School…..I have serious reservations
School, school I even dislike the word. As for the meaning, it was for me the nearest thing to a prison, full of rules and regulations. Endless lectures spouted out by boring teachers. Lunches that I am sure have a life long effect on your health. Now my parents were sending me to a boarding school.
All the glorious, free summer days were in the past. Today was my last before being shipped out to boarding school. The day was full of dark angry clouds. I use the words shipped out with the saddening thought I was being treated like an unwanted piece of merchandise. I deeply felt my parents were too occupied with their careers and had little time or for that matter desire to worry about the education of their son. Leave it to the professionals I once heard my father say.
The summer had ended with a series of memories worthy of photographs to jot the memory when many years in the future you sit in front of a fire with gray hair and stiff bones. It had been a delightful period of freedom shared with my two best friends. A period when one could lie in the heather and look up at the billowing white clouds and dream. My dreams were mostly about being able to fly and examining our world from above, searching for the place I would find happiness. A place I could be me. Not a person molded by the rules and discipline of the educational system. To think independently, free from the confines of what is dictated to us. Tomorrow I was being sent to boarding school. I wasn’t sure what that actually meant but one thing was sure about it. I would no longer sleep and spend time in my room at home. My room, my domain, my space. Filled with the things I loved and treasured. It was where I felt safe, myself, and above all at peace. In the last three years I had spent many hours in its protective walls as my parents were never at home when I got back from the local day school. It became my refuse, containing my desires and dreams. Occasionally I invited my two best friends who had never experienced having your own space like mine. The summer had seen my tenth birthday with a family gathering and numerous presents for the birthday boy. Remarks falling like a hammer on a nail about what a young man you have grown to be. Now you are going off to boarding school. The birthday boy felt smothered in insincere love and affection. I was 10 and an only child.
In the early evening on my last day of being shipped out I sat under my favorite tree and thought about the past and what the future might have in store for me. I must admit the first five years of my life was a bit of a blur. I was told later that in my first year of existence my mother stayed at home to cater for all my needs. Then came a series of au pairs and nannies. At three I started nursery school, full of games, bright colors and smiling staff. At four the serious commencement of climbing the education ladder began. Write, reading, numbers and be given a series of exercise books. It is at this stage of my life I made firm friends with two boys coming from very different backgrounds.
Peter was a year older than me, taller, stronger, blessed with light blue eyes and an engaging smile supported by attractive dimples. His home life was a living hell with a drunken and abusive father and a mother that was in a wheelchair due to an accident caused by her drunken husband. Peter spends hours of his spare time trying to find a way of escaping this hell.
My other friend was Ian. Ian had been adopted by a couple that had obviously made a mistake in pleading to Social Securities to adopt a child. They had not yet admitted their mistake to the authorities as they felt very embarrassed. Meanwhile Ian suffered from a total disregard of his person, he live at their home in total silence as though he did not exist, coupled with the fear that he would soon be fostered on to another family. He was a shy boy with a very athletic figure and hair that he always had cut in a crew cut style. He had the charming habit of throwing his arms around his friend each time we met.
I felt enormous sympathy for them. Maybe that is what bound our friendship so tightly. I knew what loneliness meant in their family circle. I experienced it with my parents that never seemed to be there. Although I was fortunate to have my own room and parents that showed lukewarm attention to me when they were home. But so very often I sensed their attention was really somewhere else. I had become an occasional distraction. Now I was being shipped of to boarding school. This boarding school idea was very disturbing. I would lose an important daily contact with Peter and Ian. I would be thrust into a world I had no idea of what to expect. Forced to sleep in a dormitory surrounded by other boys. My world was being turned upside down. I would no longer have my room, my space in which I felt safe.
Three days ago the three of us had gone on a day trip to explore the old quarry. The place was strictly forbidden with police notices warning that this was private property no admittance allowed. We thought these notices gave the opposite intention of their purpose and signified that there was something to explore. So, armed with a luncheon box we climbed the fencing and found ourselves in the forbidden quarry. We spent an exciting morning exploring all the various paths left by the big truck's wheels as they carried stones away to building sites. There were a few tunnels which intrigued us but had an odd feeling that they were not to be explored. After having a few races up and down ramps we collapsed against a rock and opened our lunch boxes.
“Harold, Ian and I have some good news. Two days ago my father’s brother came to visit our hell hole. He is a captain on a merchant ship and has spent most of his life at sea. He was shocked at what he saw. When he heard my mothers story about our situation he said he felt deeply saddened and worried for me. His brother was at work when he arrived. My mother had asked him to stay for dinner so that he could see his brother. My father came back late drunk and in an abusive mood. He was not even pleased to see his brother and called him the wandering seaman. Was this visit to spy on his brother? The evening ended in a shouting match. Many regrettable and wounding words were said. I was sent to bed. The last thing I heard was the front door slamming.
The captain returned the next day while my father was at work.
He made the following proposition to my mother. On the day, Harold, you are leaving for boarding school his ship leaves at the crack of dawn for Cape Town. There he knows a very respectable family that is prepared to look after me in consideration that I work around their farm when I am not at school. My mother immediately agreed saying that her husband would certainly make no objection if he remained sober enough to contemplate her decision.
I came back early from a day out with you that day. My mother immediately told me what had taken place between her and the Captain. I was delighted, it solved all my problems. Somewhere inside my brain there was a nagging feeling something was missing.
“What about my dear friends?”My mother's immediate reply was that Harold was going off to boarding school. Ian would no doubt be fostered off to another family. My question to my mother was do you think the Captain would also take Ian it would mean so much to me. “I would have a companion for this daunting adventure.”
At this point my mother looked at me, extended her arms to give me a gigantic hug.
“I will ask him.”
It was arranged that both boys were to be picked up in front of the post office building in two days time at four in the morning with their bags or suitcases. I was warned not to say a word to your father that goes for Ian. My mother was certain his foster parents would not report a child missing for days.
I sat there stunned. My best friends that made my life bearable …..gone. My immediate reaction was to ask if I could come with them. Peter thought that was impossible as the Captain was already doing one great favor when he heard Ian’s story. The day turned into the saddest day of my life. I saw the future as one immense blank, devoid of any hope.
As the light turned to dusk I shed a tear for the past and had a deep feeling I would never find friends again like Peter and Ian. I was grateful they had found a solution to their misery but so resentful they were going without me. I was fearful of the future. My only hope was that this great friendship would be everlasting with regular correspondence. Promises were made. The next morning my parents waved me off in a taxi armed with my belongings as dictated by the school. Rules and regulations had begun.
Over the years as promised the correspondence between the three friends kept up a satisfactory pace. It must have been in my 28th year that I qualified as a barrister and my parents as a congratulatory gift gave me a return ticket to Cap Town. On my arrival at the airport we fell into one another's arms. At dinner that night my two greatest friends were keen to know how my first year of boarding school went. They told me on their voyage to South Africa they felt devastated you were not with them. My reply was that I found the teaching staff entirely to my satisfaction with a student body of bright attractive boys. School had become interesting