Posted tagged ‘madam’

“alone doesn’t mean lonely. It just means alone. It just means that for now, you’re on your own, and that’s not a terrible thing.”

August 30, 2013

Somewhere off in the far distance, I can hear a dog bark, barely hear that dog bark, but Gracie feels it is her responsibility to respond. That she is standing on the deck directly under my window is of little importance. A dog does what a dog wants to do.

Last night was so chilly I shut my downstairs windows. My feet were even cold. Yesterday was fall. I don’t care that it is still August. Fall drops in now and then to get the lay of the land and last night was one of those visits. Today isn’t much better. It’s still chilly and damp. School should start on a day like today.

My friends are leaving for Ireland on Tuesday. My other friends are going to Ghana in the middle of September. I feel like the poor relation. I haven’t even been to Hyannis lately.

I called Rose Atiah, one of my students, this morning. I needed a Ghana fix, and Rose is always good for a conversation. She said it was getting ready to rain, and I could picture exactly what Bolga looks like with an impending storm. Rose said she was doing nothing, and I told her I was doing nothing as well. We chatted a bit more, and Rose said she would pass along my greetings to Agatha, Francisca and Bea. Hearing a Ghanaian accent always gives me a bit of a lift, and I love that Ghanaians pass along greetings.

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a hermit. With no reason to go out, I don’t bother to get dressed. I make my bed, brush my teeth, do a cursory wash of hands and face and then let the day while by me. Today could easily be one of those days, but I have no choice but to go out to the pharmacy. Gracie gets to come because it will be cool enough in the car for her.

When I finally got to my house in Ghana, I was living alone for the first time in my life, and it was a difficult transition. During Peace Corps training, we had been herded and kept in large groups, and we had each other, but now I had no one to talk to about how I felt, no one who understood what I was going through. I was homesick, doing a rotten job in the classroom and an object of curiosity for my students and just about everyone in town. I fled to books and checked for mail every day at least a couple of times. I was starved for conversation and companionship. I was miserable. I don’t know when that began to change, when I knew I was home, but change it did. I loved living alone. It was fun going into town and to the market. People greeted me all the time, and I returned their greetings. I was madam, a teacher at the school, and that was all.

Talking to Rose today brought a lot of that back. She still calls me madam.

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

August 15, 2013

Last night was chilly, close the window chilly. It will be the same tonight then tomorrow through Sunday will get warmer each day. I don’t why summer expects all these return engagements. I’m already geared up for fall, and Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, is close. It is as early as it can be.

I thought I had an empty dance card tomorrow, but I don’t. That means I have had something to do every day this week. My car is racking up the miles. I have already ridden over 70 miles through today. To me that’s a cross-country trip and tomorrow they’ll be more to come as I have to go to Hyannis. Yup, all the way to Hyannis, the big city in these parts.

I haven’t heard from Grace so I don’t know the progress of her quest to get a visa. She has all the papers she needs to prove her roots are in Ghana. She just has to present them. Grace had them the last time but was so overwhelmed by the quick 10 minute interview she didn’t think to use them. This time she swears she’ll be more assertive. I did call her last week, but she was in the Bolga market with Rose Atiah, another student of mine. In the background I could hear all the voices and the bustle of market day, and it was so loud the conversation was difficult. I said hello to Rose and she asked if I were well. Madam is what Rose still calls me. That’s what all the students called me. Rose is a grandmother; Grace is 61, but I will always be madam.

When I was in high school and forced to move to the cape, I was devastated. I had lived almost my whole life in one town, had the same friends forever and was involved in all sorts of activities. I hated the cape and came home from school every day, threw my books on the bed in my room and stayed there. I remember that first day of school when I stood outside alone by the side door while everyone chatted and talked about the summer. I wore new school clothes, not a uniform for the first time. My homeroom and my classes were easy to find but no one talked to me. I ate alone in the cafeteria. Every weekend I took the bus back to my home, my old town, and stayed with friends. My life had ended, or at least that’s what I thought. It took time, but I found a way to get involved. I joined after school groups. My favorite was the Latin Club but I have no memories of what we did. I was taking Latin IV so the club seemed to fit. Every time I see the yearbook picture of that club, I laugh. We looked like geeks. Giving the drama of my life at the time, I joined the drama club. I made friends, and found a place to sit in the cafeteria with my new friends.

While I was in Ghana and my brother was in the army, my father was transferred back to Boston. My parents bought a house in my old town, but it was never my home. When my brother and I came back to the United States, we both went home to Cape Cod. My mother said she wouldn’t take it personally that no matter where she lived, we wanted to live somewhere else, but our choice had nothing to do with her or the rest of my family. It had to do with our need for the comfort of familiar places and people as that’s what the Cape was for us, a refuge and our home.

“Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title.”

April 30, 2012

It’s a typical Cape Cod spring day at 50°, and I doubt it will get much warmer. It’s a pretty day with lots of sun and only a slight breeze. I slept in this morning which always makes me wonder if my neighbors think I’m lying unconscious on the floor as the paper is still in the driveway at ten o’clock. Even Gracie and Fern didn’t stir until I did and both are having their morning naps right now.

When I worked, I was up at 5 or 5:15 at the latest. My paper was seldom in the drive-way that early so I used to drink my coffee, read or watch the morning news. I’d get dressed at 6 and leave by 6:20 for my ten minute ride to work. The paper was usually delivered by then, and I’d throw it in the car to read when I got home which was usually around 4 o’clock. After thirty-three years of that, I earned sleeping-in.

A rooster was my alarm clock in Ghana. I never needed a real alarm. I went to bed early and woke up early. I had no newspaper to read so I’d sit on my front porch, drink my coffee and watch the small boys and girls walk by my house to their primary school just outside the front gate of my school. They’d stop to greet me. I was always sir, “Good morning, sir. How are you, sir?” The smallest of them were just learning English, and I figured sir was part of their dialogues. Madam would come later as that was what I was called in Ghana, Madam Ryan.

My titles have morphed over time. In Ghana, I was madam even to the women working in the market though sometimes a seller called me miss to draw my attention to her wares. “Miss, Miss,” I’d hear shouted at me as I walked by the stalls. When I got home and started teaching here, it was Miss Ryan to my students. As times changed so did my title. I became Ms. Ryan, but the miss was still around and used mostly by salespeople who didn’t know my name, “Thank you, miss.” they’d say as they handed me my bag. Now I am ma’am which is the shortened version of madam. It seems I have come full circle.