A Small Thought

I don’t have a favourite colour. I never have had one. I just tell people its blue, but when I picture blue in my mind it doesn’t please my guts.

Lately I have been saying it is metallic pink. Everything I own now is metallic pink. Even the shoes I am wearing. Deichmann, 19 quid.

I don’t particularly like metallic pink but it pleases my gut, so there must be some sort of spark there.

I think some children are embarrassed to talk about marriage and children. It’s a strange phenomenon. An eight year old boy I was teaching was trying to explain storytelling through the generations, and he said, ‘When I’m, well, when I have a child of some sort. Well, a small cousin of some sort, I will probably have a lot of stories to tell too.’

I chuckled at that. I was like that. I told my mum flat out that I would never get married. Ever. That it was a ridiculous notion and intolerable to me, at age eleven. Secretly I was crushing hard on my now-husband. He was fourteen and quite dashing. Did I tell anybody? Of course not. And I was quite cruel to him too. He must never be allowed to find out. I even prayed that when I was older, he would want to marry me. I actually got on my knees and prayed.

I said, ‘Oh dear God, please let me marry him when I am older.’ Every day for two months. I didn’t even say, ‘please let him be my boyfriend.’ I wanted something more solid than that, I suppose. Something in writing. 

Then I forgot, of course. Or it didn’t matter to me so much. My attentions were drawn elsewhere. Life. Exams. Stories to write and read. Exciting social events. Friends. Everything took over.

I even deviated a little and lead myself astray by mixing with some Bad Folk. Let us not tread those waters.

But at eleven, I prayed for him. So weird.

Seven years later, though, I married him. I guess prayers are answered. I married him after only four or five dates. That is weird. But I so wanted to. And I still want to. And I would do it all over again and get really excited to.

I have also never told anybody this. I fear I will appear a fool.

If I ever get to be old, I want to be old with my husband. I want to sit on a bench and stare as the world rumbles by. I believe it will be rumbling by then, not screeching as it is now. My hearing shan’t be as clear as it is now so that might contribute to the rumble.

Who knows.

All I know is that we are here on earth, and earth is fleeting. The people we meet and live with and accompany will leave us, will die, will be separated from us.  All I know is that we are still whole, with or without our loved ones, and that one can love wholly and completely without giving a piece of oneself away.

And that is what I am trying to do.

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On the Introduction of a Lady

Lady Pinky-Moe was born on a cloudy day at the bottom of my grandmother’s garden. She was born amid a glass of delicious, satisfying berry juice and the chirping of birds, the screeching of crows, and the deliriously haunting sound of the leaves swaying in a ferocious wind that was significant of the sad departure of the last dregs of summer.

It was cold, the day Lady Pinky-Moe was born. Cold, windy, grey.. simply divine. You may be thinking that I am slightly off my head by saying that; how could it be ‘simply divine?’ you wonder, ‘if it is utterly cloudy and grey and cold?’

Well, quite simply, dull days have a magic of their own. The magic of this day was the leaf-shaped glass that held the satisfying berry juice, clouding up as the biting wind chilled the drink to a perfect temperature, sweet on the tongue and cold down the throat. The magic of this day was the sound of the swish of the bright pink skirt as the lady stepped out from behind the white rose bush that leant against the old ebony fence right at the back of the garden. The flash of bright orange as her scarf was blown about her face, her smooth black hair waving in the wind as she straightened up, looking about her in a confident manner. The magic was in the way the line of trees behind my grandmother’s back fence were whipped about by the wind, whispering to each other, creaking and groaning and then rising in a chorus of psithurism. When I turned my face to the sky the fresh breeze was accompanied by little flecks of rain.

When she saw me in my little blue checkered dress, the glass of berry juice loosening in surprise in my hand, she darted forward sharply and grabbed the glass from my fingers.

‘Well, now. You don’t want to spill this delicious drink, do you?’

‘No -no.’ I said, completely awestruck. She was beautiful, and so elegant. My nine year old mind struggled to comprehend how she managed to be so commanding and kind at the same time. And she was talking to me. Never mind she stepped out of nowhere. To me she was real.

Her eyes were sharp, stark, large. Her hands were gloved, and she had a loud voice which she used to air her many opinions about all sorts of matters.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was Lady Pinky-Moe, named by the childish version of myself and the name had stuck against my whim, as names are wont to do.

The Hostile Child

In the holidays, children come out to play. Big children, small children. Lots of vibrant little minds. Red haired children, black haired children. Blue eyes, green eyes, grey eyes, brown eyes. Tall, short. Fat, thin.

Mean…. and kind.

Today I walked past some kids, and I said, ‘I hate kids.’

I did hate those kids. They were loud and obnoxious. And they sniggered rude things about me as I walked past. I smiled in a way that I know was patronising.

I love kids. Small kids. Even rude, small kids. I eventually won their respect when I was a teacher. I loved to teach them, even when they did not love to learn. There was a ten year old boy who all the teachers complained about. He was honestly a handful and a half. I found him hilarious. He had a quick wit, and if I wasn’t supposed to manage a class of thirty children, I would have probably laughed at his witty comebacks. However, I kept my face stony and told him to save it for the playground. He was always in trouble in my classes, in all classes, but I made sure it was fair, and I made sure he got his work done.

On my last day at school, I was walking by with a colleague and saw that naughty kid where stood beside his mother.

‘Hey, miss!’ he called, and I turned. He ran up to me and slipped a small wrapped easter egg into my hand, ‘This is because you’re leaving.’ He looked so shy and ran back to his mother without looking at me. I was so touched. I thought, sometimes teaching is worth it.

Then I moved to this crappy town. Where I smell weed everywhere. Where the glass windows of bus stop shelters are shattered. Where children swear at you as you pass. Where they hang around smoking and talking about things children shouldn’t think about until they are much older.

And as I walked, I thought, ‘I hate kids.’

I am a supply teacher here, though. I will have to deal with kids like these, and worse. It won’t be a little witty joke in class or a disrespectful stare anymore.

And I can’t think, ‘I hate kids,’ and just walk on by. I will have to deal with these kids. And you know, it isn’t always their faults.

Today a small girl was screaming into the wind, and I saw the ecstatic joy on her face because she was probably having a moment of freedom. Her shout was cut short suddenly, harshly, when her mother whacked her around her face and said, ‘Shut your mouth you stupid cow.’

Now I am not one to judge parenting, honestly. Maybe the mum was having a bad day. But the look of complete humiliation on that little girl’s face made me feel awful for her. Honestly, though, in this town, this is not the first nor the tenth time I have seen incidents like this. A mother shoving her face right into a toddler’s face and screaming at her to ‘bloody keep up or I’ll kick you one’. Kids who are brought up in a hostile environment tend to become hostile too. They become hostile adolescents and then hostile adults.

And teachers don’t really change much, but they can do their best to teach that hostility towards others is wrong. Who knows. Maybe a kid will realise as it gets older and change its ways? Who knows.

I am not looking forward to teaching the kids in this town, after what I’ve seen these past five months. On a daily basis. However, I am gong to try. I am going to enter with a positive attitude and good intentions. I am going to go in thinking, ‘I love kids.’

Kids need love, to give love. And I was given so much love as a kid. So it’s time to give it back out into the world.

Child’s Play

The small boys were in the field. Their naked backs glistening in the sunlight, panting. The sun was climbing in the sky, the haze of noon accentuated here and there by the buzz of insects and the mournful calls of tired birdsong. Still, they worked, rivulets pouring down their backs, scrabbling hungrily into the earth. The sun rose ever higher, and their bodies sunk deeper into the ground, grunts emanating from the caverns they created, feverishly digging, fingers turning into claws, breath shooting from dripping nostrils until, finally, one of them rose with a strangled shout.

‘I found the corpse!’

Blog Share

So, I noticed that some other bloggers do this, notably Diana from Myths of the Mirror. I thought it was a wonderful way to share some of my favourite posts by bloggers – to share the lovely work of other people.

SO, without further ado, this week’s share is a beautiful little piece written by Judy Dykstra-Brown – Scraps of Her. A lovely poem about the trail of glitter children leave in our lives.

Scraps of Her

 

She was the glitter
in our all-too-literal lives.
She left a trail of it,
our littlest fairy.
It was the dust of her,
like that perfume half
school glue and half strawberries…..

Continue reading: Scraps of Her.

Spreading Some Joy

I don’t have many words to use anymore. I am spent. So I leave you with a photograph of a snippet of happiness. Children and bubbles, long summer evenings. And a man spreading joy.

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Image Credit: Yours truly

Jasmine

I knew a girl once, at primary school, who told me one afternoon while we were having lunch that if I visited her one day, we could go to Japan for a day and visit her father.

She was insistent that you could do that, so easily.

‘Easy,’ she said. She was half Japanese, and her name was Jasmine.

‘I don’t think you can do that,’ I said, cautiously. ‘Don’t you think you would have to fly there on a plane? And it’s terribly far away.’

At that time, at the age of nine, Japan was far off and oriental to me. A land of mystery and romance. It was not mentioned in any of the books I devoured, which, at the time, were all 1940s-50s classics about Western children who dressed well and had adventures, and a charming Canadian girl with Titian red hair. Japan, to me, was unknown, therefore un-interesting.

‘Oh, but you can!’ she was nodding wildly, her mane of thick black glossy hair falling over her smooth caramel skin.

‘My father is from there. He always says I should go and see him for a day, and we can have so many adventures. And they put up red dragon flags everywhere and we can eat dumplings. And I can give you a red silk gown so you won’t feel out of place. Tell your mom, she will drop you off at my place and we will be back in no time.’

I half believed her, because she was so earnest. After all, why shouldn’t it be true? There was nothing to suggest its implausibility. And Jasmine was so adamant that she had done this several times. The idea appealed to me; I stared up at the copy of leaves above the school playground and dreamed I could go with her. How exciting. And her father sounded so child friendly and accommodating.

When I told my mother about it later, I heard my voice sound just as adamant as Jasmine’s; it was my dream just as much as hers now, and I would not let my mother dampen it for me by telling me it wasn’t real.

‘But you can go and visit her, of course. I shall certainly want to see her mother again.’

We never did go. I don’t know why. I heard on the grapevine, and by grapevine I mean the chatter of adults unaware of childish ears eavesdropping, that her parents were divorced and her father had deserted his children.

As an adult, that explained Jasmine’s sad eagerness to visit him in Japan for an afternoon.

But you know, I will never forget that magic in her black eyes, dancing and alive, truly believing in what she was saying. So strong I believed it too, and hoped so hard for her. We all need coping mechanisms.

 

Love Letters #19

She was laid up in bed when I went in to see her, ducking my head under the low beam arching her doorway.

She was dressed in the largest nightgown you ever saw – she had completely vanished beneath it. And her face under the fringe of thick, ropy curls was pale.

‘I’ve got a broken heart,’ she said softly, looking up at me with her large, dark blue eyes. So dark they could be black.

‘Well, now.’ I told her, standing a little back so I could get a more complete picture, ‘Is that so?’

‘Yes it is so.’ she folded her arms like she expected to be in this for the long run.

I put my notepad away, and folded my stethoscope. I then sat on the chair next to her bed.

‘Well, then. What’s this about?’

She looked at me for a long time, her eyes piercing me. Then she smoothed the covers before her with small fingers, and took a deep breath.

‘Nobody believes me at all’ she said, ‘everybody thinks I am exaggerating. But I am not. I really, really do have a broken heart.’

She clutched her chest, and I saw in her frightened little face that she genuinely believed it.

‘And why is your heart broken, my dear?’

The tears filled her eyes almost immediately. She picked at the embroidery on her bedclothes, and her mouth trembled.

‘I – I don’t..’

She stopped, and the tears leaked from beneath her drooped lids. She wiped them furiously away.

I sat solemn and still, waiting for her to finish.

‘They said,’ her shoulders heaved, ‘they said they took her to the hospital because she was feeling poorly, but then,’ a tragic sob escaped her, ‘they said – they said – they say-aii-dd..’

She couldn’t stop her tears. I could see her small fists bunching up the bedsheets, and her hair, straw coloured, obscured her wet face.

‘What did they say?’

‘They said she went on holidday-aay-ayyyy’ her voice rose to a wail, and her face was turned up to the ceiling, and the pain on her face made me feel, for the first time, a stab of pity for the poor little thing.

‘Ah,’ I sat a little straighter on my seat, ‘and why does this break your heart, my child?’

She looked incredulously at me, wiping her eyes, glaring.

‘They won’t listen to me, Mister Doctor. They say I am being silly, and that Lucy went on holiday because she was getting old now and needed to relax.’

‘Well perhaps that is exactly what she did do.’ I said, raising my eyebrows a little.

‘She didn’t, Mister Doctor. That is utter – utter poppycock.’ She was firm and resolute.

‘Oh?’

‘She — she died, is what she did, Mister. She died, and my heart is broken, and nobody thought nicely that they could tell me about it. And my Lucy is gone, and I didn’t – even – get to say goodby-yy-yye.’

I looked at the five year old child for a long, long time.

‘You are a very astute little person,’ I said, finally.

‘I think,’ I said, carefully, ‘I think you are right. You do have a broken heart. We must find a way to fix it as soon as possible.’

She pointed at my folded stethoscope, ‘Aren’t you going to use that?’

‘Not for this, I’m afraid. I think a broken heart needs quite a different fix.’ I stood up, ‘It needs first for you to get your little feet out of bed.’

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Children of North West Africa

Children with bare legs and flip flops race through fields of white beans.

Skin so brown it’s almost ebony, under the heat of the blazing sun, and hair bleached all shades of glinting gold.

Shy smiles and giggles behind motherly skirts.

Yesterday one such child sat on my lap as I braided her hair. It was thick, and rough to touch, and her strands were coloured all the way from stark black to auburn to bright yellow at the tips. I let her hair run through my fingers as I wound it together and marvelled at such beauty. Her face was small and heart shaped, and so beautifully dark brown. Her mouth a small rosebud, her eyes large and doe-like, framed with magnificent lashes. Under the short sleeves of her top she had a completely different skin tone. Olive meeting dark brown. I thought it was beautiful.

At first she wouldn’t smile at me. She was trying to smooth her hair like another little girl opposite her, with a tidy braid. Her small chubby hands couldn’t make sense of it so finally I beckoned her over to me and undid her hair tie. She let me, happily snuggling into me as I plaited her curls.

When I finished she giggled shyly at me, her whole face brightening up, and sidled back to her mother, all dimples and bright eyes, glancing over at the pristine girl opposite and touching her own tidy hair.

I think children are the same everywhere. Children, after all, are children. They are all cute and sweet and some are devils, of course. But here they have a special charm. Something cultural certainly impacts how people bring up their children. Here there solid sturdiness about them. They cry, yes, and a lot, but they are hardy. A tiny three year old falls over and picks himself right up, brushing dirt and blood off his knees. A five year old in slippers chases massive cockroaches down the street and stamps on them hard, a triumphant glint in her dark eyes as her tiny chubby legs kick the squashed insect so it flies to the other end of the road, and she carries on running.

A six year old boy with the face of a much older child. I don’t know what it is about him. He has those soft baby cheeks but his eyes are hard, his small mouth set firmly. He knows what he wants, and gets it. I watched as he stared at several other children his age before getting up and walking amongst them, like a lion among his pride. They scattered around him, these tiny tots, as though he was their leader. I see him clamber up trees with the agility of a monkey, his face streaked with dirt and tan. He watches all below him with eyes like an eagle. He doesn’t say much, but still manages to convey volumes. When he came indoors crying for his mother after tumbling off a log, I was surprised. Yes, he might be a strong little king among his baby peers but he was still a child. I watched as his mother took him in her arms, wiped his tears away, kissed his face and then pushed him outdoors again.

They are different here, else I wouldn’t have noticed.

Treasure

Down, down under

In the dark, snaking rut

where the rats roam free

And the filth runs amok

Deep deep down,

in dank, glistening tunnels,

eerie silence

through slimy funnels,

There lies a glinting rock,

Shining in the dark

Reflecting,

Gleaming,

Lost.

While its owner runs wild above.

‘Hank, have you seen it?’

‘Hank?’

‘HANK?!’

‘Yes, dear,’

Far, far away,

When the grimy, grey sludge,

Is belched onto shore;

A small, tan child

Reaches down,

And lifts his treasure from the mud.