At birth, Mother called me Travesty. Travesty, a name meaning disaster. I could have given me a name which stood for something like great warrior, defender of the faith, or beautiful boy. She could have named me after somebody famous, but no, she called me Travesty. To Mother, I was a disaster. This was the world I entered. But, I should not have entered. Between you and me and the gatepost, I wasn’t meant to arrive. I was an accident. A disastrous accident, a travesty.
Mother had her favourite people. Mind you, she changed them regularly. Her favourites were as changeable as the wind. I never reached the lofty heights of favouritism with Mother; I never reached any level of anything with her. I had set myself a low standard and failed to achieve it. I was the ‘black lamb’ of the family. Eventually, I grew up to become the ‘black sheep’ of the same family. I wear the title proudly, my badge of honour.
Twelve months after my birth, in Mother’s beloved Baptist church, I was christened Travesty. In hindsight, I’m glad I was christened in a Baptist church by a minister. Knowing what I know now, it may have been a risky affair being christened anywhere else. Although I was only twelve months old, I still don’t think I would have taken too kindly to being touched up by some dirty old priest. At least Baptist ministers have a healthy reputation for not being ‘kiddie fiddlers’. I’m none too sure about them other mobs.
During the baptism, Mother asked the minister to hold my head under water for an hour or so. She wanted to make my christening more akin to a sacrifice to God. Thankfully, the minister refused.
I was at the beginning of my teenage years, thirteen, when I dropped out of school in grade four. I use the term ‘dropped out’ loosely, as it was more a case of being asked to leave. That, or be expelled.
‘The boy is as thick as a tree, thick as a forest full of trees,’ Mother would say. ‘Damn disaster he is. Nothing good will come of him.’
Father was more understanding. He remarked I’d tried for a number of years to crack a pass level in grade four.
‘Ten out ten for the effort, son.’
I found Father’s comments positive and uplifting.
‘Perhaps learning is not your forte in life,’ he said.
My schoolteachers agreed. They couldn’t see the sense of me learning either. From my perspective, I didn’t care a hoot about some bloke Pythagoras running around bleating about his theorem. I’m betting he was a relative of that other bloke Euclidean. He did stuff with geometry. They both probably lived in a house looking like a three-sided right-angled triangle. Perhaps Hypotenuse lived with them?
Father thought it better if my résumé stated I had left school voluntarily, as opposed to being expelled. Hence he agreed with my leaving. You have to give credit where credit is due; they didn’t come much smarter than my old man. No flies on him.
Mother was not a happy camper because my school career had come to an end. One of my aunties wasn’t happy either. The woman did nothing but complain. I called her the Whinging Aunt from Whining Hill.
‘Oh, the shame of it,’ she would wail. ‘How can it be, leaving the education system in grade four? People will talk about it, you know. I’ll never be able to show my face in town again.’