Firsts

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Thank you, Anna for mentioning me in your absolutely brilliant post. Going through what could ultimately be a serious life-challenge at this time, your friendship and support are a source of immense comfort to me. Love, Marie

ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse

CSM Michelle Jones, first female command sergeant major of US Army Reserve (PD as work product of federal govt.)

An exceptional woman who once worked for me as a paralegal, had been in the Army before that.  There is an Army saying that goes:  It rains in the Army, but not on the Army.  That means soldiers power through, whatever the obstacle.  They move so fast, the raindrops don’t even touch them.

That fit my friend to a tee.  Any organization would have been lucky to have her.

My friend shared with me that she had been the only black woman (often the first and only woman) in all the classes or programs she ever attended.  She refused to declare her race on any form determining eligibility for affirmative action.  Yet the assumption was always made that she could not have qualified on merit alone.

I worked for years in…

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Transition

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Transition

Soft as soft and unassuming seemed the day you stole away. And I wondered: are transitions merely ghosts, spectres, unreal reality? The hoover softly purring on the carpet like a cat with much to do, pondering sleepily if those things can be left for another day. It was just another Saturday. The day after Friday, and the one before Sunday – or so it seemed at the time. So Saturday morning chores filled the moments and as I vacuumed vacantly, the sun shining through lace-adorned windows, my thoughts popped in and out like uninvited guests mimicking the movement of my arm as if stroking an imaginary pet.

And yet, when the telephone rang, I knew before I answered it what I would hear. I wasn’t surprised, not in the least. I had been preparing for this call for longer than I can remember. I cast my mind back and pictured us on a sandy beach with you just out of reach and felt the pang of loss. That holiday was our first and last: the grandmother, the mother, and the child – three generations together, linked by our own expression of what it meant to be family. The path we had trodden to get to the other side now blocked by the greedy, irascible sea, at first calm, luring us closer, now raging higher, threatened to prevent us from going any further. There was no alternative but to climb the steep incline or be drowned, and so mercifully we were spared. But even as we climbed,
the threat of loss hovered on that occasion, just as it did when the telephone rang.

“I think you should come straight away”, the voice was calm and caring.
“Is she …?” The words fell away. Why was I asking? I already knew the answer.
“No”, the voice said. But I knew this was an acceptable twist of the truth. We both knew – better to travel in hope. Silently, I thanked the voice realising that compassion is not a liar.

So, softly you left on a Saturday.

~ Marie Williams – April 2018

Still Close By

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I have not gone
I am close by
In the stars above
You can see my love

I have not gone
I am by your side
In the moon above
You will feel my love

I have not gone
I walk with you
As the world revolves
You will touch my love

I have not gone
I still talk with you
Listen carefully and do not fear
It’s my loving voice you hear

I have not gone
I am near by
Don’t forget
My love will never die

~ Marie Williams 2016

Dedicated to Jackie

Previously published on http://riceandpease.wordpress.com

Am I a Hypocrite and is it time for me to Hypo-quit?

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Courtesy: Google Images

I am fascinated by accents. Any accents – I’m not fussy. I love to place accents and very often I get it wrong. I once asked my South African neighbour if he was from Australia. Another time, I confused an Irish accent with a French accent. Exactly! That’s how wrong I sometimes get them. But I’m very keen to learn and on the rare occasions when I do get it right, then I am often rewarded with a very welcoming smile and the opportunity to converse with ‘my new accent’ and the person accompanying it.

Recently, however, I am wondering should there be some sort of unwritten etiquette governing the use of accents in everyday life? And not just any accents, but the ones that don’t belong to you, I mean. For example if you are not from Germany, then should you attempt to speak, say English embellishing your words with a strong German tone to make your German acquaintance feel more comfortable? I have been giving this serious thought after talking with (I’ll call her) Linda, who told me that after a few days in her new job working at the Ministry of Justice, she happened to find herself in the enviable position of engaging in conversation with one of the judges who worked there. The conversation went something like this:

Judge: “Hello, I haven’t seen you around before. Are you new here?”
Linda: [A little shy and perhaps somewhat overawed] “Um … yes, I only started working here a few days ago.”
Judge: “You’re not from here are you? What part of the Caribbean are you from?”
Linda: “Well I was born here …”
Judge: “No … no. Where are your ….?”
Linda: “But my parents are from Jamaica”
Judge: “Ohh … ah Jamaica you come from! ‘Ow tings back a yard?”
Linda: “Pardon?”
Judge: “Oh well, enough of this nonsense! Ho ho ho …” Perhaps a little embarrassed and surprised by Linda’s reaction to his attempt at what he perceived to be his friendly attempt at the Jamaican ‘language’, his face turned bright pink as he went on his way, nose in the air, wig slightly askew and the tail of his black robe swishing in the air of mild confusion.

When Linda related the story to me that evening I was quite astonished that a judge would have nothing more sophisticated to say. His enquiry about the state of the country using what to me sounded like a feeble attempt at Jamaican patois to a new and junior member of staff on first meeting disturbed me. Was the only way that he felt he could connect with someone from a different country to speak to her in what he assumed to be, her language? Was this an attempt to put her at ease and show her that he could ‘get down with the lingo’ so to speak? What if Linda had spoken to him in an ‘upper class’ refined accent in a bid to elevate herself to his level and make him feel at home? “Oh, what ho! Judge Snodgrass. Delighted to meet you old boy!” Would he have found that charming or patronising? I wonder.

Later, on reflection, I thought to myself, wasn’t I being a tad hypocritical? Earlier that same year whilst in the process of moving home, we were blessed with the services of an excellent removal company and one of the employees was an Irish man. He was amiable and amusing. At no point did he attempt to speak Jamaican to me, but during the course of the move, an opportunity arose for me to try out my Irish. The van was parked outside my new neighbour’s home thereby preventing access to her driveway. She was Irish. She very kindly said it was not a problem while she parked further down the street. I came back to the Irish removal man [John] and said in my best Irish accent:

“To be sure, to be sure, it’s one of your countrymen over there!”

Did John take umbrage? No he did not. But with the broadest smile informed me that I had a lousy Irish accent!
And another time, on finding that a fellow-blogger hailed from Australia, I immediately started making references to ‘Sheila’, ‘barbies’ and a few ‘fair dinkums’ – all in the same sentence! And again, nothing was said in retaliation, and my comments were taken in the spirit of friendship.

This leads me then to re-examine my reaction to the Judge’s remarks. Was he perfectly within his rights to speak Jamaican when the occasion calls for it? Was he justified in his behaviour? Am I being judge –ist? Am I a hypocrite and is it time for me to hypo-quit?

~ Marie Williams – 2018

When the Rain Came

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Credit: Google Images

As usual we were not prepared. But that was our way and this is not to say that our actions lacked forethought in any way, but that we had become so accustomed to the way things were, we knew only what we knew and that had been sufficient in its own way to deal with the vicissitudes of life. Strife was rife, and though the battle ground was real, the laughter that we shared, became a place  where we could safely repair our armour, sharpen our wits as well as our spears to dent the onslaught of fears which like flood waters burst their dam and threatened to strike more often than we would have liked.

We plotted and planned, planned and plotted, dotted the ‘I’s and crossed the ‘T’s, and in our dreams subjected ourselves to living a life of constant ease. When the rain comes we said, things would be different. A life well-spent was our intent and bent on this and very little else, we kept an eye on the gathering storm clouds and would not allow the passage of time to dampen our resolve. We learned to make do with the drought and thought we ought to place our barrels in a place where when the rain came, not a drop would be lost. We bought enough barrels and damn the cost – what price our hopes and dreams?

When the rain came, so entrenched were we, we failed to see the raindrops. We did not hear the pitter-patter of freedom drumming on the window panes. And it pains me now to say that we did not fling the doors open wide and dance unreservedly upon the thirst-ridden earth now slowly, thankfully, surrendering to the watery saviour, releasing all that was bound and giving life anew.

~ Marie Williams – 2017

SMILE

You are an inspiration in the way that you have turned your life around and you have not allowed your past (horrific as it was) to define who you are. I am smiling with you …

A GOOD LITTLE GIRL

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Several years ago while I walked a mall, an old man implored me to, “Smile.”

My ever-behaving inner child responded at his command, making the corners of my mouth turn up. At that moment I realized my sad pathetic life was in plain sight for all to see.

Though I took great steps to conceal the pain, mistakes and horrendous abuses that made up my existence, all anyone needed to do was peer at my face, gaze into my eyes. This gentleman couldn’t comprehend the actual web of horrors that entangled me.

Unwanted, neglected, and abandoned by my mother and father. At 16, as my parents divorced and married people whom I had never before met, my newly introduced stepfather’s actions cast me to the winds. Forced to find a place to live, a friend’s family took me in, but the father happened to be a pedophile. Oh, not so…

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Smile

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Credit: Google Images – Forty Hall

I have watched you for a while
I feel I know what makes you smile
I’ve cast around in the deep,
deep places before I sleep

And I’m convinced I know
And of this I’m sure
It’s the laughing brook
Where first we took

Some time to unravel
(Our footsteps crunching on the gravel)
The mysteries surrounding us
What lays hidden in the dust?

You and I can never be sure
And search we might for ever more
But this I know and cannot deny
That all that’s hidden will come to light

And that’s what makes you smile my love
The mysteries hidden in heaven above
And the laughing brook
Where first we took

Those faltering steps
And our hearts leapt
Whispers gently all the while
That is what makes you smile

~ Marie Williams – 2017

NB: clicking on the image gives a more enchanting view.

Illusion

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Credit: Google Images

And the stars came down
one by one from the sky
leaving the moon to guide me home
And I wondered why the journey took so long.

Casting around, the shadows lay
like dead men searching and asking why?
Why now when clarity prevails
and the jigsaw puzzle fits perfectly:

The pieces have come together
just like I knew they would
But there is now no time to appreciate
the jewels that I scraped from the sullen earth

Dug so deep, plucking each one
As if my life depended thereon
Earth’s reluctance to give them up
knowing it was not theirs to keep

Ah, this life, this life
Now dark, then light, and dark again
Fatal Attraction’s Glenn Close style
light switch flickering illuminating the way

Making night day, as Puccini plays
And the stars came down one by one
leaving the moon to guide me home:
And I find the journey has only just begun

~ Marie Williams – 2017

The Ring

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Image: Google Images

There will come a day
When comatose you lay
And as you cogitate
No doubt you’ll say:

It was the right time
Whatever happened,
It happened when it should
No matter what you did

Those things you hid
They had to come to light
Such magnificence cannot be contained
And radiance fit to burst
Develops such a thirst

Which defies linear time
And must create the life you chose to live
The spills and thrills
The ups and downs

The times you chose
To throw the towel in
then changed your mind,
Re-entered the ring

Fought the fight
And took delight
Bloodied and bruised
To claim the life,

The life that was yours to choose
The rules you opted to make or break
The chances you chose to leave or take
The games you chose to win or lose

There will come a day
When comatose you lay
And on reflection; no doubt you’ll say
You did it your way!

~ Marie Williams – 2017

Alice, Milton and Oscar: Making Sense of it All

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Source: Google Images photo: Ruya Foundation

When children are trying to make sense of things that are beyond their understanding, they will usually try and work it out within the context that they do know and understand. … I watch as art is used as a reconnection point, the bridge, between the destruction of self, and the beginning of some sense of future, of hope. It seems that in this reclamation of the soul art is reborn”. – Justine Hardy, author and trauma psychologist, on art, conflict and healing.

Alice, Milton & Oscar: Making Sense of it All

Later much later, but before she had discovered that Oscar wasn’t really wild, and Milton’s paradise wasn’t lost, at least not lost the way she perceived it, rather that it wasn’t in the place that she had put it, and it was there after all, on the book shelf, partly covered by Alice’s adventures in wonderland, a place that she would not want to visit even if the mad hatter personally escorted her there. Besides, she hated tea parties!

Her own reality was such that it seemed more fitting to smile outwardly, while life as she knew it passed her by in a fog of pretence. Much of her childhood embraced activities which should have been enjoyable but were somehow grubbily tinged by the other stuff which did not make sense, at least to her, but she was in no position to prevent, avoid or escape from. So while brushing her teeth each morning, she would squirm as something else brushed up against her which on inspection did not foam and certainly did not leave her feeling clean and sparkling.

A sense of inadequacy pervaded the world in which she existed, and she questioned what was real and what was not. But childish views and thoughts are no match for the dark complexities which swirl in never-ending circles. There was not enough time to make sense of it all, and yet there was more than enough time, so she decided that instead of going around and around in circles, she would place it all in the attic that Oscar talked about. And if somehow, paradise lost, languishing on the book shelf could be found, then, perhaps the mad hatter would be just the person to help her find it.

~ Marie Williams – 2017