My Journey... Part 1
As he clasped his hands around her neck, she screamed “Vicky… get out!”. I am 3 years old and frozen with fear, not knowing what to do and where to go to get away from my father.
My God's Honest Truth First Memory
My mother and I danced with the poverty line throughout my childhood and at an early age I learned that I needed money to survive, not a man. All we had was each other. Mum instilled in me that I could never count on anyone else. I married “money” and “happiness” together in my simple mind and I set out never to be poor. It was only after I became a mother myself that I realised that my life’s driver was wrong.
I was never really that close with my Mum and looking back I realised that she felt incredibly close to me. She always wanted to be around me which irritated me no end. I can't say that my Mum's parenting changed when her Mum died, I was quite young when Gran died, no more than 10 or 11. I can recall lots of very distinct memories where that event was going to have a HUGE impact on my life.
They shaped my relationship with my Mum and actually set the groundwork for how I wanted to treat my kids when I became a Mum.
I'd like to share a few stories with you here… and I'll share 3 more in my next post
The Dinner Date
I remember being 5 and being so pleased with myself. I was on my way to my first ever dinner at a friends house. Her Mum picked her up from school and as we walked back to their house we sung, played games and enjoyed a really fun conversation about clouds. We played with playdoh in her house and giggled most of the evening. Her Mum came into the room and explained that dinner was going to be late because her Dad was running late and it would be about another 20 minutes.
I couldn’t believe it… Her Mum and Dad ate together… at the same table… at the same time! I replied with "Can't your Daddy look after himself?" which was sooooo me. It was in that moment that I realised that my home life was different to theirs.
My parents were separated but living under the same roof still and I didn't even know it was a taboo. Although this was back in the 80's.
It might have been the 80's, pre smart phone, pre internet and well before the time that everyone had a personal computer but geez whizz did that tit bit of gossip get round. It spread like wild fire.
I never knew that people were talking about my family until the kids started treating me differently at school. They pushed me aside and very quickly found myself without any friends.
When things eventually got back to my parents, my Dad got angry and as a big, strong and violent man he did what came naturally to him. Mum fought back this time much harder than I ever saw previously. The next day she got me up really early and took me to the beach. I was knackered on the way home and was probably sleep walking when she brought me home.
Dad was gone. He left one bed and then two of everything else, chairs, folks, knifes….
"I hope that you are happy. What are we going to do for money now? You will never go to another dinner at a friends house again".
I was shocked and stunned by my Mums response. I felt that it was my fault that my Dad had left. It was my fault that we were now poor. As my schoolmates had already distanced themselves from me, I found it so much easier to withdraw into myself.
I soon found myself loving school. Not for the education. But that is when I would see other people and interact with kids my own age. I was the quiet one, who would see all, hear all and say nothing. Oh boy the gossip I heard…
This is when I became the listener.
The Malteser Masher
This story is hard for me to share. I remember it as a fond memory as it was one time where I can remember my parents both being on the same page (at the same time, together) AND backing my corner. It was one of only a handful of times where I felt like I belonged to a family unit in a tense situation.
A new family had moved into the street and they had a kid who was a few years younger than me. I was just old enough to baby sit - well… keep an eye on THEIR kid so I must have been 12ish.
We decided to go for a bike ride around the estate. It was a school holiday so there was lots of kids around with their parents so if anything happened we could easily call for help.
We had been cycling round for about 4 hours and we stopped to catch our breath at the local secondary school. I hear my name being shouted so I call back and this kids Mum runs up to me, slaps me round the face so hard that I fall off my bike and hit my head on the ground.
Dazed, I get on my bike and somehow get home. I call Mum at work who comes home immediately. She was there so fast she must have called a cab or caught a lift from someone, it was minutes. She called my Dad who bolted out of work and came running also. I think he picked up 3 speeding tickets in that one trip.
Dad waltzed into the house as he used to and came straight to my room. This was now an hour, maximum 90 minutes after the incident and not only did I have a 3XL egg shaped lump where my head hit the floor, I also had a red handprint going across my face.
I saw my Dad clench his fists and his face go red. Mum and I cuddled into each other knowing what was coming next.
There was a knock at the door where this kids Mum appeared with a box of Maltesers to say sorry for slapping me. She thought that I had stolen from her purse from her handbag, but she found it on the living room floor.
Neither one of my parents were having any of it.
In the interests of time… I'll bullet point the rest.
The other kids Dad HAD to come home. He was in the army and had to take emergency leave.
>Squady vs My Dad ensued.
>Bitch vs My Mum ensued.
>Plenty of verbal fists-cuffs although nothing physical happened on the day.
The scene was so loud and easily overheard that the police navigated in from their routine drive through the estate (when that was a thing, not so much these days).
All of the neighbours heard what happened.
They were all on our side.
I no longer felt like the outcast.
"Don't mess with my kid, you mess with me."
This is when I decided to always fight alongside my family.
Girls Playing Football… you mad?
My maternal Grandmother was a huge influence on my life. She was an amazing women. Born in 1919 and survived the second world war where she worked as a bus driver in Newcastle. She stood by and watch my Grandfather first enrol into the Navy before being discharged for not having sea legs. He then enrolled in the army and was dispatched to the front line. He was shot, blown up and more… and he still came home.
Gran came from a family where 'women did what they were told' and I was just like my Mum, I wanted to do what I wanted… which didn't always agree with Gran's approach.
I never met my Grandad, he died 4 years before I was born. In all the stories I hear about him, he was a lovely man who expected women to do what they were told and seldom lost his temper. But when he did…
Before Dad left, I remember looking at the Sunday dinner and feeling frustrated that I didn’t get to serve myself. I always got the smallest portions and I was such a hungry person. This one Sunday, there was some leftovers and amongst them there was one slice of meat, a yorkshire pudding and a couple of roast potatoes that I had my eye on…
Gran came over and started to dish out the leftovers… I was so keen for my seconds. But I wasn't allowed the meat. "Let your Dad have the meat". He ate half and gave the other to the dog.
This one weekend, Gran came over early and she arrived as I was running out the door. I was in jeans. She was mortified. I was going to join the lads in my street and play football. She was ashamed.
Girls don't play football.
I was frogmarched back into the house where I was immediately popped into a frilly dress and was told to sew. This was now the early 1990's. I was 8 or 9.
I really wanted to play football with the boys. Have fun. Interact with other people.
The shame I received for wanting to do these boyish things was so great that I backed down.
In my young, simple and linear mind, I thought… I want to do the things that boys do. I like doing the things that boys do. Only boys do those things … So that must mean that I'm a boy. But I have a girls body.
My body dysmorphia was born.