll cry. In which case, I rather be home, thank you very much. No red nose in public.

I have two footballer sons, so I have grown love the sport. In La Liga, we are a Barca family. For Premier League, we're divided: one son backs Man City, the other, Man U, and I like Tottenham, so matches where they play against [generate] ots of talk in our home.

I can still taste the steak I had 15 years ago at a restaurant in Venezuela restaurant called El Alazan. It was the night before my lasik surgery, and I was not my usual self…but that meal was incredible! My husband and I still talk about it.


I started taking my first son, Michael, to the Botanical Gardens as a toddler, when I picked him up from day care after work. To get him out of the house, to get some fresh air. As each child came along, we just continued our afternoon outings. I encouraged the exploring, the climbing and the discovery of plants and insects.

My dad came from Forest Reserve, in the deep, deep South. Outdoors was all he knew, so it was just normal for us to be outdoors. As a child, I spent my afternoons in my backyard. I live close enough to the gardens now but I always drive there. It's too far for me to walk with children. We have no garden at home.

I have never felt unsafe or threatened in any way in the gardens. I feel very comfortable. On mornings, the workers look out for us and call, “Mornin’.” They are very friendly. Everyone loves when the kids come along. In the same breath, I am always observant and vigilant of my surroundings.

I walk five days a week, once my children are at school, for at least an hour. When kids are on vacation, at least once or twice a week, we come out together. Other than the physical benefits, I encourage them doing something together as siblings. The walking also leads to some great conversation.

My kids enjoy the gardens. They run, they explore, they play. We are not always the happy family, holding hands and skipping along all the time. They squabble and argue and get angry with each other. I often ask myself, “Why do I do this?” I could just leave them home on a screen, and get on with my list of chores. But I take a breath, find some residue of patience, and try to help them find a solution. So the "family circus" can be exhausting, but it’s all worth it in the end.

Being in the company of miserable people makes me miserable. I hate negativity, selfishness and self-centeredness. It kills the spirit. It's draining. Everybody is going through something or has been through something.


I hit my son Michael once and I regretted it terribly. The look on his face will always stay with me. I was deeply disappointed in myself and upset that I had emotionally hurt another.


A Trini, to me, is friendly, warm, approachable, and welcoming. Someone you may have only just met, but they are quick to strike up a conversation, feed you, or look out for you in some way. Trinis are kind people.


Not to sound cheesy or cliché, but Trinidad & Tobago is home. It is not perfect, some improvements are needed – but the foundation is solid. If everybody does their part, however little or big their influence be, we can make it even greater.