The International Writers Magazine: Childhood

‘Please Mummy Don’t’
Eleanor Creed

I 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. I’ll 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? those....and I’m 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 I’ll find a cut up bed sheet. Dolly had hurt her leg and I….no….Dolly’s little mummy needed a bandage but she doesn’t have one. So she asks her own big Mummy who is busy and knows without looking that she doesn’t have one either, even though Dolly is crying, even though Dolly’s 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, that’s 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, Mummy…..’

Big Mummy slaps little Mummy, grabs Dolly’s leg, smashes Dolly’s head against the wall.
‘Please Mummy, don’t.’

© Eleanor Creed <> November 2006
Eleanor is studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth
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