Forgive me as I am in the process of cooking a turkey and it is my time of the month and I just took an Imitrex for the migraine that is lurking around. I am also reading Jenny Lawson’s book “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” which is weird and hilarious but it is all doing my head in.
My mom has often asked if I will write more about my childhood on my blog as she feels that it was weird enough to be interesting to my readers. Honestly, I have not, mainly because I don’t think I am a good enough writer to make it all remotely interesting. I have, in turn, encouraged her to write about HER life as I figure she could have the next Angela’s Ashes and make us all rich. I say this because my mom is GREAT at telling stories and in my mind she seems to have survived the Great Depression, the Great War, the Second World War and much more. She seems to have actually BEEN on Nostromo too but that might not be real.
What I am trying to say is she is a far better story teller than I. I am not good at poking the past with a stick and trying to make any sense of it. My childhood for me was what it was. Granted there was some scary bleak moments, but in a looking back at it all sense, I have many more happy feelings than negative and I am not one for digging up those feelings, even if it would get more readers. My dad was a mentally ill alcoholic, but despite that, I do have many fond memories of him doing good dad things and it almost seems wrong to taint those memories with the ones when his actions terrified me or made me so sad and disappointed in him.
My mom sees my childhood from and adult point of view. A point of view in which she sees herself and her husband failing me greatly as my childhood was not what she envisioned for me or for her. I see it just as what it was. I did not have expectations. I lived in the now and adjusted to the circumstances as they came along.
Due to my father’s issues (lies, drinking, faking jobs, the list goes on) we moved from a 70’s suburban dream home (granted my great grandmother living with us was not in my mom’s vision either) to a council flat in Leith. It was not pretty. Think Trainspotting. No really. Same area, same issues, same type of people, I just didn’t know what heroin was at that young age. It was grim. Grim people, boarded up homes, graffiti, garbage and a school that had razor wire around it. This was Edinburgh in the 70’s. I was fortunate enough to go to a school in the good part of town where my grandmother lived. Every day, I took the bus and made the transition from squalor to the grandeur of the New Town.
Granted, my school had all kinds of families attending it, not everyone was better off than we were, and many of my friends lived in ‘broken’ families and with secrets that we were not party to. Others though, had, what in my view was a grand life. Large homes, siblings (I was an only child), and bohemian parents who awed me with their casual comfort. My views of these families tended to be exaggerated due to the types of books I read as a child.
I had grown up reading Enid Blyton, where everyone was English and cultured and had ponies and cars and went on grand adventures. Or other books where people found secret gardens, magical portals that whisked them away from the mundane to the marvelous. At Silverknowes there was always what we called Fairy Rings growing in the grass. I would walk around them ‘widdershins’ in vain hope that I too would be taken by the fairy folk. It never happened. According the books I read as a child, magical things only happened to English children, never Scottish kids living in council housing.
Did I mention I had a vivid imagination? I was an only child. Hours were spent reading, drawing or playing quietly by myself. I learned to make do and enjoy my own company. Some of my sweetest memories are of playing quietly in some old relative’s front room while the adults had tea. My visions of these events are of table legs under which I lurked, doilies and the scent of lily of the valley. I loved my farm and zoo animals. The collection (which my mom still has) had my own animals and older one’s belonging to my mom. My mom loved them too.
My other vivid memories are of my mom “helping” me play with either them or my Sindy dolls. Usually her telling me which outfits the dolls preferred to be dressed in and me just giving in and letting her do her thing. At least we were playing together as my other memory of playing in the house was of mom with her sweater pulled up over her nose snoozing.
Her nose was covered because our flat in Pilton was freezing. There was NO heating. None. When mom and I got the place on Ferry Road Grove, there was coal fires and a coal bunker that mom diligently cleaned out so we could use the spot for storage. We had ONE gas fire in the living room and a space heater that we would use to warm up the other rooms. When the North Sea gales blew it would rattle our letter box open and blow down our long hallway. On dark winter nights mom, the cat and I would huddle round the fire in the living room. On bath nights, mom would warm up the towels by the fire and when I was done bathing, she would rush down and scoop me up in the warmth and rush me back to the living room to get into my nightie.
I shared a bedroom with my mom, it was warmer that way. In these days of lightweight duvet covers I remember the weight of the layers of blankets and sheets and toes reaching down to gingerly grasp the hot water bottle down below, or was that the cat down there, on cold nights it was hard to tell. Mom had an electric blanket that was pure heaven. I loved the nights I could snuggle under that.
People who have grown up in mild Vancouver won’t relate to stories of thick blankets, warm coats and mile long scarves, but those who grew up in chillier climes will relate. Edinburgh was a windy and chilly place. Despite that, I have memories of long sandy beaches, dunes covered in spikey grass. There were hills with thick lush grass that for one birthday party, we took to sledding down upon using cardboard as our rides. It was exhilarating.
I remember being completely surprised by a beautiful bike once Christmas. It was a folding bike with small wheels and a big basket on the front. I will never forget the feeling of freedom when mom would allow me to ride down to her friend ‘Smithy’s’ house and their market garden, where I would while away the afternoon following the gardener’s around and getting rides in their wheel barrows.
I could go on. I have so many memories of short tiny instances. Little moments that have stayed with me all these years, some good, some bad – moments in time. Not even chapters in my life, just brief experiences that perhaps a psychologist would tell me have shaped who I am today. However, they haven’t shaped me enough to make me a great author or film maker. When I look around the chaos that is my home today, I have the feeling that my children instead will perhaps write great novels based on their chaotic and disordered childhoods and let us hope it is all good and not terrible, or at least will make them bags of money.