Saturday, April 9, 2011

For 635

Mothers... where to begin because we all know where it ends. Probably the place to begin is the very beginning. This is where you duck out and get coffee because this is going to take a while.

As one has said before mother was a creative woman, who was ahead of her time in some ways. In a time before formal childcare and crèches she took the unique step of advertising one in the local newsagent’s window, rather like you would a puppy or kitten... Free to a good home... It was how one got auntie and uncle in the first place at about six weeks. Apparently father dropped one off... he must have had shore leave... and it was six weeks before she showed up to visit.

Post natal depression combined with rather unimaginable levels of naivety would be one’s pick judging from the stories. She got pregnant very unexpectedly; those high dose pills of the 60’s did fail, and she coped with it badly by all accounts. Rather than live on base, she elected to return to work and support herself. It was the beginning of her career as a teacher and our rather hostile relationship.

The earliest memory of her is at about two years old; one had pulled on an extra layer of those frilled bloomers that they dressed babies in during the 60’s. It was done because one was expecting her to come and hit one for something or other... she had an unpredictable temper and it seemed a wise precaution. Apparently most children placed in that sort of an environment go on to be people pleasers. Generally one did not go that route... at all.

In fact one took the sensible route of transferring all allegiance to auntie and uncle. This in hindsight probably did not improve hostilities at all. It must have been difficult to deal with a child who didn’t want to see you and resented being sent home. Frankly one begged not to be sent home, and feverently prayed that there had been some sort of mix-up and auntie and uncle were the real parents. It was about that time that one developed a rather uneasy relationship with God, despite auntie’s staunch C of E beliefs.

It must have been equally hard on auntie and uncle as well. They had no legal standing and any action on their part would have ended all contact. So they did what they could... dried the tears, fed one up when one arrived half starved, over compensated on the material front and sent one back when asked for. See no good deed goes unpunished... they should have taken the newsagents advice and not got involved.

By four one had learnt how to cook out of necessity... it was the only way to get breakfast. During the day if mother was at work, and for that matter is she wasn’t, one went to the beach, read, coloured in and waited for her to come home. Later, at about nine, one wandered the city or the museum as we had moved by then. Occasionally one took some money from her purse to fund these expeditions, and auntie always smuggled money in the "Beano" comics she sent, but mostly one relied on the kindness of strangers and they were often quite generous.   Fortunately the periods of reunion were mercifully brief. We were both happier apart one suspects... and more importantly one didn’t have to go to ballet J

This pattern of quiet hostility continued through childhood. It was the little things... games requiring four or more players for birthdays... still unsure if one was supposed to create some imaginary friends for that one. Jigsaw puzzles with nowhere to do them... you would have thought the fact that they remained in their cellophane was a cry for help, but no. Beautiful clothes designed and made by her... she did have talent... always in colours one hated. You are getting the idea...

The only thing we agreed on was books. It was how one read "Justine"... the adults bookshelves were always more interesting. Though the "Famous Five" were not to be sneezed at, and to this day one still loves a good detective story. Damn you Enid Blyton  for corrupting a small child’s mind with your tomboy images and dreams of escaping parental control.

By the end of the tweenage years one rarely went home. We would write stilted letters to each other...
Dear mother,
Thank you for your letter. Having a wonderful time.
Love B.
So it was something of a shock when at 16 she decided one was moving back home with her and attending a girls school in prep for uni. That lasted all of 24 hours before one left home on Christmas Day, to move in with the complete psychopath that was the boyfriend... a story for another time.

Our last, well second to last, conversation went like this...
Well I’ve contacted the authorities and I can’t make you come home. If ever you get involved with drugs or prostitution don’t call me.  
To this day one still can’t work out why she thought one would phone her for anything.

Our last conversation was all Hobbit’s fault. He insisted that blood was thicker than water. For the record never take family advice from someone who doesn’t have a family. After knocking on her door, one was invited in because the neighbour was coming down their driveway and she didn’t want to have to introduce us. It was like going for a job interview you know is not going your way. In the end we left together... she got in her Morris Minor and one got into the Mercedes... and we drove off in opposite directions. And may one just say... petty though it was... the car thing was very gratifying.

See the moral of this tale 635 is that it is quite easy to cut yourself off from family. All you have to do is decide whether or not their presence is outweighed by their unpleasantness. Personally one believes that cutting them out, like the cancer that they are, might be painful in the short term, but it pays dividends in the end. Besides Christmas becomes a whole lot cheaper next year J


littlemonkey said...

The man who provided half my genetic material lives a mile away. He can't' even remember which Grandchild goes with which of his children, because it isn't important to him. I haven't spoken to him in months. He only calls when he wants something. My husband handles that end.

Biddable said...

I stay dutifully and resentfully involved with the family as a good little child on the New World side of the Old World divide must. If it weren't for legions of us seething our ways through holidays and the occasional family dinner, our mothers would find themselves adrift in regular society and, well, that's a sub-optimal result for all of society.

Dina said...

For me, family is thicker than anything, but I suppose it is because they are the only ones on whom, other than myself, I could really rely.

That is not to say that they don't drive me absolutely insane in any given hour of any given day, of any given month, in any given year. They DO. And yet, they always have been, are, and--I expect--will be my two little rocks that hold my life together in many irreplaceable ways.

Malcolm said...

Close family ties have not been very evident on my side of our marriage but they certainly are in Rose's. My side have scattered themselves all over the world for several generations; her side is very tribal and she has uncountable cousins, first, second and third in various degrees of removal. If Rose has problems with any of her brothers, those problems remain close to us; on my side, the problems get distant and don't affect us much. I don't have much problems with either side.

xantu said...

I came from a perfect family. Absolutely perfect... if you don't count that incest thing.

I learned early at the the knee of an expert (my mother) how to turn a blind eye to the elephants in the house. Even to this day, when I go home, I automatically slip back into the person, the one the just does not see or talk about the reality of existence... the one that can don the facade of perfection no matter what the reality is.

Families... there are times when one wonders about the institution.