International Writers Magazine: Childhood
begin with childhood of course, and from that golden haze of memories
we all share, find some of the more brightly coloured moments:
hedgerows speckled with tight clumps of Cornish cream primroses,
yearning from their orange centres, to be picked; a raspberry,
peach and banana ice-cream sundae overspilling its crystal canoe,
loaded and giddily setting off for a Caribbean market; pet animals
such as a shivering white rabbit who twitched his nose, tore out
grass and looked the other way; a tabby cat; a blue budgerigar
who was supposed to talk, and a wire-haired terrier dog who actually
belonged to my mother and answered only to her - pets with names
and personalities who passed for those siblings I never had because
my parents did not want them. Instead, there was a doll I called
Dolly. Ill come to her in a bit.
Meanwhile, I flick my way through the memories, some like the fruit,
others more like shards. There was a loopy jumper I made while learning
to knit by obeying the organic instructions for increasing, decreasing,
shaping and growing. No, not that way, this way, hold it like
this, my mother snapped while I struggled to decipher the code
of this black-magic, old-lady art; and a pale pink, woollen boxy tailored
jacket and pleated skirt, that I was obliged to wear, grim-smiling like
a juvenile dowager duchess in white ankle socks and Clarks one-bar leather
shoes for smartly turned out little girls.
And a finger, trapped in the cross-bars of a deck-chair on the beach
one evening when the tide had retreated smirking and the sun had disappeared
into the sea, my finger swollen and purple, about to split like an over-ripe
plum, and throbbing even as the blackened nail was lifting, displaced
by the rising of the blood. There were walks with mother and her dog,
a bouncy cartoon version of himself bounding over the desolate tin-mine
where the rusted winding-gear creaked against the granite, high up in
the walls of the cracked and leaning shaft-head; a sudden skid on a
birthday bike and a sprawling flourish on loose gravel that produced
a crater on my knee that oozed gooey and shiny like custard. And another
present: Dolly, a china doll with a painted face, not small and baby
shaped, but straight-limbed like a scaled-down version of myself and
with long auburn hair that I tied for her in bunches.
Shall I continue? About Dolly? Because she brings me to this same mother,
now in her black mask, applying the torture of anticipation by promising
to give me a jolly good hiding when we got home from church.
What for Mummy? For..... Well, what could I
possibly have got up to in church, or anywhere else, that merited the
slappings that lurk in the subconscious?....in those....and Im
coming to them now, those difficult to reach shady folders at the back
of my filing-cabinet memory where my reluctant fingers hesitate over
the first of those best left unexplored.
Yet I do recall, since my fingers insist on picking their way over those
china shards I have mentioned, and through to the gloom where I know
Ill find a cut up bed sheet. Dolly had hurt her leg and I
little mummy needed a bandage but she doesnt have one. So she
asks her own big Mummy who is busy and knows without looking that she
doesnt have one either, even though Dolly is crying, even though
Dollys little mummy is sad. So sad that she finds some scissors
from her school box and cuts a jagged strip from along the edge of the
white sheet on her bed and wraps it round the hurt leg. There,
thats better, she says. Little Mummy smiles and hugs Dolly
who has stopped crying. She shows the mended doll to Big Mummy. Big
Mummy is very angry. See her face go red. She grabs at Little Mummy.
She misses. She shouts. She chases Dolly and Little Mummy around the
house. Look, look. She traps them in a corner. She catches them. Please,
Big Mummy slaps little Mummy, grabs Dollys leg, smashes Dollys
head against the wall.
Please Mummy, dont.
© Eleanor Creed <email@example.com> November 2006
Eleanor is studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University
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