For more about the Weekly Writing Challenge, click here. For more about this week’s writing challenge, click here.
(NOTE: This is the challenge from 2 weeks ago. Whatever… I’m still dealing with jet lag from going home. Better late than never.)
My maternal grandmother died over 17 years ago. Although it has gotten easier with time and the pain isn’t as sharp as it used to be, the longing, the memories, the love… even the pain, no matter how dull… never go away. She was a major part of my life. We (her grandkids) saw her almost every day, as she lived down the block from us and watched us after school sometimes while our parents worked and made their way home in the evenings. We’d play in front of her building, not too far from her sight of course. Our old neighborhood is far from savory, so after calling us to get in before the street lights came on, we were inside with her and/or down the hall at my god-sister’s house and/or upstairs at my play cousin’s house (her god-daughter).
Before I moved over here, my aunt J surprised me & gave me one of my grandmother’s possessions as a parting gift. It pained her to do it (she shed a few tears), but she wanted me – the oldest grandchild & only granddaughter – to have it. I was, and still am, humbled by it and keep it on my dresser. I’ve even used it once or twice. What is it, you ask?
Her old school powder puff. (I have other items from her, but this one sticks out the most.)
Grandma used this powder all the time, whether she was making a quick run to the store, or going on a weekend trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey (Wikipedia link) with her sisters (my great-aunts), or visiting Panama (Wikipedia link) or Barbados (Wikipedia link) or (insert anywhere here). I vaguely remember her putting it on, standing in front of her mirror as she finished getting dressed. I loved hugging & kissing her after she dabbed the powder on her neck & chest because she smelled so sweet! She’d fuss at me a little – “Don’t mess up my face (make-up) & clothes!” – but she knew full well that she loved her granddaughter’s hugs & kisses.
I still think about her, miss her, and love her beyond infinity. I wonder how our relationship would be if she were still alive. Grandma liked travelling a bit, so I’m sure that she’d visit me over here for a while and, later, fuss at me for making such a fuss over her.
(Panamanian accent) “You don’t worry about me! I’m not that old, I know where I’m going. I want to explore this place, it’s so big, my goodness!… Yes, I know it’s like back home but still, it’s big!… Just give me the spare keys so I can find my way around… Yes I’m sure, dammit! You’re not too grown for a pop in the mouth. Your mouth fresh!… Yes, I’ll be fine… Yes, I’ll call you… No, I won’t lose the spare phone… Alright alright! Ay yi yi, dios mio, yes I’ll behave!… I love you too, babes.”
If any of you are from the Caribbean or Central America or South America (hell, almost anywhere worldwide) and you have grandparents or older parents who visit you when you’re an expatriate, they stay long time! My grandmother would surely stay at least a month.
I laugh just thinking about it… but that’s how I picture things in my mind if she were still alive. I’d prefer her to be here in body & mind, but at least I carry her spirit with me everywhere. And it only takes one whiff of her powder to reminisce and treasure the memories.
You are forever missed & loved. Que en paz descanse pa’siempre, Grandma. And thank you, aunt J.
Tell me about your favorite things in the comments section.
Today 7 years ago tragedy struck the capital. The day before London had been announced as the winner of the 2012 summer Olympics. When I moved here in September 2008 the bombings were still in my mind. I wasn’t scared of being in London (if I was I wouldn’t have come) but riding the tube did make me feel a bit anxious.
One of my first memories of the tube was riding the escalator out of Kings Cross, looking around and thinking that something here was amiss. There was damage everywhere. It didn’t click for me, not until months later when I went to the Museum of London and came across a Book of Tributes. As I flipped through I read about the events of 7/7/2005. I read about the 52 people who died that day and the 700 injured.
In the run up to the anniversary this week there was…
I guess now is a good time to talk about what I do for a living.
I work in social services. It’s something I decided to do as a teenager, when I saw the work that my father did. He wasn’t a social worker by trade, but his community work was admirable – working with drug addicts, people with HIV/AIDS (who were also often drug addicted), mentally challenged teenagers, etc. I wanted to become a doctor or find a cure for HIV/AIDS, but then I decided that I might make a bigger difference by doing the same things as my father. As a result, I studied a few different social sciences in college and went on to graduate school.
The United Kingdom, especially England, has a historic shortage of people willing to work in social services. The reasons are varied & complex, but to make it simple for you:
– bureaucracy on a massive level
– challenging families – poverty, deprivation, desperation, etc.
– burn-out and, as a result, high turn-over rates
To remedy this, one of the ways that the United Kingdom tries to fill in vacancies is by recruiting overseas on a heavy basis – the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. That’s how I got here. Overseas recruiting worked for a while, until now. With the world economy already up Shit’s Creek, the United Kingdom, like most or all of continental Europe, has taken many austerity measures to close gaping budget gaps. One of these measures will likely target overseas recruiting (if it hasn’t already – depending on what part of the United Kingdom one resides in), which will likely lead to an increase in social service vacancies….. Why? Because despite heavy PR campaigns in & outside of the United Kingdom, the image of social workers by the public is quite tarnished due to high-profile child abuse cases that took place over the past 10-15 years – Victoria Climbie (detailed story – Wikipedia) & Baby P (detailed story – Wikipedia) are glaring examples. As a result, there aren’t many people willing to attend school for & work in the profession. And honestly, I’m not sure why in the world I keep doing this because all the above reasons apply to me too. 😐
And as you might imagine, the many vacancies will affect families, as well as the way that social care agencies provide services. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that it’s a vicious cycle that occurs everywhere, worldwide.
To be more specific to my experience, I work for the local government in children’s services with the aim of keeping children ages 11-17 out of (foster) care. Although cases of child abuse and/or neglect aren’t part of my department’s services (that’s the job of child protection), the area in which I work is pretty deprived. Here are some statistics:
– According to the 2001 census, the area is 63% white, 16% black African and 8% black Caribbean
– Broken down further, this particular area is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the United Kingdom
– High-crime area with high levels of gang violence, for which it has a notorious reputation
– Most crimes here (and throughout the United Kingdom) occur as stabbings since guns are illegal here
– Great Britain overall has seen an increase in gun crime & gangs in recent years even though guns are illegal here
– The area has the highest teenage (under 18) conception rate in the United Kingdom (and if I remember correctly, in Europe)
– The area has high STD (or, as they’re known here, STI) infection rates
(The only reason that I’m not specifying from where I obtained these statistics is for privacy & personal concerns; hopefully readers will understand.)
Well, there you have it. Welcome to my (work) world.
For further information about the aforementioned topics, check out the following links: