Book Excerpts

Barefoot School Attendance

CitAt seven years old I went to Holy Family Elementary School, also called East Branch, operated by the Sisters of Mercy Catholic nuns. I can vividly recall the quarrel about my going to school barefoot that my parents had beside the cistern in the front yard. I was about eight years old and my mother had sent me to school without shoes for several days since the hand-me-down canvas shoes I had been wearing had fallen apart. As soon as she realized this was happening, my grandmother informed my father when he came home from work. Papa accosted Mama by the water pipe where she was washing dirty dishes and pots.

“Have you been sending Peter to school barefoot?” he asked.

“Yes” she answered.

“I will not have my son going to school barefoot. Don’t let it happen again,” he shouted at her angrily. I was leaving the toilet to go upstairs but strong feelings of alarm and concern for my mother suddenly overwhelmed me. My heart was beating fast and my feet were transfixed to the ground.

Mama slowly wiped her hands, stood erect, turned around and stepped forward to face him.“He has to go to school” she replied firmly, “and I will continue to send him to school barefoot until you buy shoes for him.”

My heart beat faster from a sense of doom that some harm was about to happen to Mama. Papa’s body stiffened, his lips tightened and his hands turned into fists. Defiantly Mama held her ground looking straight into his eyes. I held my breath for what seemed like minutes until his fingers re-opened and his body relaxed.

“I will see what I can do to buy his shoes at the end of the month” he said slowly and softly. Then he turned away and went through Gangang’s front door. A sense of relief flooded through me as I ran to hug Mama tightly around her feet.

A few weeks later I received a new pair of Jamaica manufactured Bata canvas shoes. I was grateful for the shoes, as the hot pavement burned the soles of my feet on my way home from school in the early afternoon.

I was totally amazed that my meek, downtrodden, abused mother, who had never complained of the daily ill-treatment, disrespect and neglect she suffered from her husband and his mother, had vehemently defied their dictates in order to keep me going to school. Although I did not, at that time, realize the significance of this incident on my life, it was probably a critical, transformational experience that implanted deep into my psyche a passion for learning, and the conviction that education was the means to take me on a journey from the ghetto, poverty and misery into a place of comfort, abundance and happiness.

Still a Virgin at 22

I stopped midway to the motel bed while Yvette turned down the covers, sat on the bed and started to undress. I stood there feeling excited and nervous at the same time. Yvette had on only her panties when she called to me, ”Peter, stop standing there and come to bed.”

I started taking off my clothes, rested them on a chair and climbed into the bed beside her with only my briefs on. “You look lovely,” I told her.

She smiled and took me in her arms. Her firm breasts felt good against my chest as I held her tight against me. We kissed, our tongues touched and a pleasant glow began to spread throughout my body. She shed her panties and I my brief, and we caressed each other all over our bodies.

“I love you Peter,“ she said.

I replied, “My darling”.

She touched my penis and it gradually began to grow in length and hardness while she caressed it tenderly. I rubbed my fingers over her vagina and felt a slight dampness.

She sighed and whispered, “Make love to me, sweetheart.”

I pulled apart, went to get a condom from my wallet and returned to the bed. I started to put on the condom and suddenly my penis became limp. I felt embarrassed, still tried to roll the condom over my penis but it wouldn’t go on.

Yvette realized what had happened, tried to console me and told me, “Don’t worry. There is no hurry. You’ll be alright soon enough.”

She hugged and kissed me. I felt comforted, but still embarrassed and worried that I would not be able to perform. About a half hour later I regained a stiffened penis that enabled me to perform satisfactory intercourse that evening. I enjoyed the experience but not as much as I had anticipated. Where were the fireworks I had read so often about? Was Yvette disappointed that I had ejaculated so soon? She didn’t complain or appear disappointed, but she didn’t seem overjoyed either. I hoped that my performance would be able to improve with practice.

Unlike most Jamaican males who are initiated into sex in their early teens, and influenced by a Catholic upbringing, I had dated only once at seventeen to attend my high school graduation ball and had not even kissed a girl on her lips until age twenty-one. Having won a full scholarship to Harvard University, my experience there had begun to make me more critical of accepted cultural, social and religious norms. Since God made us sexual beings that experience strong sexual desires from as early as our teenage years, then sex is God-given and natural, and ought to be considered good and pleasing to God.

Guardian Angel designation by Anglican Bishop

On September 5, 2006 the Anglican Bishop of Kingston, Jamaica, The Right Reverend Dr. Robert Thompson, concluded the sermon at the funeral of my dearly beloved wife for forty-one years, Beverley nee Hanson, with these words ‘But Peter was more than all that, he was her Guardian Angel’.

Having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and declared medically disabled for more than twenty years, Beverley’s health and mobility had deteriorated rapidly during the year 2006 to the extent that she could not even move herself in the bed. She was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer on August 23, 2006 and died on August 25, the day before her 64th birthday. Thankfully she didn’t experience pain and passed away peacefully in hospital with family and friends around her. The aftermath was unexpected and overpowering; I received tremendous, super numerous outpourings of love, affection and/or admiration for not only Beverley, but also often for myself by family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. In addition, so many offered their help and support and I sincerely thank all who did, including the unnamed woman who donated hors d’oeuvres for 25 persons to be delivered by a caterer to my home on a date of my choice.

I had left Beverley’s comatose side to go to my bank and on my way back to the hospital I received a telephone call that Beverley had passed away. A few minutes later when I saw my dear wife’s lifeless body and accepted the realization that she had actually died, I immediately broke down and started sobbing uncontrollably. Allison McGraham, my wife’s dear cousin and close family friend, rushed around from the other side of the bed, hugged me tightly and consoled me. When I finally recovered I telephoned St. Andrew Parish Church to advise them that Beverley had just died at the hospital. Moments after Rt. Rev. Dr. Robert Thompson, Anglican Bishop of Kingston, called to say that he was coming to the hospital right away and that I should not let the hospital move her before he arrived. On arrival he blessed and anointed her body, prayed and administered the last rites of the church. On leaving he told me to advise the church that he wished to participate in the funeral; which I did not do. Imagine my surprise when the rector of my church, Rev. Sirrano Kitson, telephoned me and, after offering his condolences, told me accusingly that he had been advised that I had requested Bishop Thompson to preach the sermon at Beverley’s funeral. I assured him that nothing could be further from the truth, as I had not asked the Bishop to participate in any way, not even to attend the service.

The funeral arrangements were surprisingly stressful due to the severe restrictions initially imposed by the church. Only three ‘tributes’ were permitted, inclusive of speakers, songs and musical items for a total time of fifteen minutes; in addition all the songs and funeral hymns had to be approved by the church. After hours of meetings at the church and at my home, arguments with the clergy and letters exchanged, we finally got our songs approved and twice as many ‘tributes’ included, lasting thirty minutes. Despite the funeral being held on the afternoon of a working day during pouring rain, the church was filled. Many persons were full of praise, some declaring that it was one of best and largest funerals they had ever attended. The collection realized over J$100,000.00 for two designated church charities despite sections of the congregation being overlooked for collection and not able to contribute.

More excerpts to come