Comforting Words: The Tender Years

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Tender Years

My Life, My Story, My Gifts continues this week with "The Tender Years" as my Comforting Words.

Typing this portion of my story took me back to memories I had re-buried and as I typed the words written some years ago, I was transported to another time and place. Pulling away from the original and re-reading what was before me on the screen, how far I have come and how much of innocence, trust and childhood fervour I have lost.

Writing this portion of my story, along with the quotations for Sacred Words and Words from the Heart, I realise how important it is to spend some time retrieving our stories - the good and the bad of it all.

I invite you to share this portion of my story and I pray that it might awaken something in you to share some of your own, either with me and the community here at Comforting Words or with someone you trust.

If this is your first time here, welcome. You might need to read the Introduction to my story and the post, Naked Before God, that begins this tale.

You are also invited to become a member of the Comforting Words community by simply clicking on the “Join Our Mailing List” feature at the right of your screen and follow the prompts. Your ‘membership’ gives you a chance to receive one of the monthly surprises! We had our first “surprise” draw August 31, 2005 from the Mailing List and the winner was a citizen of Jamaica! She received a copy of Iyanla Vanzant's "Living Through the Meantime."

The obligations for being a member of this community are few. In fact, there is only one – a desire to live authentically. As the host of this Blog and the Comforting Words Community, I willingly open myself to you. I am here to support you as I am able to, whenever and however needed.

You may contact me via email or you can join the continuing conversation at the InComfort Discussion Forum. If needs be, I will call you, if you provide a telephone number or you can call me - members have access to a number to me.

Sacred Words

(By using Sacred Words to describe the quotations that I chose to use in this section, my intention is to share with you words from a variety of sources that are dedicated to Truth and to what is holy in our experiences as human beings.)

"I had NO IDEA that mothering my own child would be so healing to my own sadness from my childhood."
Susie Bright (b. 1958)
"The events of childhood do not pass, but repeat themselves like seasons of the year."
Eleanor Farjeon (1881 - 1965

Words of Comfort

I have absolutely no recollection of when, how and where Mama met her first husband. Totally blank. I have had no interest in knowing and so I have never asked.

He just appeared.

What I do recall is the sickening, green feeling that arose at the back of my throat, announcing that I was on the verge of vomiting as Mama introduced him to me as her husband. Few are my early memories but this one I will never forget. I must have been about three years old but my dislike and distrust for this tall, slightly plump, dark skin man was immediate.

There must have been a wedding ceremony, a reception, cake, wine and gifts. Mama was too proud a woman not to have had the pomp and pageantry. Maybe I was very much the centre piece and quite possibly I was in a white frilly dress as she loved to display her possessions and I certainly was one.

I simply do not remember and the years to follow would give me good cause.
We were now a family - husband, wife and child - and we needed to move to bigger quarters. Mama and I were living in Pembroke Hall, not very far from where my father continued to live for several years until his own marriage. We lived on Rosehall Avenue, which was a slgiht more upscale than where my paternal grandparents lived.

Mama married Mr. H, as I would call him for all the years we spent together, and it was soon after the wedding that we moved to the house across from Miss Gardner's shop. This was to be the first of many moves I was to make with my mother.

For a while, life progressed as any other family's did. Mr. H left for work everyday ( he was some sort of salesman) and Mama had started her own small business after she left the J.O.S. She would leave home early each morning to open the doors of her little shop on Spanish Town Road, which in those days was a bustling commercial area.

Mama was always proud to tell people how my formal education started at a very tender age. However, it was out of pure necessity rather than any insight on her part that she had a genius on her hand that I would be taken to Miss Thomas Basic School on her way to work. It was here that I publicly peed myself for the first time.

I started attending Miss Thomas' School at a much younger age than most children. Mama said that at three, I displayed an eagerness to learn. Frankly, I believe it was more as a result of not knowing what to do with me during the days and being unable to find or afford reliable household help.

Up until my enrollment at basic school, we always had an household helper. I was later to understand the truth behind the change of our housedhold arrangements. Money had started to be a problem - slow in coming in and Mama did not want another woman in the house with her relatively new husband. She had seen what had happened in other houses.

Whatever her reasons, my formal education started in a class and school with children twice my age. This spelt trouble, at least for me. It was at this school where I saw sex in action and got a whipping for my troubles.

The school consisted of one large and dark hall, which was divided by chalk boards. The spaces between the fancy brickwork in the concrete walls and the doorless entrances provided both light and ventilation. Being a teacher in those days required having a strong, loud voice that could carry over the din. It was as if you were attending several concerts simultaneously, when all the children in their various classes started chanting, some screaming, the multiplication tables.

Coming out of what was not unlike the hull of a slave ship, no wonder recess was a joyous time and some children got carried away.

I can remember that eventful day when my neighbhour, Orville, a boy with bushy hair to match his wild temperament decided to demonstrate what he had seen his much older siblings do, with a girl behind the toilet stalls. It now seems as if the entire basic school was gathered behind those stalls, piling up on each other in the narrow space separating the school yard from the bedroom windows of the neighbouring house.

Guess who was in the front row, mouth wide open, eyes bulging and gasping for air?

So engrossed was I that although Miss Thomas was a buxom, heavy-set woman, she might as well have been one of those warriors capable of cat walking, as the only sense I had of her approach was the burning bad of heat I felt on my skin as her leather strap fell on my behind. It was then I peed myself and ran through the gates for about a mile home, non stop, in my wet drawers.

It would be three years more before I was able to leave Miss Thomas for 'big' school - Pembroke Hall Primary. Many were my lessons at basic school though, lessons that prepared me for the next stage of my educational and social development or shaped my views about the world. It was at basic school that I learnt to fear injection needles and the nurses who used them, for example, as we lined up to receive our annual immunization shots. In fact, it was on one of these occasions that I peed myself for the second time in public - the day of the measles shots!

Basic school also taught me how to protect my property, particularly lunch, from those who ate faster than I did. We all received a bowl of hot rice, which was so moist you could hear it plop off the cook's huge serving spoon. We called it 'bolo slush' and it was dished out with some kind of meat or chicken, usually the latter which was less expensive as it was reared at the back of the school hall in a two level fowl coop, the stench from which rivalled the one from the toilet stalls.

The lesson of independence started at basic school and the most vivid is probably the day I was finally allowed to walk home from school with the neighbourhood children - with no adults. More importantly, my prince charming, Orville was (the same one who I peed myself over) carrying my bag.

Truth is, after and inspite of that incident, he was to be my 'boyfriend' during my basic school years and, being my next door neighbour, our 'relationship' extended beyond the confines of school to the cardboard playhouse Mr. H built for me under the sour-sop tree in our backyard.

Orville, his younger sister Maxine and I were to become a family in that cardboard house. Obviously, he ws the father, I the mother and Maxine our sweet offspring. Looking back, I can see now that we were acting out our deepest wishes being children of 'broken' marriages, Orville and Maxine were living with their granparents and I was living in a home that was increasingly becoming known for the noise and violent displays that spilled over into the public domain.

We were doing more than that however. We were acting out what we witnessed in our homes. One day Orville decided to consumate our 'marriage'. It was the day we divorced. He soon re-married to G., the tom-boy who lived on the other side of his house.

In spite of our divorce, life on the avenue continued with G., Orville's new 'wife', and I becoming very close friends. We would all gather after school bneath the huge tree at G's house to plan and execute our missions to wreck havoc on the avenue. We all atended different schools, depending on where parents worked or did not work for that matter, but most of us went to Pembroke Hall Primary by that time. G was one of those who went to a different school - one where her mother worked. She was to become the leader of our 'gang', with her dictates dutifully followed by the rest of us.

My main purpose in this band of noisemakers was to secure provision, either from Mama's well-stocked 'fridge' or from Miss Gardner's shop. By then, our tastes had graduated beyond the Hostess cakes to meat loaves - a warm, oven baked dough filled with spicy minced beef. These were far more expensive than the cakes, and I was allowed to charge only one per day. This posed a problem, as it was difficult to split this pea-shaped delight between four to six pairs of grubby and grabbing hands.

We got up to many antics, ranging from the unauthorised reaping of fruits from our neighbour's trees, throwing pebbles onto the roofs of those who took offense at our assistance with harvesting to teasing and chasing the neighbours' dogs and, as we got older, we hiked to a nearby hill and explored the caves. Life was simple, at least when I was with my friends.

At home, it was a different story.

(To be continued)

Words from the Heart

This Prayer For Our Children, written by Marianne Williamson, is one I hold dear and hope that every mother, mine included even though I am now 40 years, would say for their daughters.

Dear God,
There are no words for the depth of my love for this child.
I pray for her care and her protection.
I surrender her into Your hands.
Please, dear God, send Your angels to bless and surround her always.
May she always be protected from the darkness of our times.
May she always see You as the centre of her life.
May her heart grow strong,
To love You and serve You.
I surrender, dear God, my parenthood to You.
Make me the parent You want me to be.
Show me how to love most patiently, to be there for her most fully,
To understand profoundly who she is and what she needs.
May this family be a blessing unto her now and forever.
May she learn here values and principles of love and righteousness.
May she learn from me kindness.
May she learn from me strength.
May she learn from me the lessons fo power;
That she has it and must surrender it to You, to be used for Your
purposes throughout her life
For thus shall You be gladdedned,
And thus shall she be free,
To live most fully and love most deeply.
That is my wish.
That is my prayer for her and for me forever.

Blessings, until the next audiopost.


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