It was not easy growing up being the child of a teacher; as a matter of fact, the son of a teacher who was a Principal at that! My mother was the Headmistress at the Borderland Infant and Primary School, and she was very strict; all the teachers, students, and even the parents, seemed to respect and fear her. She was what they called a “no nonsense” woman, but she had a kind heart.
Mama was always seeking ways in which she could help improve the conditions of others, and she assisted many persons to get employment, travelling visas, scholarships, financial aid, and more. It seemed her work was never done since many persons called our home at various hours in the evening to ask her to settle their disputes, to edit their work documents, to counsel a wayward teenager . . . the list was endless! It was a wonder how she even found the time to rear all seven of us, and to be the Ladies’ Coordinator at church.
It seemed mama could not say ‘no’ to anyone; but there was one person she would stop everything for, and that was papa. Papa was one of the Supervisors at the sugarcane factory, and when he came home in the evenings, he would clear his throat and say to her, “It’s my time now.” And mama would just drop whatever she was doing, and cater to him; he was her best friend.
All my siblings excelled in school, except me; and papa had to intervene many times when mama argued with me, and punished me. “It seems no amount of caning going change this boy.” She would say; and it always made me sad when she said it. I must have been a great embarrassment for mama, for at age ten, I still could not read properly. At times, I could imagine persons shaking their heads and saying “Eh hmm! Imagine, teacher pickney can’t even read!” Over and over again, mama drilled into my head how my older siblings began reading from ‘dem eye dey a dem knee’, from dem was age three; and how this one got Government Scholarship, and that one was Spelling Bee Parish Champion, and the other one was Prefect and Head Boy at primary and at high school; but me, I was always in trouble.
Over the years I found that many of my class teachers were very patient with me, but one day, I overheard one of them saying to the other, “Mi done try with that one, fi ‘im head too tough!” but that did not bother me at all; my goal was to enjoy my childhood days. I was adventurous, and many times I was tempted to skip classes and slip out of the school compound; but that would not make sense, since everywhere I went, persons knew who I was. No matter how hard I tried to disguise myself, people still figured out that it was me; I just couldn’t sneak around to have fun like the other boys at all. I was so fed up of being Principal Taylor’s son, it was just too much for me to live perfect and to please everyone; I could not even fart on the bus!
One afternoon after school, mama came home fuming, and when she saw me, she grabbed the first thing in sight and start whipping me with it. You (whip) fail (whip) all (whip) yuh (whip) test (whip) dem (whip) Andrew! (whip, whip, whip). I bawled out loudly, knowing that papa would surely come and rescue me; and just as she was about to whip me again, he appeared in the doorway. Her hand just froze in the air when she saw him, and I ran over to papa, whimpering. She dropped whatever she had in hand onto the couch, and showed him my end of term report; it had all the grades circled in red ink on it, except for the grade for P.E., I had passed that one.
Papa looked at the report card, then he looked squarely at me. “You are not a dunce boy.” he said “You’ve got what it takes to excel in this life, but you have to work harder to get it.” Then he turned to mama and said, “Just leave this boy alone. You go work with the other children; and I will take this one to work with me at the sugarcane factory.” From that day onward, two things happened: the caning stopped, for mama began to realize that I was not an academically gifted child; and also, I stopped giving trouble. For once in my life I felt more special than my other siblings since I was the one chosen to one day work along with papa at the factory.
I actually never did get to work at the sugarcane factory, for mama enrolled me in various classes to do extra-lessons; and like the rest of my siblings, I graduated from high school, went to college, and eventually got my Teachers’ Certificate. I began teaching at a local high school, and that was where I met Irene. Now everyone knew that I was a player, and that I had girlfriends in almost every district in my parish; but Irene won my heart. Although I was wild and involved in several relationships, I made the decision not to father children; for I felt that having many illegitimate children all over the place would shame mama.
“Me can never be a matie, or a side-chick, or a bunna girl” I overheard Irene say to one of her friends “You see me, me a one-man woman; and if me have one man, he must be willing to have one woman to.” When I heard what she said, I ended all my relationships; Irene was too good a catch, and I wanted her to be my girl.
One day, I mustered up the courage and wrote Irene a long letter expressing my intentions and feelings for her. She just drop the letter in her bag and hissed her teeth; I was hurt for one whole week! Afterward, when I spotted her in the main town’s square, I tried to hide from her; but she looked in my direction and laughed. Then she said,
“A who him be, bout ‘im sey ‘im want dey with me? ‘Im can mind me?”
Her outburst made me feel so ashamed, I wanted the ground to just open up and swallow me. But then I realized that it wasn’t really me Irene was talking about; she was mocking and laughing at another guy, who unknowingly to me, had stated his intentions on the same day I did. At the end of the month, she responded to my letter, and positively confirmed that she would become my girlfriend. It was worth waiting on her to make up her mind about having a relationship with me, and when she did; I was on top of the world. When we began speaking, I felt like I had won the largest lotto jackpot ever, with Irene being my greatest prize.
The week after we became bonafide friends, I carried Irene home; she was the first girl I introduced to my parents, and they liked her immediately. Within a year we were married, but when she got transferred to a new job in Kingston, we left the country, moved into town, and there, we started our family.
Being married did not really change me, and although I promised Irene that I would never cheat, I still had a few girlfriends. One day, when mama came for a special training seminar at the University of the West Indies, I stopped by to check on her, and that was where I met Dahlia; she was one of the Lecturers there. From all outward appearances, Dahlia had the whole package, and I wanted to sample it; and it seemed she was willing to oblige. Our relationship lasted for two years.
“I had a very strange dream Andrew.” Dahlia said to me one afternoon. I was putting on back my clothes, but she was lying on the bed. “You were in it.” She added.
“I dream about you all the time!” I responded.
“Listen nuh!” she said. “In that dream, I saw you with your wife and children, and you and them were very happy.”
I swallowed real hard.
“I think that dream is telling me that you are a married man Andrew. You have a wife and children, don’t it?
“No.” I said, and that was true. I did not really have a wife and children, I had a wife and child.
“Listen to me,” I said. “You can’t believe every thing you dream about.” I held Irene’s hand and continued speaking. “Supposed you dreamed that you must jump off a building, would you jump off from it when you wake up?”
“No.” Dahlia said, after a long pause; but she gave me a look that said she didn’t believe a word that I was saying.
I knew she would never find out about my wife, for I was an expert at this game; but we had to call it quits when her boyfriend returned to Jamaica after he completed his studies abroad.
“The only way to ensure your place in heaven is not by going to church alone.” The man said. “You have to become born-again into God’s family, and you have to start a personal relationship with him.”
“Why you bring these people into our house fa?” my wife said. And she hissed her teeth and left.
I smiled at the man and signalled to him to continue.
You see, mama and papa were always church people, and in my mind, I had planned that when I reached a certain age I would get into the church as well; but Irene did not feel that way at all. As soon as the man finished explaining everything, and I understood what was said, I was more than ready to give my heart and soul to the Lord.
“Just help me to do this.” I said to him. I was ready to become a Christian.
“First you have to admit that you are a sinner in need of a Saviour.”
“Yes that’s true.” I said in agreement.
“Then you have to confess all your sins which are listed in the Bible.”
“Which ones that?” I asked.
“Here they are.” The man said; and after he flipped through his Bible, he read Galatians chapter 5 verses 19 – 21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
“Ahem.” Irene coughed, after the man finished reading. I could hear her shuffling in the adjoining room and I was silently saying a prayer with the hope that God would change her mind, and she also would become a Christian.
“I am ready to confess my sins,” I said to the man. “But I’m not guilty of all of them.”
“I know that,” he responded. “Just confess those sins which you’ve done, and God will forgive you of them.”
The salvation process was a simple one, and later, after I received Christian literature, and pamphlets about church membership; the man departed. I was just about to call mama and papa to joyfully share with them the news about my experience, when Irene stepped into the room.
“So yuh guilty of adultery?” she said, as she poked me in the head. It seemed she had overheard me confessing that sin earlier on. I could not answer her, or look into her angry gaze.
“All this time yuh was a bad man in this house eh? Irene said. “Well from today I’m going to be the bad woman.” My mouth just drop wide open, but she walked away and hissed her teeth.
“So yuh give me bun, and yuh think sey me going stand here and tek it.” She continued.
I started to explain to her that those sins were washed away, and that I was now a new creature in Christ, “I won’t do those things any more.” I said.
“Me never born yesterday.” She replied, “And you can’t fool me with that.” she ended.
Within a week, Irene left our matrimonial home with our daughter, and she went to live with another man. I would have gone down there and fight him for my wife, but the man was a police officer, and I was afraid of guns. “So this is what they meant when they said that in Christ you will go through trials and suffer persecution.” I thought to myself. “But Irene must have been friends with that man for her to just go live with him at short notice like that.” I sighed. “All this time, she must have been looking for the perfect opportunity and excuse to leave me.”
It was hard living the single life, especially since I had promised God not to lust after women again, but studying the scriptures and going to church kept me spiritually strong.
“With Christ, you’ve got what it takes to endure.” The pastor preached one Sabbath. “You can do all things through Him that strengthens you.”
To keep myself busy, I enrolled in courses at the University, and received my Teachers’ Diploma, and later, a Bachelor’s Degree. Then one day, while sitting in the staff room, I heard the radio news reporter gave details about a fatal motor accident with the one police constable Garth Smith. I was shocked. That was the same man my wife left me for.
“I’ve called to give you my condolences.” I said to Irene, but she was inconsolable.
So I decided to travel to the other side of town and visited with her. When I saw Irene, I wanted to love her once more; and right there and then I decided to take her back in my life. As we spoke, everything within me longed to forgive her, and I wanted to forget the past and take her home again.
“But just look at that?” a female visitor said, when she arrived to comfort Irene. “Yuh child going to grow now without a puppa. Life is so unfair!”
“Child?” I thought to myself. When I looked around, for sure there was a little girl sleeping in the room. She was Irene’s daughter whom she named, Connie.
“But I can tek har again.” I thought to myself. “If she never had this child, I would have embraced her with opened arms.” I hissed my teeth. “Me not turning no stepfather, too much problem going to come out of that. Furthermore, that child will always be a constant reminder of that police man; me nuh think me have what it takes to go through life raising that other man’s child.”
“Here, tek this.” I said to Irene, handing her a cheque for J$65, 000.00. She took cheque, dropped it in her purse, and hissed her teeth. Then I stepped out of her house, and out of her life for ever.
After our divorce, I found a woman attending my church, fell in love with her, and married her. She became a nurse, and we had two children together. Months later, it so happened that my wife got transferred to a Health Clinic in Westmoreland, and although she had her reservations, I was very happy to return to the parish of my birth.
Mama was also happy to have us living near her home; and before you knew it, she persuaded me to think about resigning from the high school where I was teaching, in order to apply for the long-vacant post of Principal at the now Borderland Primary and Junior High School.
“But how can I ever take up that job and live up to the standards you set there years ago mama?” I complained.
“You don’t have to worry about that.” She said. “Just give it a try and see.”
I just smiled and looked at her; mama was still looking for ways to assist others, and now, she was assisting me to rise higher.
“Andrew, you just don’t know what you have.” she said. “When you start working there, you’ll see that you have it in you all along. Just trust me my son, you’ve got what it takes!”