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PostPosted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:01 pm 
Extra Helpful Expert

Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2006 11:41 am
Posts: 1231
Once “WOODEN FLOORS hit the internet, one of my boy-hood friends called me to let me know that he also remembered the house and the “wooden floors” and we reminisced. As an aside, it was nice to know he reads me. One incident got me laughing and my son heard me and asked me about it. I told him and he asked me to tell him the full story. I did. He then asked me to also put that on the internet so that it would be there forever for him when he got older.
It is what I am doing now. And in this most public forum, I whisper “This is for you”.


It was almost as if we had uniforms. We wore the equipment of childish soldiers. I wore khaki shorts, the kind with elastic waist bands strong enough to stop digestion and four seemingly useless pockets (two in the front and two in the back). Our standard footwear was black high-top sneakers with white rubber circles on the sides. Black socks with toe holes were a must – only girls wore white socks without holes. There must have been some thought about that. Maybe that toenails need to breathe – I don’t remember. My pockets were armed with weapons of distraction and endless fun. I had an old sock stuffed with marbles in one front pocket while the other front pocket normally held a “TOP” and the string. One of my back pockets held a comb and the other a handkerchief. I won’t comment on the handkerchief since I know that I had a runny nose for my entire youth and the comb must have been spotless since my hair was very short and I didn’t particularly care about how it looked. Having that comb was a “Mom” thing.

On one afternoon, there were about ten of us at the house with “wooden” floors. We sat on the floor and talked (mostly fibbed since our innocence did not permit lying) and drank freshly made lemonade while eating white bread with guava jam. I remember the wood-slatted windows being wide open and the traffic below making some noise but it was noise-in-passing and not the noise that made you want to look. From those windows, you could see the harbor and the tops of the surrounding single-level houses. On that afternoon, we sat there and looked at our individual weapons of fun and started comparing. The topic came to the TOPS in our pockets and who could spin them hardest and who could aim them best. Marbles got pushed off to the side and became a non-priority. We were talking about “TOPS” and it was serious stuff to discuss during those times. The conversation never became heated but it got warm and drew the attention of the lady that tended the wooden floor. She came and stood off to the side and watched as we bragged about our individual accuracy in tossing and spinning the top in a small circle.

It was during this conversation that one of us (he will remain nameless) made his mind up to settle the issue once and for all. Digging into his pocket he pulled out a coin and tossed it on the wooden floor. The coin shined as it lay there on the dark warm wood. Wordlessly he stood up and started to wrap the string around his Top – all the while looking at the coin on the floor. The housekeeper stood a bit more erect and started to mutter something – her eyes were wide and focused. We all sat wordlessly and started to haphazardly wrap our individual tops as well. And then – in one of those moments that is best described as a “Slow-motion-moment” a very “Slow-motion-moment” – he positioned the TOP in his hand and raised the arm that held it as far over his head as he could. He looked at the coin and pointed at it with the forefinger of his other hand and then the disaster of the moment took on a life of its own. He flung his body forward and let the arm holding the TOP follow (kind of like a professional baseball pitcher does when on the mound) he moved forward – almost like falling - and let the TOP go. The housekeeper started to run towards him as we all watched the coin. She almost got a hold of his arm – but didn’t. The Top went towards the coin and just missed it – however – it imbedded itself into the floor like a nail would have. It didn’t spin nor did it waver. It was anchored in the floor. The sound is clear to me all these years later - a “Thonk” not a thud or a bang but a “Thonk”. The housekeeper dove for the floor as if trying to catch the TOP in-flight - she failed and lay there looking at her floor and the new addition to it. Silence. A slow-motion-moment followed by silence. The outside noise-in-passing became a sudden roar-in-passing. My nameless friend reached over and grabbed the coin and looked at it as if expecting to see a hole and then leaned over and pulled the TOP from the floor. We all looked at the hole it left. The housekeeper had her hands on her face and was saying something along the lines of “Lawd – Lawd – Lawd”. The boy whose house it was started to moan as the rest of us looked at the hole.

Housekeepers have a hierarchy. I know that because on that day all the attention went to a very old lady that normally stayed in the kitchen and ‘looked at things’. Her name was Olga. Olga had white hair and flawless lovely black skin and she came from Antigua. She was wise beyond words and calm to a point of her calmness being eloquent. She looked at us and then to the boy whose house it was. She quietly said – “go to your Daddies cigar box and bring me some matches. We remained silent. The boy came back with a handful of matches and gave them to her. Then she said to the housekeeper “Go to the closet and bring me the shoe shine box and the floor oil”. We remained silent. With props in hand she knelt to the floor and dipped the match ends in black shoe polish and then started pushing as many as could fit into the hole in the floor. When she had the hole packed with match-sticks, she broke them off, stood up and started to rub them with the bottoms of her slipper – this part had nothing to do with “Eloquence”. We were silent. Olga then looked at the housekeeper and told her to polish the floor. I started to grin a bit and Olga glanced at me – the grin disappeared.

Olga then called us all into the kitchen where she sat on “her” chair – the one she sat in when she ‘looked at things’. “Boys, this ting today never happened and I do not want to see another SPINNING TOP in this house”. A chorus of “Yes Olga” followed. The “floor housekeeper” continued her muttering and moaning throughout the entire thing.

We never talked about it again. It stayed in our minds, at least mine. Until this moment it just sort of hid there on a shelf that no-one goes to. My only reference to the incident is that what I used to call a TROMP (Papiamento for TOP) now became a SPINNING TOP and for that I have Olga to thank.

Olga, along with one of my friends of that day has died since, time has passed, and the house got sold ERGO the floors went with it. It is now in the hands of AIB bank in the middle of down town. I went there for a meeting and as we sat, I looked at the corner window and my eyes drifted down. In the middle of the still lovely brown wooden floor is a dot of white wood. Polished and almost invisible – except if you know. Where there was once a kitchen with a clock - there is now a storage area. Everything changes with time I suppose.

And it is not that Aruba was or is without regard for time, no – time will always be important. It is just that some timeless things are more important and that day, the TOP, Olga and the rest will always be timeless.

There was a time when we lived for what the emotions and circumstances offered and not what the schedules demanded.

And now son, this timeless moment is yours to carry forward to another listener. As promised, it is on the internet and I have given you some hints on the house and the people in it. It is now your turn to do the following – Go Figure.

All of this in one lifetime - interesting.


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