The Bermuda I grew up in was segregated according to race - the schools, pews in churches, seats in theatres, wards in the hospital, restaurants, jobs everything...every aspect of life. So, in the marginalised community in which I grew up I was taught the importance of respect for self and others, the importance of trying to find out who I was, and, crucially, the importance of making my way in the world.
Looking back, I can say that I did make my way and have had a good life. No regrets, not even for those parts that did not work out. When I’m in Bermuda I get reminders from other people... friends, people whom I may have worked with or whom I taught many, many moons ago… they shout out ‘Saltus, you’re looking good, I want to be like you when I grow up. And I reply ‘hang in there, your turn is coming’. And we reminisce and have a good laugh.
Funnily enough, many of the limitations racism placed upon me as a young person have parallels to the limitations placed upon me as a senior, by ageism. I can remember I had occasion to go to a lawyer’s office – there were documents that needed to be renewed and signed and there were three people and a lawyer. And although I was sitting almost directly across from him, he never looked at me.. but he expected that I would sign the documents because that is what we were there for. I intentionally delayed signing them in order to read them. I knew that the way he acted had everything to with my age.
Fortunately, I know now how to respond to attitudes like that and don’t let them hinder my making my way in the world.
Here I am now, coming to live in Cardiff at age 77, making a new home where I expect to live the rest of my senior years. I have reminders around me, visual reminders, pictures of my family, my ancestors, my children, my grandson, colleagues, friends. But most of all, as I make my way in my new home, I will draw on those childhood lessons in respect and identity. I am now excitedly looking forward to whatever the future holds. I don’t know how long that future will be but, for sure, I plan to make the best of it.
My favourite saying puts all of what I’ve just said in two sentences: “it’s not what you think I ought to want. It’s what I think I ought to want.”
An interview with the storyteller
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am a black Bermudian woman. My father migrated to Bermuda from Dominica in the West Indies and my mother was born in Bermuda. I am the mother of three adult children and grandmother of one. I am aged 77. I lived for most of my life in Bermuda but have relocated to Cardiff, Wales. I was educated in Bermuda, Canada, England, and the United States of America. I worked as a secondary school teacher initially, but spent most of my working life in various senior management positions in higher education.
What’s your story about?
My story is about the early lessons of respect, identity and making one’s way in the world which my community regarded so highly. It is about drawing on those lessons, initially, as a young Bermudian living in a society which sought to place limits on my aspirations, and now, as a senior, when those same life lessons are at the forefront in helping me to live a fulfilling senior life.
Why did you choose this particular story?
I chose this story because it gives me an opportunity to explore my relocating to Cardiff. As a young adult I had dreams of living and working in a foreign land. Fifty years later and I am now in that foreign land where I anticipate living a new and different life.
What was the experience of making a digital story like?
Initially, I had concerns about going public with my thoughts. But, life is what it is. The experience of assembling thoughts and materials to create a digital story has made me reflect on aspects of my life that I hadn’t really given much thought to. In particular, I think about the strength, endurance and hope of the adults who were around me as I grew up. Combining the emotional content with the 21st century technology involved in creating the final product was an entirely rewarding experience.