Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

Lost In Contemplation

May 4, 2015

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Forgetting many things but most of all myself

March 2, 2015

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haunted111

Fire Flowers

October 25, 2014

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From My Parents’ Attic

January 9, 2013

mandy

In a Single Decade

October 11, 2011

You see ghosts. You hear voices. Everywhere you go the air is a mass of whispers around you. Panoramic stories unfold inside your head. These things are attributed to creativity and a good imagination. You use them to write stories that win praise from teachers and parents and friends. You win prizes. You pass exams. You are a success.

You grow older. You leave school and then college. You see ghosts. You hear voices. Those stories are still growing inside your head but you are too exhausted to write them down. They terrify you. They keep you awake at night. You are referred to a consultant psychiatrist. You are hospitalized and medicated. These things are attributed to a psychiatric disorder. There are no more exams to pass. You are a failure.

A Kind of Betrayal

April 8, 2011

No one could ever claim that my mother didn’t do her best.  When I was a pupil at the nearest Catholic day school, seven miles from my home, my mother bought a glossy coffee table book full of ideas for healthy but scrumptious packed lunches.  Each day heralded a new and exotic type of bread: crackers, bagels, pitta bread, baguettes filled with cheeses from all around the world: brie and grape, Wensleydale and honied pickle, avocado salad. Little pots of fruit salad.  All carefully calorie counted, as requested. Just thinking about them made my mouth water.  My fellow students envied me.  It was a sign that I was cared for, that I was loved but I didn’t see it that way.  I saw it as a form of psychological torture. It was like a deadly, poisonous reptile writhing around in my school bag.  The serpent in the garden calling me, tempting me.  And every morning as soon as lessons began I disposed of the enemy.  I gave my carefully constructed lunch box to the morose, heavyset boy who sat next to me in registration, knowing every time I did it that this was a kind of betrayal.

Nuns

October 2, 2010

Catholic nuns take a vow of poverty.  The nuns who taught me in primary school were no exception.  It is a semblance of poverty if we are honest; they did not face starvation and there was always plenty for them to eat.  However, it gave them an air of detachment from the material world.  They were located firmly in the realm of the spiritual.  You could present them with the most precious diamond in the world and they would remain unmoved.  Money was not their driving force and I envy them that.  They are as close to God as one can get.  They are replete, complete, self-sufficient.  The slender threads that pass through the eye of the needle.

The Witness

February 5, 2010

The door is ajar. I am afraid to step forward. I am afraid of what I might find. Whatever it is it will be my fault. There is silence. Are they dead? Sleeping? Earlier my parents had been screaming and shouting at one another. Down in the lounge. I was in my bedroom, my hands over my ears, rocking backwards and forwards muttering ‘Please God, please God, make it stop.’ And He must have been listening because it did eventually stop. And I could cling onto the illusion that I had helped in some way.

And now it is morning and the dining room door is ajar. I step forward and push it open. There is no evidence of last night’s quarrel. I sit down to eat my rice crispies. It is just another ordinary day.

It Will Only Destroy You if You Let It

October 13, 2009

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From the age of five to nine I lived on a council estate. These were the late seventies/early eighties. I will not allow the incident I am about to describe desecrate my memories of that place because for the most part it was pure paradise. The close in which I lived was nothing short of idyllic. I do not remember any of the adults who lived there being out of work. My own father was a factory worker and my mother was a nurse. Then a family moved into the end of the street. The mother became known throughout the neighbourhood as ‘that strange woman with the seven flea-ridden cats and her two strange, scruffily dressed children’.

I didn’t know it then but that family was going to have a profound effect on the rest of my life. The mother of the clan was, unlike the rest of the street, unemployable. The neighbours ensured her many cats, multiplying by the day, were fed. Their concern did not extend to her children who although they weren’t emaciated, were not the bonniest of creatures. More than mere neglect was happening in that house and I wish I had the wisdom to heed the warnings given by those much older and much more experienced than me never to venture across the threshold. There was no shortage of these warnings.

I chose to obey my own instincts instead. One of the biggest mistakes I have ever made. I had been told never to listen to gossip. The nuns at my Catholic primary school told me never to ‘Give a dog a bad name and hang it.’ That was an expression they used rather frequently.

So I did it. I crossed the threshold. I remember being overwhelmed by the stench of the cat faeces that were scattered across the floor. And then there were the ‘children’: Calvin and Marie. There was another boy who hovered in the background but he barely seemed to register. Calvin was not exactly a child. He was in his late teens – sixteen or seventeen I think. He invited me into his malodorous bedroom. He said that he would make sure I had a ‘good time’. Suffice to say that a ‘good time’ would be the last words I would use to describe my experiences in that room.

I can’t understand why I returned. Maybe it was the threat that if I didn’t my parents wouldn’t love me anymore or that I would be taken into care. That was what he told me and at the age of seven I believed him. My memories of this period of my life are fragmented. I can’t even remember how long it lasted. Could it have been a month? The entire summer? One memory remains intact in my head. Calvin had found a rickety old bridge. Marie and her adult boyfriend stood on one side familiarizing themselves with one another while on the other side Calvin did things to me that he should have been doing with a young woman of his own age..

Every now and then I hear his voice. But I can never see his face. It was the stench than emanated from him that remained with me – a sickly sweet scent. Overpowering. Later I was told that this was probably cannabis.

Sometimes my memories of that time will enter my head uninvited. I focus upon seeing the events of my childhood through a prism of sunlight. I cannot remember how it ended. I told no one. Except my mother. She admitted that the signs were there but she never made the connection. My parents tried their hardest. I know that now. I’m not so angry anymore. It hasn’t destroyed my life because I won’t let it.

Soon after they had moved in Calvin, his siblings and his mother were evicted from their little house at the end of the road. I hope they found every one of those cats loving homes.


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