This week’s awesome old lady is the sweet and elegant 69-year-old Mrs J. She’s Muslim. She’s a widow. She’s a day trader. She’s a proud mom of two very smart daughters. She’s the lady who gave Joanne Lau many a ride to high school on a -40ºC Canadian morning, and introduced her to the wonders of homemade chai.
What’s your name?
Oh, I am too shy to say! What if someone I know sees this? Please, just call me Mrs. J.
Where were you born?
I was born in Tukuyu, Tanzania and stayed there ‘til I was 25. It was a good life. I think we will never get back this kind of life. I grew up in a little house with a backyard that had cows! Oh and fruit trees – all sorts of fruit trees! It was all very natural. It was fresh everything: eggs, milk, meat… We didn’t have a fridge to put it in, so it was fresh food every day.
Where do you currently live?
I lived in Calgary for a long time, which is where our daughters were raised. Now I live in Vancouver. One of my daughters has a job here and I moved here to join her almost a year ago now. Vancouver is very beautiful. Our backyard overlooks a peaceful wooded area and there are the most beautiful birds and all sorts of little animals. You can see them from our window.
What is/was your profession?
I studied until grade 10 in Tanzania, then got married at 22. After I got married, I didn’t work until I moved to Canada in 1973. I did sewing work in factories. Now? Well, no one wants to give me jobs anymore! Ha ha! Now I’m a day trader. I enjoy it and it keeps me busy.
Mrs J in her youth.
What are you most proud of?
[Writer’s note: She sits there thinking for a long while before her face suddenly lights up.]
Me! I’m most proud of me. I am easy going and never too serious. I’m not scared by anything. I just keep on going and whatever comes, I keep going. It keeps me happy and healthy.
What is your secret talent?
[Her daughter blurts out right away, “Not taking bullsh*t from anybody!… Oh, and also, home decoration.”]
Yes, home decoration. I’ve moved a lot in the last few years and every house I move into, I make it my own. I really enjoy this.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I might be strong, but I’m secretly very soft-hearted. I’m a softie.
What is your favourite indulgence?
Oooh! Shopping. No! McDonald’s. No! BOTH together on the same day.
What is your favourite hobby or pastime?
Walking. I go every day for an hour’s walk. I like to be out in nature.
What is your daily beauty regime?
I try to be as natural as possible. I eat healthy, make home-cooked food and exercise. I try to avoid chemicals in my makeup, but I have to admit I’ve been using Oil of Olay since I can remember!
Would you want to be a young woman in the 21st century?
No! Life before was good. I mean, now it’s not bad, but when I grew up, it was better. It was an easier time.
What advice would you give your 30-year-old self?
Hmm… maintain that hair and weight! (laughs) My real advice is: try to be happy whenever you can.
[Special thanks to Mrs. J’s daughter for translating some of the trickier questions for us! Also thanks to Mrs. J for all of her samosas, which I’ve shamelessly devoured over the years.]
Joanne Lau is that tired-looking Chinese-Canadian girl on the tube scribbling in her notebook and staring into space a lot.