Postaday2011: A message from my son.

I wrote yesterday that I had run out of ideas and floundered misreably with my post. I also said that writing about my family might be boring to anyone reading my blog apart from my family. Then this morning I got a wonderful message from number one son on facebook… He said he loved reading my blog, seconded by my oldest daughter, and he also suggested some ideas. Well those questions have triggered off a million thoughts and a renewed excitement for writing. I have had an amazing life and such a lot of experiences so I am going to look at the things he has asked me over the next few days.

First of all my son, David, is my first born. I was just sixteen and a half when I gave birth to him. I hear many people saying ‘but you were just a child’, and yes maybe I was but my life experience had hardly been that of a child since I was nine years old. By today’s standards, I would have been labelled a ‘teenage Mum’ but to me, it was no problem,  I was a mum and so very much a proud mum.

See, when I was thirteen I was admitted to hospital with stomach pains and was told I had some unpronouncable problem and that I would never have children. Red rag or what? I was the oldest of a family of seven and my life experiences led me to want a baby of my own more than anything in the world. But, that is part of the later story.

I will look at the brilliant questions that Dave has asked me one by one… We can and do talk about anything but I feel and I think he knows, I might just reveal a little more about my life, our life, than I would in one to one discussion. So the next few blogs are for my children as much as anybody but I do hope that anyone else reading them will gain a little understanding about their own lives too.

His first question was about my earliest memories. As time has passed memories, although clear, are more difficult to place in time. My first memories are playing in the garden with my brothers. In those days the sun always shone and we created games and activities that lasted for ever. Well they seemed like forever. We made mud pies, built camps, pinched vegetables from my father’s vegetable garden and just played. I had four brothers, Denis, John, Colin and George… it was only later that I had two more siblings, Peter and Katie, one slightly older than my sons and the other younger.

To me my life was well, just my life. When you are young you don’t question what is good or what is bad, you just are. I remember summer days when my aunt and cousins came over and we had wonderful afternoon meals in the garden, salads, home grown of course and just playing. Memories then were only of the basic, playing and eating.

My other happy memories were when I visited my father’s family. They were to become my saving grace in a very roller coaster kind of childhood. My grand parents were everything to me and the only place I felt really loved. I never knew why and I never really understood this until later in my life. Unfortunately, much later and long after I was able to go to them and say thank you for everything they gave to me.

The first time I came to realise that life sucked was when I was around nine years old.. My Dad left my mother and although he had never been prominent in my life it was to become the beginning of the realisation that the unhappiness I had experienced when my parents fought was when I began to understand sadness, confusion and most of all, a lack of love or close relationship with anyone apart from my brothers.

When I went to Uni when I was fifty, it was that first traumatic experience I chose to write about. My story gained me a brilliant mark. I will conclude this post with that story but I have to say that there were other memories that were more important to me, it was onlymany years later that I was given them back, having lost them during a very unstable childhood, when I was training to be a play therapist. But that is another story and I will save it for another time.

 

Colour Me Yellow

I screwed my eyes against the yellow glare of the sun as it emerged from behind clouds that had spread across the sky like sour milk in coffee. The wind blew into my face and I could taste the sea. As I squiggled my toes into the cool sand, a young mother struggling with a small child and an armful of brightly coloured bags and buckets wandered into my view. Several slightly bigger children clung to her skirts as they limped over the stones. Their excitement tuned their voices to a higher and louder pitch as they made their way toward the sand. “Come on Dad, we’re leaving you behind.”

The man was struggling too, he carried a pushchair and as he walked the wind kept whipping the canopy into his face so that he couldn’t see.

A knot tightened in my stomach as I watched the little family find a place to sit. I hastily brushed away a tear that had trickled the length of my face. It dropped onto the sand and disappeared, sucked down to become a part of the sea. As I looked up the older girl caught sight of me watching and waved. I smiled and waved back.

Mum had been awfully quiet that day. As my brothers and I ate breakfast, we passed knowing looks between us and tried to fit in with the seriousness that hung heavily and statically across the kitchen. If one of us laughed another kicked their ankle under the table. We tried not to look at each other; a glance from any one of us would initiate the gut-jerking snigger from the throat that would start us all laughing. We were used to this.

 

Having finished our meal, we gathered our things for school and left the house. I leapt over the huge flagstone step and past the pillars, so big to my smallness. I stopped. The boys hadn’t noticed.

We often helped Dad to load his market things into the van, but today he shouldn’t have been here. Here should have left a long time ago. The market started early.

His mouth gave a smile but it never reached his eyes.

I looked on up the hill to where I could see my brothers walking ahead of me.

“ I want to talk to you, you can catch them up in a minute.” Dad nodded toward my brothers.

I waited, holding my breath.

“I must go away for a while.”

I barely felt his arms as he hugged me. I was too busy concentrating on holding back the sobs and tears that threatened to burst into the world from somewhere not so deep inside me. How I wished this wasn’t happening. How I wished those warm, safe arms would stay; I needed them.

Home became clouded by a shadow that was difficult to understand. Mum no longer sang around the house. The difference was invisible to all outside our family, and it was silent. A colourless void of colossal proportions filled with unspoken words, hastily reclaimed glances and deafening silence.

Spring came and our world began to change colour. The sun brightened our hearts and lives; flowers bloomed red and yellow in the garden, the perfume of the wallflowers floated lightly in the air and crept over the sill and in through the open windows. We made daisies into long chains, picked buttercups and held them against our chins. ‘Do you like butter?’

Soon it was summer.

One sticky day we were bored, hot and fussy until Denny had a bright idea.

“Can we go to the beach?” We looked pleadingly at Mum; four bright eyed faces and a baby who didn’t know why.

“ Pleeease?”

Mum smiled, “I need to do something first, keep an eye on the boys will you? Shan’t be long.”

It seemed like forever before Mum arrived back…. I noticed a white mark on her finger as she held out a brown paper bag full of beach shoes.

 

The beach was hot and smelt deliciously of salt. The sand was soft beneath our feet and we squiggled our toes into its coolness. We laughed and ran through the tiny lapping waves and searched rock pools that reflected the clouds as they scudded across the sky above us. We leaned so close to the water that the smell of the rotting seaweed made us wrinkle our noses as we dipped and searched with our fingers in the sand at the bottom of the pool for the creatures that had been left behind by the tide. Gentle breezes blew across our faces and tousled our hair leaving it dry so that our fingers no longer slipped through it. Jam sandwiches tasted sweeter as the salt clung to our fingers and lips. The gritty sound of the sand on my teeth made me wretch.

Nothing mattered that day. The sun beamed down on us, I lifted my face to feel its warmth on my cheeks. Yellow shone through my closed eyelids,

enveloping me in a blanket of sunshine. We had been so busy playing and building sand castles that we hadn’t noticed the tide pushing us further up the beach until there was no more sand and the huge black rocks had disappeared beneath the waves.

“ Time to go home!” Mum’s voice broke into our playing. We pleaded for more time to fill our pockets and buckets with shells and pebbles to take back with us.

Mum didn’t see me watching her. Her thoughts were far away; as far as the horizon that she was staring at beyond the ocean, maybe further, but somewhere I had never been and where, I felt, I was not wanted. I watched her brush a tear from her cheek; she, too, didn’t want the day to end.

The boys clung to Mum’s skirts as they stumbled over the pebbles and back up the beach. It was late but we were tired and happy. I dragged the pushchair up the beach while Mum carried Georgie.

“Come on, we’re leaving you behind.”

The sun glowed orange as it sank toward the sea. I looked back and half closed my eyes against the brightness; The yellow had gone.

I guess that this post answers two of my son’s questions, my earliest memories and the time when I realised that the world was not such a happy place.

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