(From Lester Holt, TODAY Anchor)
Why is it that sometimes the farther you are from the past the more you are drawn toward it? As a child I never talked much to my maternal grandparents about their lives growing up, where they came from, or how they came to immigrate to America. I knew of course they were both born in Jamaica, and were married and had my mom after they had moved to New York. My grandfather passed away when I was just 8. My grandmother lived well into her 90's.
I ate a lot of Jamaican foods and was exposed to some of the culture and customs growing up, but never felt a pull to explore that part of my background until two years ago when my mother, June, made her first trip to Jamaica. The stories and pictures she brought back of ancestors, relatives and pieces of family history she didn't know existed were inspiring. Listening to her delight in the stories of her trip also made me regret I had never had those conversations with my grandparents.
And so when TODAY producers asked me to do "something special" with my mother for a Mother's Day weekend story, I knew just what I wanted to do: To "go home" to Jamaica with my mom. To see through her eyes the Jamaica of her parents.
It was a rich journey of discovery for both us, as we visited the 173-year-old church some of our ancestors built, and walked across the plantation my triple-great grandfather owned, even finding his grave in a tiny tree-sheltered cemetery. As we drove through Spanishtown my mother pointed out the river that my grandfather described learning to swim in the day his brothers unceremoniously tossed him in. But without a doubt the most poignant and emotional moment for both of us was the discovery of the house my grandmother and her seven siblings were raised in. We didn't know it still existed, but it was just as she had described it to my mom. Standing there taking in the house and the land I could suddenly see my grandmother in this place. And with my mother at my side I could also now clearly see my connection to Jamaica. WATCH VIDEO