Despite having lost her ability to walk after suffering a stroke, Barbados’ latest centenarian Miriam Wiggins remains full of wit, charm, and fussy about her appearance.
And as her daughter Arlene Howard pointed out today, ‘if you were to catch her on a good day’, she would engage you in much conversation.
Ironically, Wiggins appeared far more reserved today as she was the toast of Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave, along with several family members and friends at her Apple Terrace, St Philip home.
“When she sees a crowd, she gets quite shy, I think that’s why she’s so quiet today. But if you are lucky to be here a day one-on-one you would see her firing. She likes to know her family is around her and she likes a lot of old chat,” explained Howard.
She said her mother, who loves to dress up, remains quick to voice her disapproval in instances where she felt a fashion faux pas was committed.
“One day I was walking past her and she called me. She said, ‘they don’t sell cosmetics anymore?’ I told her, ‘yes what happen? You want some?’ She said, ‘yes for you!’ so I called up one of my sisters right away and went out and had a manicure, pedicure and got my make-up done and when I came back she said, ‘You now look good’,” Howard said with a hearty chuckle.
Howard’s daughter Kim was in agreement that her grandmother was a fashionista, particularly in her younger days.
“She likes to dress up and go out a lot. She loved going town and getting new outfits and hats for various occasions at church. She took a lot of pride in her appearance. But she was not a proud person. To this day if you aren’t dressed properly she would tell you about it,” she said of the devote Anglican.
Kim also pointed out that even though her grandmother could be “chatty” at times, she was quite the disciplinarian.
“[In fact] recently, I was walking through the house and I said, ‘morning’, she replied, “morning who?’ So I always make sure I’m on my best behaviour when around her,” the younger Harris explained.
Her mother Arlene also pointed that education was key for Wiggins, a mother of ten, who has nine surviving children, 28 grandchildren and numerous great-grands.
“She would always go to town and come back home with books for us to read because she said once you can explain yourself, you can get through in life. Even when I had my children, she was the first person to buy them an ABC reading book. She did that for every grandchild that came along,” Howard said.
Described as a ‘Jane of all trades’ in her younger days, Wiggins was also very big on saving and encouraged her children to do the same.
“The little money that she had she would make it last. She is a planner. For my first job I just got a little stipend, I came home with $15 and I gave her five. She told me a meeting turn was going . . . and to make sure I put two dollars in it every week,” said the centenarian’s daughter, adding that one of her mother’s mantras was “even if you work for a penny you can still save a cent”.
As for today’s visit by the Governor General, Wiggins had been looking forward to it for a while, according to her granddaughter Kim.
“She was very excited when her birthday was approaching. She said she wanted to shake the big man’s hand.”
Her only other wish for her birthday was for “some turkey and a half glass of brandy”.
However, in place of brandy, she got a little rum in a glass of milk to celebrate the milestone.