Tuesday, 6 December 2011

What a difference a day makes.

Today's contribution has very little to do with Mike and his Myeloma, other than to say that this time last year Mike was due to start his SCT holiday, but had been told there wasn't a bed and call back tomorrow. We called back tomorrow fourteen times in all, they didn't expect us to call weekends. No today it is all about me and a remark I put on facebook late Sunday evening. I quote:
"I had such fantastic plans when I was a naive thirteen year old. Thirty-five years later I am just sad I achieved nothing. Too late now."
That little remark caused a deluge of comments, which I appreciated, but I realised that there was no way I could explain the remark on facebook directly, there just isn't the space! So in the words of a singing nun "Let's start at the very beginning....."

When I was born in 1963, my parents were living with my maternal grandparents in what I recall was a lovely house opposite a field (Highfields School took the field over from what I can tell on Goggle maps.) I recall riding on the back of a neighbour's dog in the field and picking buttercups and daisies. By the time I was two and a half, I had been joined by two younger sisters who were only eleven months apart and my father had gone, leaving us for an older woman who didn't have children. More on that later*. In May 1966 my parents divorced and soon after the council offered my mother a 3 bedroomed flat in Blakenhall Gardens, those who know Wolverhampton, will know what became of them later.

The flats were brand new, with underfloor heating, a play area just outside and a fantastic launderette that we were given a weekly slot for. My dear nan and granddad decided to give up their lovely house and move into the flat next door, so that my mom would have help. In 1966 people still didn't get divorced and the stigma was immense. No charity for single mums back then.

Of course a third floor flat is not the best place for three young children and inevitably there were complaints from those living below and those living above about the noise and so in 1969 my mom was offered a house just a short walk away from the flats, which she took. It had a garden and three bedrooms, but the bathroom (and I mean a room with a bath) was off the kitchen downstairs and the toilet was outside. As a six year old it made no real difference to me. I just got on with life, as children do and it wasn't until I was older, maybe 10, that I realised things weren't quite right. My mom would never let me have friends round. No birthday parties for us. My sisters were like twins, so close in age they naturally bonded themselves together leaving me to play alone. I was late learning to read, but once I had mastered the art, I spent hours losing myself in the pages of a fantasy. I realise now that the reason we were not allowed friends was two-fold, my mom didn't have the money to feed another mouth and she was ashamed of the house. Things of course could only get worse.

In September 1974 it was off to "big" school. I had been decided by my teachers, my mom, my grandparents and because of their pressure, me, that I would be going to the grammar school, Wolverhampton Girls' High School. What a culture shock. I had attended a primary school where there were other children just as poor, a fair share of mixed race (even then),  Asian children who had to attend parents' evenings to translate for their parents and the more affluent children who's dads were doctors and lived on Goldthorn Hill. At WGHS there appeared to be no poor girls. No English as a second language (makes me giggle to think how they would have been dealt with). Minority group? I felt like I was it. The only way I could possible cope with the weight of it all was to lie. I am so ashamed to admit it, but that was what I did. I lied about my horse and my riding lessons. About an uncle who had a farm. I was caught lying and lost friendships but it didn't stop me I felt I had no choice. How could I tell the posh young ladies (we were all young ladies now) that I had to go outside to the loo and use a potty in winter as the toilet would freeze solid overnight, waiting for someone to pour a kettle of boiling water down it so the potties could be emptied. I dreamt of a much better life, but I was so naive. I heard on the news that miners got paid a fortune and so I jokingly told someone I was going to be a miner and get rich. I never lived it down. I wanted to be an astronaut or "Quincy" but I just wasn't bright enough. Time passed and things of course got worse.

By the time I started my periods on my 14th birthday the inevitable teenage hormones had started to cause the B.O. that so many adolescents suffer from. The weekly bath and only one set of school clothes meant keeping my uniform fresh was a real issue. My mom couldn't afford to heat the water for another bath during the week and so it was wash in the kitchen sink or nothing. But what pubescent girls wants to wash in the kitchen being watched by two younger, cruel, teasing sisters? How could I wash my clothes when I got back from school at half four in the evening and have them dry by 6:30 in the morning? So I did the best I could, but it wasn't really good enough, and so I became Pepe Le Pew.

In 1978 I did meet a boy at a youth club. Unfortunately I cannot remember his name. I wish I could, I would apologise to him if I could. You see this lad was black and the second my mom saw he had walked me home I was given a good slap and told if I ever saw him again she would throw me out. I never went back to the youth club, I wish I had, if only to explain it wasn't me. The trauma of that experience made me go to the hairdressers and have my hair cut like Servalan from Blake's Seven. Bearing in mind my hair was in pigtails up until this point, it was a very brave or stupid thing to do!

Servalan at her best.

We eventually moved out of that house in 1980 when the council finally decided to modernise it. I'm sure we were the last people in Wolverhampton to have an outside loo, but I can't prove it. Sixth form was therefore a much better experience, yet I still left school feeling inferior. I tried desperately to join the Civil Service, to no avail. I thought about the RAF, but the teacher in charge of careers said I wouldn't like it and I listened to her.

Now the point of all that waffling is that today I read Denise's post about regrets and I decided I don't want to have them. My past has left me with a feeling of inferiority, with an inability to make friends and keep them. But I can't keep letting my past determine my future. I want to forgive, if not forget what happened and I'd like all those I did wrong by in the past to do the same. So Ros, Michele, Janet, Debra, Julie (both of you), Heather and anyone else from school I've forgotten to mention who reads this, please forgive anything I may have said or done. My memory is very poor about most things relating to school, I reckon I've deliberately forgotten most of it, although I do recall Michele setting fire to her nails in Biology.

*I almost forgot to tell you more. When I was about to get married aged 21 (far too young) my mom informed me that it was my fault my father had left as he had never wanted children and so I was to blame for her not celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary! Oh yes, I was really wanted.
Well I am now. Thank you my darling Micky for showing me just how much you can love someone.

7 comments:

  1. Brave girl xxxxx onwards and upwards x

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  2. Lorna, I held it together until the last few lines. The old eyes are welled up now. The breakup of your parents was between them. They may have been looking for someone or something to blame it on(people HATE taking responsibility for their own shortcomings) but it was their issue all along. I wish I could send a package with a big ol' hug across the pond to you today. I am sorry that you have these memories but they are the past and you ARE who you are today, and that is a brave, loving woman who I would be honored to call friend. I know you feel different Lorna, but there is a place in all of us that feels that way. And I've never thought being a conformist seemed like much fun anyway. I can't say it any better than your lovely man did: onwards and upwards. Hugs to you!!!!

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  3. @Mike who said you could comment? lol
    @Denise thank you for your kind words. I don't feel very brave, but I intend to make sure I don't have any regrets, so maybe I'm braver than I think. x

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  4. Dear Lorna,
    Give up regretting anything, it's a waste of time, I know. Try reflecting on events instead and then go and use that new found knowledge about yourself (or others) and learn to live so that you will regret very little in future - you are a brave girl and a bright one at that. You can do it - you can do anything!
    love Lynne & Dave

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  5. I know the feeling of being rejected by a parent, and blamed for their break up, it isnt nice at all, and has a knock on effect for the rest of your life, it hurts, but sadly it doesnt end there, it also affects grandchildren who dont really get to know grandparents. but life does carry on, it is what you make it. i think it certainly makes us stronger and wiser, if not more independant. we are not responsible for our upbringing, nor are we responsible for the way we may have felt or acted as children, but we are responsible for our futures. i certainly intend to make the most of mine.

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  6. Regrets? What's the point? Onwards, upwards and sideways!
    That Servalan haircut is amazing - I hope you had the eyeliner to match? A feather boa might have been too much for school...
    I have massive shoulder-chips too. I just hope that my kids don't develop them, but I think they're genetic.

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  7. DEAR LORNA, YOUR STORY TORE AT MY HEARTSTRINGS. YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN RECALLING WHAT YOU FELT YOU HAD TO DO TO COPE WITH POVERTY, LONLINESS, EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL ABANDONMENT, AND FEELING UNWORTHY. A THERAPIST FROM MANY YEARS AGO PROPOSED AN IDEA FOR SELF HELP - IMAGINE THE MOTHER YOU WISH COULD HOLD YOU IN HER ARMS, AND LAVISH YOU WITH LOVE IMAGINE HER SOOTHING AND KIND VOICE REASSURING YOU AND COMFORTING YOU. IMAGINE FEELING SAFE, CONTENTED, AND LOVED. AFTER A WHILE, YOU WILL DISCOVER YOU ARE ABLE TO BE YOUR OWN MOTHER - TO YOURSELF! KNOWING HOW TO MOTHER OURSELVES CAN RESULT IN BEING ABLE TO SHED ALL THOSE OTHER FEELINGS OF THE PAST, AND OPENS YOUR HEART EVEN WIDER TO BE RECEPTIVE TO THE LOVE OF OTHERS. YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL PERSON, AND YOU DESERVE TO BE HAPPY AND FREE. WARM HUGS, KAREN

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