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My name is Garfield Edward George, better known as (Gap). I was born on the 26th day of March in the year 1921 in the town of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia. I am here on this 11th day of November as a sudden breeze gives flight to the dying leaves just like it did that day so many years ago. That day when the air was ablaze with those autumn flames as I carved two hearts intertwined declaring my undying love for Mary Beth on an oak tree that still stands here today.
Anyone who comes here...to this mostly forgotten place...might hear the tinkling laughter of children who played here back in the twenties and thirties when Parrsboro was a boom-town. The different paths that run through this place are now covered in fallen leaves, save for a small patch on that abandoned stretch that used to run to the old gazebo. That old gazebo was finally torn down after my pal, Charlie Winters fell through its rotted floor-boards and broke his leg.
If you look closely, you will see footprints in the crumbling concrete that leads to where that gazebo once stood. I remember the day those footprints were made. It was on a beautiful day in early June of 1928 when Mary Beth and I, taking the shortcut home from school through this place, ran smack-dab into Ernie (the school bully) who was twice my size, who stepped out from behind a huge oak, thereby blocking our passage.
"Where da ya think yur goin, Runt and Grunt," he taunted?
For a moment we stood there frozen with fear.
"Are ya deaf or what?" he screamed. "I asked ya...where da ya think yur goin?"
As he drew closer and closer to us, from somewhere, I found the courage to kick him in the shin with all my might. Then together, Mary Beth and I ran as fast as our short legs would carry us in the wake of a string of obscenities and death threats Ernie spewed as he hobbled along in hot pursuit.
We had to cross the path to the gazebo to get out of the park, but unbeknown to us, fresh concrete had been poured on that path that morning.
I cried myself to sleep that night having been so hurt by the harsh tongue-lashing my mother gave me after seeing my shoes covered in concrete. I being so young, had not as yet learned the value of money and didn't know how hard and long, Mom and Dad had worked to buy them.
The next morning, Mom informed me that no amount of elbow-grease could ever salvage those shoes and I would just have to wear them the way they were as there was no money to buy me another pair.
"Maybe now you will learn your lesson," she said as she kissed me on the forehead and shooed me out the door to school.
"Hey, Gap! Whereja get them thar fancy cement boots," Ernie chuckled as he limped into the classroom behind me. Needless to say, I learned my lesson.
Parrsboro...at that time...was a sea-faring town. Most every family who lived here then were affiliated with the sea in one way or the other. My father was a master mariner who spent most of each year aboard his three mast schooner delivering coal, lumber, apples and other items to the United States and the West Indies.
The well-worn path on the banks over the harbour, where I, my Mother, and siblings stood so many times watching my Father's Schooner disappear out of sight, has long since been overgrown with tall grasses.
I can still see my Mother's tear-filled eyes when she would turn to us and say... pray for your father's safe return, and I did. I also prayed for the day I would turn 14. Then I could leave school and apprentice aboard my Father's ship and become a master mariner like him, for I...like him..loved the sea.
I knew it was a dangerous profession as some ships that left the harbour, never returned. Entire families were nearly wiped out. Fathers and sons and other town folk hired on as crew members were downed by raging storms. Still, this didn't deter me.
There goes the widow Parson, Mom would say while looking out the bay window of our house. Poor thing! Whatever is she to do with all those mouths to feed?
Many times over the years, I, or my brothers and sisters, were sent to drop boxes filled with groceries and clothes on her veranda. We were instructed by Mom to knock on the door and then make a quick getaway so she wouldn't see us. I asked Mom why she didn't want the widow Parson to see us. Because she is a proud woman, and we must never strip her of her dignity, she said. This was the spirit of my dear mother. No kinder or more compassionate soul ever walked the face of this earth.
I had known Mary Beth all of my life. She was the daughter of Captain Byers, (my Father's lifetime friend). Through my childhood years, I had viewed her only as an object of annoyance as she tagged along uninvited everywhere I went. For reasons I never understood, she loved me in spite of all the tormenting I inflicted on her.
Finally, at the age of 14, I got my wish and went to sea with my Father. Little did I know how much I would miss Mary Beth. As the years passed, I found myself yearning for those short intervals when we would return home to my family and to Mary Beth for whom I had fallen deeply in love with. It seemed my every waking thought was of her and my every sleeping moment was a dream of her.
In my heart, I knew, I was ready to forsake my love of the sea for a life on land with Mary Beth. So, I put aside my dream of becoming a master mariner and went to work in the shipyard, saving every cent I could to build a home for us.
We planned to marry when the building of the house was complete. It was to be a big Victorian house with a wrap-around veranda with lots of room for children. A happier man...there never was. The only problem was...THE WORLD WAS AT WAR.
FOR THE CONCLUSION...READ PART TWO
Author: Elaine Cecelia George
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