Spare the Rod and Hurt the Child
What was your childhood like?
An accurate comparison to mine and to most persons’ childhood would be with a nineteenth century western. Like the western, my boyhood days were characterised by wild action, high intensity and a daily adrenaline rush.
I lived on the edge, dangerously growing up with a fearless spirit that showed on my very countenance and caused my bones to vibrate with energy. I feared nothing or no one, or so they thought. The major part of my boyhood days that stands out in my mind even today were the days of prep school. The frightening and thunderous presence of our teacher, Principal Mrs Bennie made lunch time as anticipated as heaven to us. Amidst the consequences of fighting in school, it was my favourite pass time.
Mrs Bennie had a frightening and equally thunderous personality. In my mind she weighed in at roughly 500 pounds, making her the largest living organism I came into close interaction with at the time. She was the principal of our school and sadly the teacher of my grade 5 class. Mrs Bennie had what was known as a “fan belt” made of hard rubber which was alleged to have come from somewhere out of her old Suzuki van. With this belt the gigantic dictator would keep us in check, beating us without mercy at the failure to complete our homework or falling out of place.
One day at school, I experienced the brunt of this lady that caused me to never be the same again. So devilish was this character in my childhood innocence that I trembled at the very mention of her name. As the time for lunch drew nigh, we sat and quietly looked at our teacher as she was giving the math lesson. Like slaves at the approach of emancipation our hearts quaked as we anxiously counted down the minutes for our long awaited freedom.
Reluctantly at half past 12 our master left the front of the class to ring the old iron bell signalling the time for lunch. “Get up and say your grace!” bellowed the always angry teacher. We responded our usual way, “God is good and God is great, now we thank Him for our food, amen.” “Hands down and be seated,” before too long aunt Teb, the cook for our school appeared with boiling bowls of brown soup, my heart bled at the cruel realisation. We struggled hard to finish this unpalatable serving. We knew the only way to be allowed to go outside and play was by “cleaning” our plates.
Myself and Odaine, always competing with each other raced to finish, then at the same time we both sprang up to return our bowls to the kitchen. We had a head-on collision. Odaine, my self-proclaimed enemy was twice my size and one year younger than me. I fell flat on my back. Mrs Bennie beheld the scene as if wishing we’d start fighting so as to use her belt. Odaine growled and looked threateningly on me. I knew what that meant. We deferred our battle temporarily.
As we turned lunch time into play time, Odaine was not about to wait much longer for his fight. On the playfield, he cautiously approached me, being cognisant of the danger I possessed despite my size. The moment when I was distracted by the small rubber ball coming my way, he capitalised. With all the strength he could find he slapped me in the back of my head. My entire body erupted in flames. “Mi mus kill yuh!” I shouted at him, almost in angry tears.
He elevated my anger to its peak when he yelled back, “kill yuh mumma!” I made at him like a lion hunting its prey. I chased him around the school yard, around the concrete sink, through the cemetery and back up again.
My sweat became as it were “great droplets of blood,” when it became evident that I would not catch up to him I picked up a stone seemingly sharpened by nature. I aimed straight at his head, with equal or more strength than his blow, I flung Goliath’s murder weapon at him. He ducked. The stone flew over his flexible body and sunk deep into the bald area above the ear of another student. Little Kemoy who was in grade one, like most of the other boys in school was always an ardent fan of my skills and fearless character.
He always wanted to be like me. He held his head and screamed like a cow being butchered. In a couple of seconds his hand and clothes had assumed the colour of the liquid paint flowing heavily out of his head. Time stopped for me. What had I done? What was going to happen to me? In that fraction of a second every possible thought came to my mind. The tickling breeze caressing my frozen face had prevented the tears, or at least delayed them. A dark hum overrode my body. I knew I was in for great and dark times.
I had committed an unpardonable sin for the days. After another teacher dressed and calmed the injured pupil I was summoned to Mrs Bennie’s office. The dark walls and almost arctic like temperatures of the office made me think I was in a funeral home. Before I had reached the office I conformed to the popular myth; spitting on a green piece of leaf and throwing it behind you without looking back was said to dispel any awaiting ill for a child. This did little to appease my troubled spirit. Mrs Bennie looked at me with hate clinching hard the fan belt in her hand. Then the most unexpected and strange thing happened. She sat down in her chair and placed her belt in its usual spot. “Get out a mi office, yuh not even worth it,” she spoke unusually quiet. Words are inadequate to express the pain I felt. With tears streaking down my face I sauntered out of the office like a defeated dog.
Ever since that day the large and domineering principal did nothing that could let me pray for recess. During lunchtime getting in trouble was as far from me as the east to the west. As I reminisced on the eccentric punishment for my crime, my heart still feel the pain of the memory. I was never the mischievous child again. I learned a lesson that lingers with me even as an adult.
By Omar Nicholson
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