A couple years ago while visiting Toronto there was a fire at our house. Thanks to the quick reaction of my son he… http://fb.me/zPiw45sQ
Last Thursday I made some notes outlining my next story covering my early days in Toronto. On Friday my grandkids came for a sleepover, then my son showed up from University in Saskatoon and we had a great Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. The kids are quite demanding physically so after they left I headed straight to ‘da couch’ for some RNR.
My thoughts drifted and I began to reflect on my childhood. I tried to work on my story I started on Thursday but I kept drifting to my youth and sibling rivalry. I am in the middle of an older sister and a younger brother, a year and a half on either side. Sibling rivalry is a natural occurrence.
When my older sister and I would get at it, my mom would yell at me, ‘boys don’t fight with girls’. My sister fought dirty, she used her nails, and I was defenceless.
When I’d pick on my brother, of course I could not fight with my younger brother either , I could still hear my mom’s voice, ‘don’t fight with your brother’, while he was beating the crap out of me, of course I had to take the blows.
One of my parents was always around; sometimes I wished they would just disappear for a day so I could have my way. I think my parents enjoyed seeing me get my butt whooped, probably provided them with great entertainment. Pay back maybe, I had a potty mouth.
Growing up we didn’t have too many store bought toys. My mom would buy us a toy like a fire truck or police car and toy guns on Christmas Eve. I grew up in the 50’s. I had a policy, store bought toys only was suppose to last until the day after New Year’s Day. By then I would have found a way to destroy my toy and was working on my brother’s (one of the reasons he would ‘beat me up’ with my parents’ permission). I wanted to see what made them work.
Where I lived in Trafalgar my neighbours to the left were quite poor, my neighbours to the right weren’t, and we were literally in the middle. I had friends on both sides. One of my friends to the right, G, had lots of store bought toys. His family had a caregiver, Mrs H who lived to the left. I don’t think she had children but her sister did. She was a heavy set woman, who happened to be the village news monger and delivered the gossip with great gusto. She was intimidating.
My friend G and I would play with his Tonka Toys. When he had outgrown his toys he would give them to his caregiver for her family. I must admit I was a little jealous, what kid wouldn’t be.
One day I asked and he gave me one of his Tonka trucks, a nice big yellow truck. I was quite excited and headed off home; I probably would play with it for a few days then open it up. On my way home I saw Miss H walking toward me. I sense some trouble and from the distance I still had some options. I could turn left go around the block and avoid her completely. I could cut through the Bridgewater property and over our back fence and again avoid her completely. I pretty much had the same options by turning right. What to do?
With all those options I select the ‘dumb ass pick’. I walked straight at her and as I was about to go by, I showed her the truck, the devil made me do it. I think maybe I was being spiteful. She asked me where I got it from and I told her that G gave it to me. That was not what she wanted to hear. She accused me of stealing it so I told her what I thought about her. Remember my potty mouth?
The next few minutes was scripted from hell. She started to shout, the whole village was her audience;
‘Miss Carter, Miss Carter, Miss Carter, you son teef G truck, I see him with me own eyes, he teef it, o lawd he going staight to hell’.
We were still a good fifty yards away from my house. I am sure my mom could hear her loud and clear. Unfortunately my dad was also home. I started to run with Mrs H, the devil’s assistant, behind me shouting at the top of her voice.
My dad was a very proud man, gave us everything he thought we needed so why would I steal, eh.
I ran into the shop and I started to plead my case, my dad was not interested in my explanations, without saying a word and with his ‘evil dad face’ he simply took the truck and turned it over to Mrs H then escorted me in the back.
I won’t say what happened after that, I don’t remember exactly, but I could not sit for a whole day, he used what was closest at hand, a piece of salt fish tail. I promised never to steal again, although I hadn’t. It was one of those life changing moments.
To make matters worse, the next day I saw Mrs H’s family playing with the truck.
No one can take away my memories, the real toys I grew up with included, homemade catapult, made from guava tree stems, bicycle tube and parts of car tires. Of course my parents did not approve, those things were dangerous. With a catapult in your hand you were like David, you could take down Goliath with one swish.
We also played with a bicycle wheel and a piece of stick used to propel the wheel, there were kids in the Village who could make those things move like the stick was attached to the wheel.
Having fun with those homemade toys only lasted for so long and as I got older my needs changed. I would go by the Horsford store and see nice cricket bats and shiny balls and footballs and boots in the window. I wanted my own. I had no money; my dad had ‘beaten the urge to steal out of me’. He didn’t say I could not take from him, so that is what I did. I found ways to divide my parents and conquer; I found ingenious ways to ‘borrow’ money from my dad. I still don’t know how he did not figure it out, after all my ‘toys’ were not cheap. I would buy a nice cricket bat and shiny ball and he would show me how to protect the bat with linseed oil and never ask me where I got the money to buy them. Parents are complex.
I once made it all the way Antigua on a plane trip with the Cadets when I was about 15. When I returned my dad asked me how much the trip had cost me and offered a refund. I did not have a job. Again I am not sure where he thought I got the money from. Maybe parents aren’t that smart.
Way back then my parents hired a construction crew for a major construction job on our house that lasted a few months. There were 5 or 6 workers on a daily basis and during the summer I had to pitch in, help with fetching the water for the concrete mixing for example. I remember at the end of the week on Friday afternoon my dad would take out his roll of money and pay the workers. Of course I worked so I would stand there with my hand out.
He would take great pleasure reminding me that he fed, clothed and gave me a bed to sleep. Maybe parents just have to do things their way, a control thing.
I must admit that as a youngster I was not the easiest child to deal with. Being the 11th of 13 children, I think my parents were tired of raising kids so I got away with things my older brothers hadn’t. I never in my wildest imaginations thought I would be a parent, else I probably would have been a better child.
Today if you ask my friends who knew me when I was a kid, they would not admit to knowing that side of me. I saved my dark side for my siblings and parents only. I was a model citizen to my friends, except, you know there is always an exception, when I was not doing really well in a ball game I would take my equipment and go home, ownership had its privileges.
I was in my later teens when I stopped fighting with my siblings, even my potty mouth went away. It turns out I was not that bad kid after all, a small part of my life journey, just a phase I went through. Oh and I believe that I am a great parent, ask my kids. Yes I am a little controlling, learned that from my dad.
Despite all that, my dad sacrificed to get me through Grammar School. Maybe he saw the potential in me.
I was in my second year in Toronto when I started to find myself. Next week I will continue my journey. I think.
The only Kittitian Couch Potato in Calgary.
People have been asking how I ended up on ‘da couch’, so I thought I would let you in on my secret.
My family moved to Calgary about 5 years ago. Jo’s job was transferred here. She works for a big oil company and me being self employed I figure I’d take a chance and start over. I have a very short attention span and changes are easy for me, besides I figured what’s the worst that can happen.
Moving here had its drawbacks as I worked with my eldest daughter in Toronto. She had left home a few years before and I did not see her that often, you know what kids are like. As a parent you never feel like your job is complete so to be close to her I helped her get a job with one of my customers. I also worked there and for the next 5 years we started most work days with a little chit chat and coffee. Nice eh.
I must say that I had gotten a little lazy at that job, (short attention span,) and needed to revive my career, so off to Calgary we go, as you can imagine my daughter was not happy.
Toronto has a board based economy, some manufacturing, wholesale and distribution and what not. By contrast, Calgary’s economy is based on oil and gas for the most part. I tried to restart my consulting business but soon found out that the oil and gas references were completely different to what I was accustomed to. The industry has its own unique language. My job for the most part is asking questions, documenting the answers and recommending solutions. I needed a dictionary to survive.
I had to rethink my situation; I had to find an eastern based company. The big telecommunication giants would be a nice fit. I was quite fortunate to find a job with Bell Canada. The group I worked with sold and supported CRM solutions. After two years on the job I was ‘packaged’. The entire business group was sold a year later.
I then found a job with a smaller software company working with the same product I worked with at Bell. I lasted 6 months, during the summer the drive was tolerable but as soon as it started snowing I found it to be too much, I resigned.
Shortly after I found another job with another telecomm giant, TELUS, again working in the same type of product, a natural fit. After one year the company shut down the entire group and I was again ‘packaged’.
Three jobs in four and a half years, it was quite draining.
It was the end of January 2010 I found myself on ‘da couch’ asking myself ‘what do I do now?
With no job and no good prospects I thought I could change my life, again.
I started writing as a distraction from my situation, posting my thoughts on FB.
About a year earlier one of my sons’ friends introduced me to Facebook. When I asked her what to do with it she said, ‘talk to your friends’. Ok, what friends? She added me and I added my other kids and a couple of friends from Toronto, about 10 people.
At first I wrote to try and stay alert; my plan was to write about growing up in St Kitts which required me to lie on ‘da couch’ and reflect. I have been away for 40 years. I started writing about my school days, from kindergarten and worked my way up to the Grammar school. In between I wrote about other stuff like mangoes and jumbies, check my earlier posts. My daughter though I had lost it.
From the feedback, I was beginning to think maybe I can write stories that people want to read.
What was my biggest challenge to overcome? Knowing that people are actually reading what you wrote. I was afraid of being judged harshly.
A few months into it, I was up to 50 people on my FB but I didn’t know anyone else, I hit the proverbial wall. My cousin Keeth France told me to just add people randomly to increase my readership and he also encouraged me to keep writing. The more people I added the more showed up as ‘people you may know’ on FB. What a concept.
I mentioned that I sometimes write about mangoes, I had help as Keeth’s wife egged me on by posting lovely pictures of mangoes on Facebook.
When I write I don’t always continue a story theme, my thoughts stray, I blame it on the comfortable couch. Now I write at night between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. using a small writing book. Not sure why, it’s the only time I seem to be able to. When I write I scribble really fast and more often than not I can’t reread it but I know what I wrote so I can rewrite it later. I write sometimes in sentences or sometimes in point form or sometimes using doodle art. Probably need to change that if I want to be a successful writer. I don’t write stories, I write lots of random ideas then cut and paste them together. How did we survive before ‘cut and paste’?
The stories started getting longer and from some of the comments I received it was obvious that FB was not the right place to write, so I created a blog and here I am.
It’s like being in writing school all the time though.
Here I am in 2010 on ‘da couch’ thinking about my life in 1971, reflecting on my life before that. Got it?
Now I can continue.
In my last post I wrote about my early days in Toronto. My first year there was quite painful and I spent a lot of my quiet time thinking about St Kitts. Holidays were especially hard without my St Kitts family and friends, but I always had my memories.
Easter in St Kitts was the time when people flew kites. My brothers were really good at making kites. On the Saturday before Easter Sunday we would ‘launch’ the kites. I am sure there was a competition for whose kite would go the highest and stay up the longest. We would take what we thought was the best kite, someone would take it across the alley, my brother would say go and the kite would soar. Once we got the kite really high in the sky we would sling shot the line over the electric wires and tie the line to the house. If it did not rain the kites would stay up until next day. My brother Charlie was a kite flying master. His kites flew the highest and stayed up the longest.
One of the fun things was when the kite string would break, the entire village, well us kids, would chase it into Buckley’s cane field and often all the way down to Camps fields shouting ‘kite bus, kite bus’. The goal was to gather (steal) the string. Kite string was in limited supply. Good times.
Sometimes I would reflect on my last year working in St Kitts. I worked as a teacher at the Old Hospital School. It was not a very good experience mainly because I was not very good at it. The kids were not much younger than I was and I think I got the worst bunch of kids in the school in terms of lack of discipline. One kid in particular, the late Pip, would go out of his way to make sure my day was as bad as possible. In the classroom he just totally ignored me, simply refused to participate. He lived a stone’s throw away from me and he was my brother’s best friend. When we were out of the classroom, he would constantly tease me and run away. Of course because of our teacher/student relationship I was not able to beat him up. We met several years later at the Toronto Caribana and we had some good laugh about it.
My most favourite recollections however were about my football playing days. I was very fortunate to play football at the highest level in St Kitts. I played with a team that was assembled in Grammar School. We won the national championship, stayed together helped by an old friend Mikoyan, moved as a group to Santos and carried on the winning tradition.
The fan support for our team was quite incredible. At some games the field would be surrounded by fans, I am guessing maybe 200 or 300 people cheering us on. I played against some of the top players on the island at a young age. There were some great players that would have been able to play in the world ‘big leagues’, players like Shine, Tudor, Nelon, Hicks and others. For the most part I fared pretty well. My biggest strength was that I hated to lose.
Of all the opponents I faced, Sam Condor (Deputy PM, St Kitts/Nevis) was probably the most difficult to play against. He talked a lot during the game; he would find ways to knock you off your game, like kicking your ankles on purpose. I remember once I went up to get the ball and he removed my legs from under me, I came crashing down. It was all in good fun, I think.
A game against Sam would start days before the actual game day. A bunch of guys would come together and argue Trafalgar style about the upcoming game. We would meet by the Old Grammar school field or on the corner of St. Johnston and Cayon or in front of Carl Brazier house. Sam talked a good game, but he could never win these verbal sparring. He was on my turf.
I recalled Sam liked being in the village; he was not a villager. Quite often my buddy Junior and I would drift off to go to our nightly gathering at the corner of Cayon and Forth Street. When we returned, Sam would still be in the Village. Sometimes at night when I went to bed, I could hear him still arguing about football, sometimes politics or chatting about economic courses he was taking at the London School of Economics, ( I think, may have been another school.) Sam had a very strong voice, in the night air I could not tell exactly where he was. Often his was the last voice I heard before I went off to sleep. No comment.
I have not spoken to Sam in 40 years. Just recently someone posted a YouTube clip of Sam giving a speech at the Christina sinking Memorial. He started by saying his wife could not make it to the gathering. I asked a friend of mine who Sam had married. Then it all made sense, Sam was not in the Village late at night trying to drive me crazy and to knock me off my game, his interest was my neighbour, his wife, a few houses up the road. He was trying to impress her.
My buddy Junior told me recently that Sam still has good football skills at his age, he plays a good mid field for some ‘old mans team’, maybe there is still a game in our future, I’ll probably let him win.
To this day I still dream about those great times, Jo tells me she sometimes can look at my facial expression and know what I am thinking about. Ya right.
When Christmas came around that first year in Toronto, it must have been one of the really low points in my entire life; I can’t even begin to describe it. I remember it snowed on Christmas day and I went for a walk. I can actually still remember what winter smelled like back then, quite refreshing. Today the air is dirty.
There I was walking around in the snow and bawling and singing Christmas carols, cussing myself for making the decision to leave home. It’s a good thing no one was close enough to hear me.
Later that day we went to my late uncle Roland’s home, Mother Gwen is a great cook.
Some things you never forget.
The Only Kittitian Couch Potato in Calgary