My memories of St Kitts are frozen in a time prior to January 1971. From time to time I open the capsule and peek in to recall a little piece of my past, mostly for nostalgic reasons. I go back in time and relive a moment and enjoy the simplicity of it all. A calm within the chaos of my day.
Today when I read about St Kitts or see pictures I simply do not recognize it, life there seems complicated, full of cars and other things that are absent from my St Kitts.
I am stuck in this time warp where the days are long and hot and the living is easy.
I left St Kitts with the full intentions of returning home soon after I was able to determine a direction for my life. It did not take long after I immigrated, for me I realize that I really liked Toronto and it was going to be a struggle to leave. A lot of people have criticized me for ‘selling my soul’, not in a serious way of course and for putting up with the struggles that I endured in my early years in Toronto.
Why wouldn’t I just return to paradise? I don’t know how many times I got asked that question even by total strangers who knew nothing about St Kitts.
St Kitts is forever stamped in my DNA, there are some things you simply cannot walk away from. For example during the years I fought to climb the corporate ladder in Toronto, I tried very hard to lose my St Kitts accent (In linguistics, an accent is a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation).Not because I was ashamed of it, quite to the contrary, but no one could understand what I was saying, except the people from St Kitts. To this day, I have a difficult time pronouncing some simple English words. Seems incredible but I even have difficulty with my own last name, I end up spelling it more often than not, when people ask for it.
As you can well imagine I get laughed at a lot by my family at the dinner table. My family speak perfect Canadian English, well except for Jo; she struggles with her French Canadian accent. I try not to talk with my mouth full, it’s not only bad manners but, I do say some odd things disguised as English.
For me trying to shake the accent was like trying to remove a cobweb off your fingers, it simply just moves to the other fingers, it is almost impossible. I gave up, now I am quite good with hand signs.
Last week I wrote about one of my more interesting characteristics, my awareness, everyone says I am nosy. I beg to differ. I see and hear things sometimes before they are apparent to others. Jo thinks I should be a detective. One of my good friends thinks I should write a spy novel. Me, I just like being aware.
I am not exactly sure how I got to be this way, I read detective novels like the Hardy Boys when I was a kid, but I don’t think that could make me the way I am, but who knows. Jo sometimes gets really upset when she is looking at the crime shows on TV and I tell her who the culprit is 2 minutes into the show. They are mostly so obvious. My family sometimes get really frustrated with me because I would start my sentences in the middle of a thought assuming they are aware of what I am aware of.
As a kid growing up in St Kitts I was the same way, I noticed everything. I was a dreamer. I observed people and animals with great interest. Of course this got me in a lot of trouble at home and at school. I was not the most responsible person. My mom would tell me my inquisitiveness was going to get me in trouble one day; like I could turn it off.
As you may know by now I grew up in my dad rum/grocery shop. I had chores, one being serving in the grocery section of the shop. I was always paired up with my younger brother. He was different than me though, I think he liked the shop. I don’t think I have ever spent a whole hour in the shop at any one time. I didn’t want to hear the shoppers’ stories again; I am not sure why but they took great pleasure in telling me their stories. I had heard them all, several times.
That’s proof that I am not nosy. So there.
Besides I had observed the entire village at one time or another.
I had to get out of the house and go exploring and observing people who were unaware of my presence and also look at birds, mostly pigeons and doves.
When my dad was not home, I could spend what seemed like hours sitting in front of the pigeon coup looking at the way they interacted with each other. We had a least a hundred pigeons and doves. I knew each pigeon’s family trees. I still enjoy the birds, we have nesting pairs that come back each year to our backyard. Back then my dad thought it was a waste of time. Devils time is what he called it.
While I did my tour of duty in the shop, oftentimes my dad would be in the far end serving alcohol. He knew my game plan was to get away as soon as he turned his back, so he would try to not turn his back on me and for two reason, I would often help myself to some money, my compensation and I would often disappear, leaving my brother to do all the work. I had several techniques for my disappearing act, but mostly as soon as he turned his back, I was gone. Sometimes if I was feeling bold, when I saw a big enough opening, I would jump over the counter and bolt, but it was a lot easier to slip out the back door. The timing had to be perfect as I would have to not be serving someone and he had to turn his back for at least 5 seconds. The direction I took would determine what I did with my free time.
Serving people in the shop took away from my happy time.
One of my getaway paths was going over the back fence. There was a family that lived in the back of us that was not our best neighbour, I think the family name was Wilson. We were always in conflict because our chickens would fly over the fence and eat her garden. I studied her so I always knew when she away. Sometimes I had no choice; I would jump the fence run across her yard as fast as I could, without trampling the vegetables in her garden and to avoid being seen by her. I would be on St Johnston Ave before my dad turned around again.
If she was at home, I had alternative routes, like the Bridgewater yard, just another fence but a little more challenging to get over. Once I was in the clear I had several options to find a place for my observations.
I could just sit on the side walk in front of the Bridgewater’s property and play in the drain and count the two cars, a little joke, that would go by; I knew the cars by the sound of the engine. There weren’t that many cars and I need to be able to tell my dad’s car from a distance so I could hide. He hated me being idle.
There was always the fire hydrant by Springer’s house or the one by the Southwells’ house, good places to look at people; there were some fine ladies in the neighbourhood. I would sometimes visit the empty lot just east of the Southwell’s. I had to time my presence there so that no one was around. My interest was a big mango tree in the yard next to the vacant lot. I would use stones to get the mangoes. Fred Thompson and his family lived in that house at one time. All the while I would be looking to see who was looking at me, just in case I broke something, I had an escape route planned out. There was a rarely used alley way across the road, right next to were the Ross family lived, that led up to Infirmary road. I had to use it on a few occasions. I was a fast runner and I tended to travel alone.
I was mischievous.
Across the street and to the right another big mango tree, can’t remember the name of the people that lived in that house, a white family, it didn’t bother the lady that we picked her mangoes, less for them to clean up I think, that house was just south of the Village School pasture. She was an interesting woman, she would come to the fence and we would chat, I can’t remember about what exactly though.
To the east of that house was vacant house that looked over Bradshaw property, that house was haunted. I broke the glass in the window once with a catapult, it didn’t bother the ghost I don’t think.
There are some great homes in the neighbourhood. I would sometimes imagine what it would be like to live in one the houses in the area. The house I grew up in was just as big, but these houses had great big fences with well manicured lawns and nice yards. There is one house that apparently has 99 windows, never actually counted them though, although I did make several attempts.
Sometimes I would walk by Mr. Bradshaw home; he always had a guard at his gate so I could not stop and peek into his world, a little frustrating. If I was luckily he would be leaving home or returning and I would wave at him. I had a dream that one day he would stop and we would have a chat. I don’t think he ever waved back though, he probably nodded on occasion and he always looked so stern. He had a lot on his mind I guess, a whole big lazy island to manage. My St Kitts.
Once I got past his home I would run as fast as I could for there were always boys playing in The Garden area wanting to fight with the Village boys. They had to catch me first.
From my start point after escaping the shop, if I went in the other direction and if I had friends with me, we would race boats in the gutter. There is a big water drain down the road that we use to race Popsicle sticks. Actually I don’t think there was any Popsicle sticks, just sticks that we would used as boats. We were very creative and would sometimes make paper boats with a sailing mast made with a piece of paper and the spine from a coconut tree leaf. We would race the ‘boats’ from St Johnston Ave, down the big drain, past the children home on Cardin Ave and to Limekiln Bay.
I had to pay attention to who saw me; the people in the village were all aware of my life style and would report my sightings to my parents who were not impressed with me playing in the dirty gutters, which made it even more exciting.
The possibilities were endless. After a while my dad didn’t seem to notice I was gone or he just gave up on me, I was a good kid compared to the brothers before me. He knew I had to come home at some point to eat and time for a lecture. My advantage was that I knew his schedule; he got up early, worked, slept, worked then slept again, so I’d time my return accordingly.
Game of chess, my brother would be totally pissed at me. I think I was allergic to shop work.
This need to day dream and to obverse and to be aware of my surroundings at all times, followed me through school and into my adult life. One of my early passions as a kid was reading. I read everything I could get my hands on. I would walk around picking up pieces of paper on the street and reading them. I also liked ‘soft porn’, like Harold Robbins and Jackie what’s her name. I read at nights with a flash light under the sheets when my parents were asleep. On Friday and Saturday nights I would read way past midnight and into the early morning.
I think at a very young age I also wanted to write about how I saw the world. If someone had encouraged me, I would probably be a great writer today. That’s funny. I also like to tell stories. I got that from my dad, he was a great story teller. Recently in a earlier blog I wrote a story that he told us about how he met my mom. My older brother read it and immediately told me it was not true. If you want to know the truth here goes.
Both my parents unknown to each other would go downtown and buy goods, travel to the country villages and sell the goods. This was back in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. My mom on foot and my dad on his bicycle. Of course my mom could not go very far, her territory was Cayon and Monkey hill. As the real story goes, one day he met her at the bottom of the big hill in Cayon, she was too tired to make it up the hill. He took her suitcase with goods, put it on his bike and climbed the hill with her. They then joined forces.
Enough of them, I had a terrible time writing essays and short stories in junior and high school. My teachers were more interested in my improper use of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, sentence structures, conjugation, participle, present and past. Me, I just wanted to write my stories, I just needed an editor. I would barely get a passing grade because I did not follow the rules. The teachers were right. I can still see Mr. Sutton’s face trying to explain to me what I did wrong with my sentences. I just wanted to write, the other stuff got in the way. Today I wish I had paid more attention.
When my kids were small I would tell them bed time stories. I was not impressed with the stories in the books, probably because I was too old to enjoy them, so I would pretend to read a book, while making up my own story with the kids as the main characters. They were totally impressed, today my daughter still remembers some of the stories.
I recently found myself unemployed and I decided to try my hand at writing. My life long passion, so I started writing about my life and sometimes about my My St Kitts.
I am home alone all day so I do have the time. In my neighbourhood there are so many distractions, for example, I can’t seem to tune out my neighbours’ garage doors opening and closing, I look outside every time hoping to see something that is not there; the dog next door is always barking, sometimes it is the noise of my neighbour enjoying his hot tub, they are teachers so they are home in the summer, he talks a lot, his poor wife can’t get a word in. I prefer not to listen. The kids playing a block away screaming, enjoying life. Just everyday noises, I can’t shut them out. Just some of my excuses.
I am totally aware of my surroundings even when I don’t want to be. I just have to find a way to turn it off, whatever IT is.
The only Kittitian couch potato in Calgary.