Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A letter to my 16 year old self ...

In response to Josie's Writing Workshop over at Sleep is for the Weak

I thought it more appropriate to put this one on my 'serious' blog rather than Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy?

A letter to my 16 year old self

Dear Laura

You are very laid back, easy going and you like to laugh. Laughing soothes the pain, makes it all go away. Your mother died seven years ago and you are still bitter.

Bright but rebellious; this year you’ll leave school with crap GCSE results because you arsed about. You would rather be a rebellious clown than take anything seriously. You’ll go to college and re-sit some of your GCSE’s.

You’ll start working in a newsagents in the evenings and weekends whilst at college and have a relationship with a colleague, he is much older than you but acts much younger. His favourite pastimes are smoking dope and sleeping. Still, he can be charming and you have a laugh sometimes. To be fair most of the time you spend with him he is high or asleep. But at the moment that is preferential to going home.

Home is difficult. Your relationship with your stepmother is fairly hideous and you’re angry. You shield your Dad from your real feelings because you remember how he cried alone sometimes when your mum died and you don’t ever want him to feel like that again. You will spend most of your time at friend’s houses with their families where you are accepted without being made to feel unwelcome.

What I need you to know right now is that it’s OK to be angry and bitter about your Mum dying. In fact you should take yourself off for some counselling. Talk to someone, release it all, let it all out … don’t pretend it’s not there and don’t hide behind a smile and a joke. Cry like a baby for hours if you want to. You’ll feel much better. Really, do it now, not when you’re thirty.

Tell your Dad how you're feeling, you'll feel better, he'll probably feel better and it won't reach boiling point when you are 21 on a family Christmas holiday when you screech like a banshee at your stepmother about everything that's happened between you over the past ten years. That one will take a while to get over, about a year, before everyone is speaking again but it will be a turning point for you. Once you've got it off your chest life feels different somehow, you are able to move on.

Over the next 5 years you will have relationships with some absolute arseholes. You will learn something from each of them. You won’t listen to anyone when they tell you that you're making mistakes, you need to learn for yourself. When you meet Andy you will know instantly that he is the one.

When you are 31 you will have regrets but you will also have all you ever wanted; two beautiful children and a great husband.

You’ll excel at giving birth and breastfeeding. It’s a shame these activities are not in the Olympics. These are the only things you feel you have done right and put your all into.

Sleep lots now. When your children arrive they will keep you awake for years. That huge family you wanted … it’s not going to happen. The children’s sleeping habits will drive your husband to distraction and he will tell you ‘no more’. You will be bereft for a while and have moments where all you can think about is having more children, but it will pass.

You’ll rediscover writing. Writing will be your best therapy yet. You'll enjoy it and lose yourself in it. You'll finally have something that can't be taken away from you.

You won't listen to any of this (above) because you know better. Just remember this, you can't fill your mum shaped hole with alcohol, relationships, money, self-destruction or friendships. Only when you stop trying to fill the hole will you find some peace.

Love Me x (aged 31 and a half)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

In the arms of death

We walked into the hospice passing the nuns at the front desk. I think I was with my Scottish grandparents.

I remember being in the lift, then walking into the private pale green room with it's big window out over the gardens.

The next second or so of my life is still the most vivid and horrific memory I have of my Mum.

My Mum was sat up against pillows on the hospital bed, she was gaunt, skeletal and staring into space. She looked straight through me. The shock of seeing her like that made me actually jump, I can still remember the feeling of my heart racing in horror as I tried to regain my composure.

I remember nothing more about that visit but I know that it was the last time I ever saw her. She died a day or so after.

I hope that she didn't see me jump, see the shock on my face. I hope the drugs were so strong that she didn't even know I was there.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Sharing the heart ...

My Dad sent me this today on my 31st birthday, 3 years after my wedding;


I was in the library the other day and found the book which had a passage that I always intended reading at your wedding. I was really depending on using the reading at your wedding as my abilities at making speeches are akin to Mike Tyson attempting flower arranging - with gloves on! But, unfortunately, I mislaid the book during one of our many house moves. It is from In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith.

The character, Mma Makutsi, has just accepted a proposal of marriage and is contemplating the moment. She reminds me of you (leaving aside the fact that she is black, African and wears large Deirdre Barlow spectacles) and the thoughts that would pass through your mind.

Mma Makutsi gathered her thoughts, standing before the window, looking out to the trees in the distance and the evening sun on the grey-green hills beyond the trees. She had so much to think about: her past, and the place from where she had come; her family who would be so pleased with this news up there in Bobonong; and her late brother, Richard, who would never know about this, unless, of course, he was watching from somewhere, which he might be, for all she knew. She loved this country, which was a good place, and she loved those with whom she lived and worked. She had so much love to give – she had always felt that – and now there was somebody to whom she could give this love, and, that, she knew was good; for that is what redeems us, that is what makes our pain and sorrow bearable – this giving of love to others, this sharing of the heart.

Happy birthday!



Sunday, 24 May 2009

I imagined she had just walked past me

I haven't read the letter recently. In fact, I can't remember the last time I read it.

I certainly haven't digested it before, the way I did last night.

Every time I read it I understand it more; as a child, teenager, adult and now mother.

She wrote three letters in total; mine, one for my sister and one for my Dad. Each one different.

When I'd finished typing it last night I wept. The mother inside me was wondering "Where do you start a letter like that?", "How much is enough?".

I have a sample of the perfume she used to wear. I got it soon after my counselling had finished and put it away too frightened to open it.

I put a tiny dab on last night. At first I didn't recognise it, then suddenly it came flooding back. I could smell my Mum. I closed my eyes and imagined she had just walked past me.

A small comfort in a huge void.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

A letter I was given after my Mother's death (October 1987)

Dearest Laura

I hope that you are being a good girl for your Daddy and looking after him and [your sister]. I know that it will be strange for you all but in time it will get better.

Remember me with a little tear at first and afterwards with a laugh. We had a lot of fun times and you will have a lot more at first with Daddy and [your sister], later with your own friends. Later still you may be very lucky, as I was, and meet a very special person to share your life with.

Please try to be honest with yourself and don't knowlingly hurt anyone. Be happy and care about others.

I hope that you will grow up to be healthy and happy with a few special friends. Don't worry of you are on your own sometimes. Learn to enjoy your own company and then others will.

Whatever happens to us when we die I feel at peace with God and more than happy with my wonderful family and friends. If I go to heaven I will watch over you and never stop caring for my loved ones.

Don't forget to do the things you have to do before the things you want to.

My love forever

Mummy xxx

Monday, 27 April 2009

Click Click Click

I have very few memories of my mother.

The trauma of her death at a young age has wiped a lot of my early memory and kept a lot of memories I’d rather have lost.

I was 7 when she was diagnosed with cancer and 9 when she died.

I have memories of my childhood … hundreds … but not many with her in them.

I have boxes and albums stuffed with photos. I often look through them and it can trigger memories of an event but not of the interaction we shared, normal everyday moments shared between a mother and child. The kind of moments I share with my children that I know I shared with her but have no recollection of.

A goodnight kiss, snuggling up for a bedtime story, holding hands as we walk down the street … all gone in the dust of death.

I have only two very different memories that have stayed.

Memory 1

We were at a neighbour’s house. I was playing with my friends; the adults were all chatting and laughing in the living room. It must have been a party of sorts because there were a lot of people there. We were running up and down the stairs, racing round the house. It was late, I was tired and hot and I went to my mum for a cuddle. She sat me on her knee; she lifted my long hair up and blew cold air on my neck to cool me down, breaking off to laugh with her friends. We sat like that for a long time, together.

It is a tender moment that I treasure.

Memory 2

Driving somewhere, just the two of us, Mum and me. I was sat in the backseat. I had a plastic toy gun which made a click noise when the trigger was pulled. Cheap plastic against cheap plastic; Click, Click, Click.

I realised that this noise, although not annoying to me, was grating to my mum. I evidently clicked one too many times because I was told in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t stop it would be going out of the car window. I must have weighed up the seriousness of her threat before … CLICK.

Without saying a word, and still driving, she removed the gun from my hand, wound down the window and threw it, wound up her window and continued on our journey as if nothing had happened.

I have a lot of memories of my father’s parenting which was fairly laid back unless I crossed the line in which case I knew about it.

I often think about the way I parent my own children. On a bad day I am a ‘show no mercy’ gun slinger and on a good day I am a laid back tender neck blower.

I need to learn how to be a mixture of gun slinger and laid back tender neck blower all the time!

Originally posted on Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? last year

Monday, 20 April 2009

A Mum Shaped Hole

Would she think they look like me?

Would she admire my handsome boy all snails, scooters and bold adventure?

Would she smile at my beautiful girl all bossy and hands on hips smelling of apples and wilful charm?

Would her heart melt when they called her name?

Would she be my shoulder to cry on when life is tough?

Would we laugh so hard that tears would fall?

I wish they had known her, and I for longer

I wish she was here

I miss my mum.
Originally written last year and posted on Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy?

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

There is sadness in his eyes

I am at Catherine’s 8th birthday party. Catherine lives at the top of our street and we are gathered in her front room, a sea of pretty party dresses; playing who can suck the fruit pastille the longest.

The phone rings. Catherine’s Mum, Maria, leaves the room. Five minutes later she returns looking drained, sad. She speaks to her friend and they both look at me and continue with the party games with instant cheerful faces. Their eyes tell a different story. I stop sucking my sweet and chew it, failing the game.

Fifteen minutes later the party finishes, a flurry of parents arrive to collect their children. I am in the front room with Catherine and a couple of others. Sitting by the window I can see my Dad walking up the drive. The doorbell rings and Maria opens the door. I leave the room and hover in the hallway.

Engrossed in their hushed conversation they do not see me.

Although close friends, I find it strange that Maria gives my Dad a hug and she tells him she is sorry. Why is she sorry? I squeeze past them unnoticed and stand on the step behind my Dad, ready to leave.

“Laura, your Dad is here” Maria shouts into the house.

“I’m here” I say from behind them. They look at me, at each other, then we all exchange goodbyes.

Maria gives me my party bag, I unwrap a yellow, sticky lollipop. We begin the short walk down the hill to our house. We talk about the party and then I ask Dad how Mum is. He ignores me or doesn’t hear my question.

“How is Mummy?” I ask again.

Nothing. He is looking straight ahead and walking faster.

“Daddy! How is Mummy?” I say louder this time.

Why won’t he speak to me?

He stops and bends down so that his eyes are level with mine. There is sadness in his eyes. Something is wrong, my Daddy looks different. He is holding my hand.

“Laura, Mummy has died” he says.

The lollipop falls from my hand and my legs feel like jelly, I want to be sick. I look at the lollipop lying on the floor; its sticky coating covered in grit from the pavement. I burst into tears. My stomach is churning; the pavement falls away from my feet as my Dad scoops me up and carries me home.

I am 9 years old, my Mummy has gone.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Mothers Day Letter - 2009

Dear Laura

I thought that as it is Mother's Day this weekend I would let you know what a fantastic mother you are and how proud I am of the way you and [the husband] are bringing up your children.

[the 3 year old] and [the 4 year old] are wonderful children with terrific outgoing and intelligent personalities which is a lot to do with your skills as a mother.

I know only too well the huge void that you feel with the loss of your mother but I am positive that she is watching over you and, had she lived to see her grandchildren she would be equally proud of you.

Your blog posts are amazing and reading them from far away in Spain has kept me close to you all and given me so much pleasure.

My Mother's Day present to you is a picture to remind you I am now just over the hill!

All my love