The Old Lady Maud Hammond, popularly referred to as Auntie Maud, was feted with a befitting celebration that brought several descendants of the Hammond family tree…
It was a rare occasion meeting Maud Hammond who reached the milestone 100 years of age on December 28, 2014. The Old Lady, popularly referred to as Auntie Maud, was feted with a befitting celebration that brought several descendants of the Hammond family tree from as far as America and France to the 5th Close South Odorkor, Accra address where she lived in quiet dignity. Nana Acheampong and I had joined the throng of friends, neighbours and well-wishers that besieged the house to pay our respect to the Hammond Matriarch and used the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with the Methuselah.
We were first treated to a display of photographs––loads of photographs in colour and black-and-white that showed the younger Maud and the different phases of her life, from a sultry damsel to a good-looking wife and mother to a respectable woman wearing a crown of grey. The photos accurately recorded the passage of time in her life.
However, the biggest marvel was Madame Maud herself who was a picture of good health in her old age.
Maud was a piece of amazement. Her thoughts were intact. Her sight was clear––unaided by glasses. She heard every word spoken without hearing aid. Her sense of humour was razor-sharp. She made us wish to grow to the ripe old age of 100.
We had a 15-minute exchange. We kicked off by wishing her a happy birthday.
“Thank you,” her response came promptly is a clear voice.
What is it like being 100 years old?
“You feel the same,” she said. “Nothing strange. That is why you have children by you, you discuss things with them to pass the time.”
Are there certain things you used to do that you don’t do any more?
One of the grandkids beat her to the answer.
A clatter of laughter followed. “Cooking was her best chore,” someone reaffirmed.
Maud would not want anyone to steal her show. She quickly took the thread of the conversation: “I was in the Girls’ Guide. I was smart and I moved about.”
She took a hard look at the dreadlocks of Nana Acheampong. “This hair that you have on when I went to Jamaica, I saw a lot of it, but I haven’t seen something like yours.”
Acheampong, editor of Weekend Sun, could pass for a Rastaman with his dreadlocks, but he was all grey.
Maud’s comment drew another round of laughter from the family.
“Yes, but I saw it in Jamaica,” the centenarian insisted.
She explained what took her to Jamaica. “I went on a girls’ guide visit. I have moved around a lot. Because, we used to have meetings, discuss things, so you got to know other people.”
The next question was about the secret of her longevity.
“It is God that schedules you to be 100 years or more. Otherwise, no matter how hard you try, you won’t get there,” she said.
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She believed, however, that her active participation in girls guide activities played a part in her longevity. “We moved about. We were not as lazy as these young girls.”
The statement drew another round of laughter from her grandchildren.
Maud’s memory included the most flowery part of her life.
“My husband first saw me in the church, Holy Trinity Church, Accra, when he came there with one of his friends. After the service, he said, ‘I like this girl; I’d like to marry her’. I told him, ‘I don’t think you can get me because, in my house, my father is such a strict man’.”
The room went silent as we all listened with rapt attention, curious to know how the love tango ended. “My brother was also a scouter, he told him. He was a very fine man, also a scoutmaster. So, we all went out,” Maud cut it short, leaving us in suspense.
She switched to another topic. “All these children, I am taking care of, they have made me live till date. I play with them, I beat them (another round of laughter) and this one (she pointed at her grandson Dr Ato Wright) some time ago, I wanted to beat him when I fell down.”
She impressed us with her crystal-clear memory of events that happened over 80 years ago. For instance, the Miss Accra Beauty Pageant she won in 1934 at the age of 20. She reeled out the facts. The venue was Roger Club; where today stands a headquarters of a commercial bank. The club had a well-polished wooden floor. She wore high heels, long skirts and white gloves. She danced waltz, foxtrot and bumps.
“When I won, I was glad,” she revelled in the long-forgotten glory.
Maud treasured the halcyon days of her past. “Those days, we were free; we went to the beach, cooked fresh food. We used to go to the polo grounds to march.”
The centenarian concluded with a piece of advice: “It is good to live together with your children, bring them together, and closer to yourself, so that they know that ‘oh, that is my grandmother, that is my brother,’ instead of sending them out and away from you. It helps to prolong your life.”
Her children, Penelope and Albert, handled the rest of the inquisition. They provided an insight into their mother’s extraordinary life.
Of her health, Albert conceded, “she’s in a very good shape, excellent shape.”
Penelope was more forthcoming. “She is not on any medication. She doesn’t suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol. She hardly takes malaria tablet.”
She attributed her mother’s amazing health to her upbringng and sense of humour. “She is a very happy person. She is a social butterfly. She likes going out a lot. Every party, she would attend,” said Penelope. “She wakes up in the morning eat waakye. She is a happy person.”
Until a few years ago, she used to climb up and down the stairs. But her weak knees have now confined her to the wheelchair. Otherwise, Penelope believed her mother is not missing out on any of the activities that delight her mind.
“She still parties. A month ago she was at a party. They took her there in her wheelchair,” she affirmed.