Do you remember being punished as a child by your parents? I do…sigh sometimes all too vividly. It is not that I was a bad or a problem child but I guess there were times when I seemed not to be listening to whatever they were saying or that my parents felt like in someway they weren’t getting through to me. Who knows!
I ask all of this because I was recently having a conversation with some friends and they were telling me stories of being punished. Some were put out of the house, locked out for hours, had to sleep by friends, some ran away and came home to find their bed gone (so they slept on the floor for a week) and one or two knelt on graters in the sun holding bricks (no I won’t call Kojak’s name). Those types of punishment I have never experienced. I don’t have buried memories or flashbacks to say that can I fully relate to those experiences. What I can relate to is “licks“. A pure unadulterated plain old fashioned cut-arse.
The use of the pot spoon, swizzle stick, belts, the cane, piece of wood, a whip, hands, shoes among other implements may or may not have been tested on me. I assure you that due to my propensity for running away from licks some of these objects came into use. I was assured that some were used to determine their dexterity or the likelihood of me actually having a tearful reaction to them. After awhile, one can become immune/accustomed to certain methods of punishment and thereby rendering them ineffective.
Please don’t get me wrong, I was not abused in anyway (or at least so my therapist says but the sessions are new so we’ll see). I was a child that liked to explore and was occasionally rude (I stress on occasionally), so one can understand why a beating might occur.
Now when it came to sharing licks, my mother wins hands down. There is no close competitor. I don’t think that there wasn’t a month that passed during the period say 1976 (Age 3) to 1986 (Age:13) that my mother didn’t have to scold me or ground me (ban me for the Trinis) for some minor infractions that may or may not have been committed. Back then (pre-CSI age), you didn’t require evidence to convict me, one just assumed I was guilty until the truth came out.
So what if I can’t explain why there is red sand under the living room couch or why that stray dog is in the house and refuses to come out from under the bed? So what if I didn’t hear you call me four times while I was in the road,( I know for certain that you didn’t see me roll my eyes)? I am a good child. I still don’t see what the problem is when I tell you that I lost the house key but was able to get into the house due to the help of some stranger you know nothing about (and have never met) and who would later serve 5 years for malicious wounding ( but no one saw that coming).
And Mom, you are still to explain that time you beat me for no reason when you got home, because all I was doing was watching TV. So what if I was sweating profusely at the time…the house was hot. That is no reason to beat me and utter the words “Just in case”. I was innocent and still am to this day.
Sigh… these stories can go on and on but you get the point. My mother and I had that kind of relationship. If I was quiet for too long a period she would come looking for me. If she came home from work and found me sleeping, she would wake me up and I would be interrogated like a common criminal. “Stefan, what did you do? What did you do? If you tell me, I promise I won’t beat you.” Yeah right, the cut-tail didn’t come that day but a week later it would appear out of nowhere. That woman had patience like Job!!
Once, a new neighbour saw my mom and my older brother walking out the road and she stopped her and said “Oh this must be Stefan!”. To which my mother replied,” No, this is Anthony. Stefan is my younger son”. The lady was a little puzzled. She then said, “Oh I thought you only had one son. I keep hearing you call Stefan’s name all the time, I assumed it was only one child you had.” My mother still giggles about this to this day. Do you see anything funny in that conversation? I don’t.
Anyway, while my mother experimented on ways to get through to my thick skull, my father on the other hand has only beaten me twice. Yes, folks, I’m not lying. TWICE!!. And I can recall both episodes like if it was yesterday.
Stefan Simmons & The Gasparee Caves
I was probably around 7 or 8 years old when my Dad took my brother and I “Down the Islands” with some of his co-workers and their kids. We spent the day having fun and exploring all parts of Gasparee Island. There was a section of the day when everyone had to go on a tour of the Gasparee Caves. I did not want to go as I was having fun down at the jetty swimming. Like the good child I was, I tagged along and tried to be interested in what the people were saying. Somewhere in the Caves, I think I turned to another child suffering along with me, let’s call him Jason Elcock (any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely intentional) and told him I was bored. We somehow came up with the idea to abandon the tour and go back to the jetty. And we did. And no one on the tour noticed.
Cut to like an hour later and there is my father shouting my name to the top of his voice as he scrambles down the stairs to where I was located. I looked up, smiled and asked, “What?”
I can’t recall what he was saying at the time but for what seemed like an eternity I was being spanked. Of course, to ensure that the beatings would be discontinued one must shed tears or express pain in some way otherwise the beatings will continue. Trust me, at the age of 8, I wasn’t faking those tears. That man hit me real hard that day. I still had a good time at the jetty though. In hindsight, I may see the slight error in my decision to return to the jetty.
For those of you who don’t know and think that sucking ones teeth means nothing, well you are WRONG!! I found out yesterday that “Steupsing” is loosely translated to “Look, kiss my ass yes!”.
Had I known this when I was 14, i would’ve saved myself from beating NUMBER TWO.
I love my grandmother. I miss her. You may have read many a story on her or on her sage advise to me. She is a gem. I can say that now easily, but back when I was a teenager, that woman was a pest! She would harass me for no reason and had me doing weird chores just because I would be the only one in the house when she needed something.
Look, when i was 14, I read alot. I read EVERYTHING I could put my hands on especially if it was on a high shelf or hidden the back of wardrobe. So whenever she lurked around the house for someone to do a task, there I was in some corner reading. She never left me alone!
One day, I was going out into the yard to pretend to do something as my father was inside watching football and trying to coach the players on TV. Yep he was crazy like every other father and it was in those moments that I understood where I got my lack of athletic ability from but in his mind he is the ultimate sportsman. So anyway, I make my way out to the porch and I am almost to the steps when Mudda says to me; “Lambkin where yuh going? Why yuh cyah keep yuh bun black backside in de house?” Not liking the comment, I steupsed. Then I found myself doing a pirouette on the top stair with my father standing next to me.
The man had rushed outside and slapped me so hard that I made a 360 degree turn.
I stared at him in shock and he looked at me with rage and uttered:
“Don’t you EVER suck your teeth at your grandmother EVER AGAIN!! You hear me?”
“Why? Don’t you do it to?” was my smart-alec reply.
Have ever seen what happens to a chicken when it thinks it is about to die? Well if you haven’t let me tell you this…they sometimes poop seconds before it happens. I am not saying the same thing happened to me that day but let’s just say that I swore my bladder was seconds away from failing me when I saw my grandmother come outside and yell at my father.
“What yuh hit de boy for? He right! You does steups at me too!”
My father stared at me for a little while longer and went back inside. I got a two hour lecture on my attitude and my need for defiance later that night. I stopped listening after like 15 minutes or so because the TV was on behind him and he didn’t have a clue. I think to this day he believes that his speech may have turned me around on my path to being a good citizen.
Are these tales, one of caution? No they are not. And they are not signs of abuse either. Children these days have it easy. They have no fear and therefore do as they please and wonder why they got things wrong in the process. With no correction, one is left to figure stuff out for yourself and one lacks the sense to understand consequences for actions.
So I just dedicate this post to the people who have beaten me in my childhood and who seem to think that it helped mould me into the neurotic, mild OCD ridden chubby person I am know today.
Auntie Ingrid, I still haven’t forgiven you for beating me because I didn’t want to eat your sardine sandwiches. Yes I could’ve said “No thank you” instead of ” Me aint eating that nastiness” but I still don’t think that putting a sweet cutarse on me was warranted. It was a bit excessive. It also seems that me telling my mother what you did had no effect and so I recognized that the bonds of sisterhood are strong.
I haven’t forgotten it. I’m just saying……..