This story is about my life from a child growing up on an island in the
It describes my love for one man who did not have the foresight to reveal his love for me and who left me to go overseas without any commitments, and who did not have any communication with me for months. It further outlines how I dealt with my heartache, and after feeling defeated, how I turned to another man who pursued me and provided the security and peace I needed and whom I married.
This is a story of my life with my husband of thirty years. The children we had and our travels and the great life and love we shared. This is the story of my devastation when my husband died and my decision to return to University to fill the gap, so I could go on with my life, as I wanted no one else.
True love returned when my telephone rang in my home, and at the other end of the line was my first love who I had not seen or heard from for thirty eight years, how we renewed our acquaintances and realized just how much we were still in love with each other. The pain and anguish was again experienced due to his indecisions, unavailability and inability to make a firm commitment about our new relationship,
In this book are our conversations and letters I have written to him but never gave him, our quarrels, our sorrows and our visits, and above all, my frustration at his lack of commitment.
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Shadows of My Past
By Marcey Oliver
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Marcey Oliver
All right reserved.
My name is Marcey, and I was born on an island, a very small island in the Caribbean, which was, at that time, a colony of Great Britain. To me, this was a huge place, and I could not imagine anywhere larger or more beautiful, with sunshine, warmth, and beautiful beaches. I am the oldest of the five children born to my parents
I am a mixture of many ethnicities. On my paternal side, I am Scottish, Portuguese, Jewish, and African. On my maternal side, I am Scottish, English, Irish, and African; that is all that I know of. My mother was a postmistress who was transferred to several post offices throughout the island. My father was an accountant at a very large and prosperous sugar cane plantation—the sugar made from that sugar cane was shipped to England, as was all other produce from the island.
My mother's family were all academics. My grandparents were both school principals. My aunts were teachers, pharmacists, nurses, university professors, a postmistress, and accountants. There were six aunts and one uncle, who died at birth. My aunts were all accomplished musicians; they played the guitar, the violin, and the piano. My mother played all instruments. My maternal grandparents had a lot of land that was chiefly used for raising goats, and my grandfather gave a goat to each of his grandchildren. My father's family were business people. My paternal grandfather was an exporter of spices and skins, and others in the family were nurses, accountants, managers, and housewives. There were five aunts, one who died at age five, and two uncles. My paternal grandparents also had a lot of land and animals, primarily dairy cattle, and to each of his grandchildren my grandfather gave a calf. My paternal grandmother stayed at home. She was an accomplished violinist and such a lady. I loved all my grandparents.
My roots are on the island of Jamaica and I am very proud of my heritage.
I have three brothers and one sister. My oldest brother attended a university in the United States, where he studied economics. My second oldest brother was a businessman; my youngest brother was a steam engineer and a millwright. My sister, now retired, was the manager of personnel at the company where she worked, and I have a bachelor of social work degree and was a career consultant for the company for which I worked.
The early days of my life were idyllic, and I would never change anything that happened in my life. My mother stayed at home, except when the post office called her out because they were short, and they needed her help. Our home had a cook, a housemaid, and a nursemaid for us kids. I had my own nursemaid for a while—her name was Sally, and whenever I went to visit my paternal grandparents Sally always came to see me. She called me "Miss Marcey." I have not seen her now for many years, as I heard that she went overseas to live.
One of my earliest recollections involves Sally. At the time we lived about ten miles or so from the nearest town in the parish in a great big house—at least it appeared that way to me. I later found out that it was haunted, and I cannot for the life of me understand why my parents bought it and went to live there; perhaps because it was closer to where my father worked. Once when I was four years old, my parents were away, and Sally's boyfriend, Johnny, came over to see her. He had a machete that he always carried, as he worked on a sugar plantation cutting sugar cane that was taken to the sugar estates to be made into sugar for mostly export As they were talking, he used the back of his machete to make little marks on a big guangu tree on our property. I ran up to them just as he swung the machete backward, and I got the sharp edge of the machete across my forehead, almost into my eyes. I remember the panic as Sally took me and laid me on the patio behind our house. I was bleeding profusely, and I remember that my brother kissed me because he thought I was going to die.
The telephones, then, were antiquated. They looked like huge boxes attached to the wall with a mouthpiece, a removable hand held receiver on one side and a little handle that was turned to make the number of rings for the person you were calling. It appeared to be a chore just to use it. My parents were contacted and they were home in a jiffy. At the time, my father had a truck, so I was taken to the hospital in a truck. I was stitched up, and sent back home. It has been said that the accident slightly affected my eyes, and I had to wear glasses—those horrible old fashioned turtle shell glasses that I really hated.
My sister and second brother were born in this house. We were told that the "airplane" brought them, and we had to go to Mrs. Annie for cookies before the babies arrived each time. I could never understand why they were not hurt by the rocks when they were dropped from the plane. Many questions were asked as I wanted to know why the babies were never harmed, being dropped from an airplane on big rocks on the ground. I had to believe that the airplane brought the baby, because then, there were not many planes flying overhead, but it appeared that one always flew over when a new baby was born in my family. Major lessons were learned later when my mother told me a little about the facts of life.. We were all born at home, and each one was delivered by the same midwife. I believe she is still alive. She got a lot of business from the paternal side of my family, as she also delivered several of my cousins.
Christmastime was wonderful. Our first Christmas tree, as far as I can remember, was a branch of the willow tree that grew by the seaside—we lived by the ocean. It was wispy and droopy, but it was our tree. We trimmed it with crepe paper and perhaps one string of "pepper lights" as the indoor Christmas tree lights were called then. Gifts were sparse—one tricycle for all of us, a doll for me, and I don't know what the others got—it was not my concern. Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, as we called him then, came through the keyhole, and he could not come in if we were not asleep. I chanced staying awake once, and got nothing for Christmas. Santa Claus did not put gifts under the tree until we were much older. Before that, our gifts were put on our pillows above our heads as we slept. It was such a delight as we danced around, enjoying the gifts we got and taking care not to break anything.
Every Christmas we went to our grandparents' home for Christmas dinner with the entire family—aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends. The veranda that circled the two sides and the front of the house was set up with long tables for the adults and smaller tables for the children. There was always a turkey, ham, roast beef, and a whole suckling pig with a potato in its mouth—the table was laden with food. I hated that pig. It scared me so much that I could not sleep, and I hated the dark. The turkeys patrolled the yard and chased us when we went out. We had to get them locked up, especially the tom, who eventually landed on the Christmas table as our dinner. Turkey is not my most favorite meal, but I will eat it when it is fresh from the oven and served for dinner.
When I was four, my parents, in their infinite wisdom, sent me to stay with one of my grandaunts on the farm on another part of the island. I hated it there. My aunt Greta, who was my grandmother's sister, was mean, or so I thought. She locked me in the bedroom while she went out, and I never knew the reason. I was never a rude child or gave any trouble. My cousin Maddy was also at the farm, but she was older and therefore fared better than I did.
Then, there was the day the white miserable cow chased me. I was but a fluff of a thing. I had followed Aunt Greta across the commons to go to see the king and queen of England, who were visiting the island. My aunt told me that I couldn't come, so I went back to the farm and tried to climb over the gate. Betsy, the cow, who was nursing her calf, did not like me one bit, so she chased me. Thank goodness for my granduncle Art, who pulled me over the gate to safety. I hated Betsy—I hate all cows; they have no sense, yet I did grow up around them.
The home on the farm was the childhood home of my paternal grandmother. Her father was from Scotland, and her mother was an islander. I was told that she was a descendant of the queen of Sheba, but I have never been interested to find out if this was true. There was a lot of land on the farm that was later bought by the Bauxite Company. The house and the family cemetery are still there on the farmland. I could hardly wait for my parents to take me home; nothing would make me stay.
My security was short-lived; I went from the frying pan into the fire. I was now sent to live with my mother's sister, Lizzy, as it was time for me to learn what school was all about. For goodness sake, I was only four years and already a genius—what else was there to learn? If I thought Aunt Greta was the Wicked Witch of the West, I don't know what Aunt Lizzy was. She was the principal of a school in a rural area, about ten miles or so from the nearest town, and the capital of the parish, as each parish had a capital city or town. To get to her place, one had to pass the home of my maternal grandparents, and I loved going to see my grandparents as it was easier to see them when I went to stay with Aunt Lizzy.
Aunt Lizzy was cross, and apart from that being a part of her personality, I believe she took her responsibility seriously as she was now a guardian of her sister's child.—She did not allow me to play with any of the children in the school, as they were not good enough, so I tried to teach the ABC's to the trees—this has stuck with me throughout the years. I was afraid of Aunt Lizzy. She locked me in her room if I peed her bed. I wonder why I did that; I think she scared it out of me. My sister, brothers and cousins on my maternal side, all had our stint with Aunt Lizzy. My grandparents told my parents to take me home because Aunt Lizzy spanked a lot. I remember she had a yard boy who stole the marbles from her checker set, but he said that I'd given them to him. I never touched the sacred marbles, but I got a licking because I said I did not give the marbles to him. I cried so hard that I threw up in her face basin. That made me happy. My uncle Art died when I was with her, and I was really sad. My parents brought me home then.
My parents, by this time, had sold their house in the country and bought another house in the town, because of my father's transfer in his job. I was now six years. I was sick, and I had to be rushed to the hospital with appendicitis. Today, I have a scar that appears to be a scorpion carved in my stomach. I have no idea why this cut was so large. I guess surgeons had not completely honed in on their skills at that time. .
Chapter TwoI grew up with mostly dogs as pets, as my mother did not like cats due to an unfortunate experience she encountered. There was always a dog in our family. I loved puppies, so I treated them as children. My recollection of the first dog I saw was a dog we called Chiwey. She was a black collie, and she had several puppies. I don't remember when we no longer had her, because I was not always at home. Then there was Laddie, then Bumstead, then Rover—these are the ones I remember. My sister and I later sneaked a kitten into our home, and when it was older, we watched as this cat had four kittens. That was an experience I have never forgotten. I also grew up with chickens and other animals, as my grandparents had properties that had cows, goats, horses, donkeys, and other farm animals.
I did not have one specific pet, just the puppies when my parents brought a dog home. I was never attached to any one thing. My cousin and I fed milk to baby goats from a bottle with a nipple, because the mother would not feed it. We both nursed chickens back to health when we thought they had the "pip" (a disease that caused scales or crust on their tongues) and could not pick up their food, which was ground kernels of corn. We would also make a racket by beating pots and pans with a spoon over the chickens' heads if we thought they were sick and dying. This usually revived them. I wonder why?
As a child, I did not have many toys, because I was always outside. However, my dolls were important. I had one doll that my parents bought and several that were handmade. When I was ten or eleven, my friend Maud, who lived next door, sewed clothes for my dolls. She was an excellent seamstress at that young age.
Age six was a tumultuous year for me. I must have been a horrible child, because it was then that I was shipped off to boarding school— Navaho's Secondary School, which I hated—in the middle of the island. I lived by the ocean. My parents' friends had a daughter, Nancy Nicks, who also went there; she was not the swiftest of the pack. Then there was Leonard Darrow. He looked like Tubby Tompkins from the Little Lulu comics and had a mouth like Iggy Inch also from the Little Lulu Comics, and although these characters were not "cry babies" I associated Leonard with them. That kid was always crying, and he was not the best-looking, with his protruding belly in his short pants. Oh, Lord, I thought, my parents must hate me, and even at my tender age, I vowed that I would never send any of my children to a boarding school. Most of all, I made a vow that I would never have a child like Leonard Darrow.
Except for Sheila Cooks, I have never seen anyone from my boarding school days, .She, however, was older than I was. If there's anything I want to block from my mind about my childhood, it is boarding school days. Breakfast was one roll with margarine and a cup of hot chocolate. Noon meal was "flour stew" on rice when eaten, felt as though it had rocks from where it was harvested, and then mixed with sardines. Rice then was sold by weight or by the pound, the metric system of that day. It was not properly cleaned, unlike the packaged long grain or short grain rice sold in the supermarket today. My parents paid extra so I could have some milk. Supper was one roll again with margarine and a glass of lemonade. In later life, when I tried to gain weight, I could not move from ninety-eight pounds because my body was set at the starvation mode.
Imagine: I went to Navaho's for four years. My parents had to bribe me with tons of new clothing to get me to go back, and on top of that, every month, a basket of goodies came by bus for me. On those occasions, I had a lot of friends who were hungry and starved also. When I was young, children were to be "seen and not heard," so no one complained about the conditions at school. On my first night home from school at the end of each term, I got sick because I tried to eat everything in sight.
When I learned how to read, I became a bookworm. I joined the public library and read fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen and Grimm's Fairy Tales. The story about Falada the horse became a favorite fairy tale. I then moved on to reading about Scotland and the lairds of the castles. I liked the travelogue of the different castles and Highlands of Scotland. I got in a lot of trouble from my parents, because when the lights were to be out for bed, I would read with a flashlight. Their predictions that I would ruin my eyes, and would have to wear glasses later in life, came true, as I now wear glasses.
I grew apart from my siblings, because I was never home. I started piano lessons at six years old while at Navaho's. I did get a scholarship for tuition for all the years I was there. I wish it had been for food also. My pocket money was five shillings, as that was the currency then, and that was to buy treats at homework time—Bulla which was a sweet round cake or Gratto, which was a local flatbread and to this very day I hate those things. There was no "aerated water," as pop was called then, or anything to wash it down. Then there were mint balls and paradise plums that left ridges in the roof of your mouth if you kept it there for any amount of time, which also made your tongue sore Although, as a child, these treats were good, I soon learned to associate them with pain and sores, and I hate them to this very day; We could not write to tell our parents anything because our letters were censored, in the event we told our parents just how much we hated boarding school, and the reasons why we did. During one school year, some of us became ill with the chicken pox, and had to be quarantined until we got over it. I turned ten in January, and I begged my parents not to send me back. I was a bright little thing. Navaho's taught me well, as I was to have taken my junior Cambridge when I left, then senior Cambridge two years later. These were British education standard exams, which I would not be able to compare to the education standards of today, as a lot has changed and then what? Graduate from high school at age twelve? I don't think so. My parents finally took me out of boarding school.
Excerpted from Shadows of My Past by Marcey Oliver Copyright © 2010 by Marcey Oliver. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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