Hobby Horse

il_340x270.365348067_jd8b

 

 

Hobby Horse

Her baby face fills with
mischief;
dark blue eyes sparkling,
newly grown teeth
poking through her smile;
delicate, blonde tendrils
dancing around her ears
as she rides her horse
that was once upon a time
just a broom.

Salt water stings my
cracked lips;
memory so raw
it bites into my flesh
and holds me captive.

I can smell the coconut
in her hair
and hear her
little-girl-giggles
as she jumps imaginary fences …

Why can’t I touch her?

Life: the saga that
lasted too long;
trapping her in sorrow,
leaving scar tissue
so delicate it
burns
in the sunlight.

These, her final thoughts,
are all that remain
of my baby—
these words and the
photograph atop the mantel
of my daughter
riding her horse.

A Childhood Memory

The mental health writing group I’m part of gave the prompt to write about a childhood memory. I tried to keep it happy. It was hard.

 

childhood-memories1

 

Should be simple, right? But, as of right now, I have no idea what I’m going to write about. I’m hoping something will come to me as I type. You see, this prompt (or, a similar one, at least) came up a couple of months ago in something else, and I discovered I don’t have memories from childhood. Except for the nightmares I have pretty much every night and the flashbacks every day. But I’m not going to write about any of those. I want to write about something normal.

And so, I struggle. It’s the strangest thing. I try to think about my childhood, and it’s like the part of my brain which holds the files for that part of my life is locked. Or, maybe it’s been thrown away. I’m not sure.

Okay. I’ve made myself a coffee and had a hard think about this, and I have something. Something that, actually, makes me really happy when I think about it.

I know I’ve mentioned a few times how important music and dance was to my Dad’s family. They were all singers and dancers, and I inherited the love for both. Today, music is the thing that links me back to Dad the most strongly. It’s the thing that can break me, but it’s also the thing that makes me feel loved.

So, this isn’t one specific memory of one specific event. Every Saturday night, we used to go visit my Auntie Beryl; Mum’s favourite sister. The car journey was about twenty-five minutes, and those whole twenty-five minutes were always packed with song and laughter and happiness. Dad usually let me choose the cassette tape (yes, I’m that old!) to play. Now, this is where I hold my hands up and say, “My taste in music is not cool. My taste in music is eclectic.” I guess, at the age when I used to go to Auntie Beryl’s with Mum and Dad (once I was thirteen, I opted to stay home alone and invite friends over) a lot of my musical taste was based on Dad’s tastes. I have to admit, I still like that music. I’m talking music from the 60’s, 70’s, country music. There were two cassettes I chose most often: one was a Beatles compilation and the other was a 60s compilation. On the Beatles album, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ was mine and Dad’s favourite. We always (and I mean every time we listened) discussed how sad the song is. It felt like it was really important. It connected Dad and me with a fine lasso. The song from the 60’s album that caught me was ‘Those Were The Days’ by Mary Hopkin. Again, we discussed the meaning every week. Dad would talk about how I should’t waste my youth because it would be gone far too quickly, and you can never get it back. He always had this wistfulness in his voice. It’s weird how I understood that; even when I was only, like, six or seven. I already felt like I’d wasted too much time feeling unhappy, and I was terrified that life would only get worse from there. I feel so sad when I hear that song today because my youth has gone. I did waste it.

Ahh, nuts! I meant to keep it happy. Despite what I’ve written above, we did sing along to all the cool songs. Like ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia.’ That was one of our favourites. I still love it today. Those car journeys were special, bonding time. What I wouldn’t give to be in the car, singing along to Johnny Cash and Dusty Springfield.

Right, now I’ve started to write about a memory, I’m going to continue. Once we got to Auntie Beryl’s, I always had a great time. Mostly, because I was away from home, and away from my grandfather and my bedroom. My two cousins, who are both older than me, used to play with me. They had a huge garden with lots of places to hide and build dens. I loved going there. But the crowning glory for me was the dart board they had in their hallway. I loved playing darts every week. I don’t know why because it’s not exactly an exciting game, but I always looked forward to it. And then, there was the ice cream. Every week, Auntie Beryl gave us a Pzazz ice cream. I don’t think they sell them any more, but they were delicious.

On the way home, Dad would start by singing his own, local songs that he and his family used to sing in pubs and clubs. They were, mostly, really depressing, and I remember feeling sad when he sang them. But they were beautiful, too, and his voice was rich and lovely. He sang some funny, slightly rude, songs too, and I remember Mum tapping his arm more than once and telling him to stop.

It may not sound like much, but these moments are among the happiest of my life. Yeah. So, there is my memory.

Sisters

Yesterday, my family held a surprise party for my Mum’s sister, Josy. It is her 70th birthday, so we all decided a party was in order. Mum was one of ten children—seven girls and three boys—and I’ve heard so many stories about their childhood. Although their parents had very little money, in many ways I would have loved to be one of them. They were always (and still are) very close, and their childhood sounds like it was idyllic. Josy is the second-youngest, but my dear Auntie Gwenda (who was the youngest) died in 2008, so Josy is the youngest living. She’s had a hard life, all in all, but she’s the most generous and giving person I’ve ever met. She genuinely would give you her very last pound if you asked her for it. She’s just a lovely lady.

The story I want to share today is based only very loosely on reality. It’s the kernel of an event, taken and changed into a short story. I’ve changed the names of all the sisters, but I can tell you that, in this story, Henrietta is Josy. I hope you enjoy it. (In the photo, Josy is second from the left. Mum is the one in the wheelchair at the front.

 

Sisters

IMG_0274

“Henrietta Joyce, outside. Now!” Edie grabbed her sister’s wrist and yanked her from the chair. The rest of the siblings trotted behind.

“What have I done now?” Henrietta asked, huffing as she struggled to keep up.

Ten children tumbled outside, and were met with a thick blanket of humidity. This whole summer had been hot and sticky. Hannah and Cherry lay a blanket on the grass, whilst Gillian produced the boxing gloves; the Carmichael children’s most revered playthings.

“Seriously? The gloves? What am I supposed to have done?” Henrietta looked from sister to sister, none of them meeting her eyes.

“You took my floral jacket without asking and left it at the dance hall. Now, I challenge you to a fight.”

Henrietta shifted feet. “Come on, Edie. You never wear it now you’re going steady with Charlie. You only have eyes for the leather jacket he bought you. I think it’s because you love hi—”

“Shut up, Henrietta! I do not love him. What do you know about love, anyway? You’re nothing but a silly, little girl.”

Henrietta sighed. “Hannah, hand me the gloves.”

“Ha! I knew I’d get you.” Edie beamed as she stretched in preparation. “Best of three. Loser carries the other’s school books every day for a month. They do all their chores, and that includes Little Gran’s shopping.”

“I hope you’ve got a free calendar, Edie.” Henrietta turned to her sisters and whispered those words that were a red rag to a bull: “She’s too chicken to do this.”

Edie flew at Henrietta, but the younger sister was more nimble. She ducked and dodged Edie’s gloves, finally delivering a sucker punch that knocked her sister to the floor. Pauline counted to five, and the first round was over.

Henrietta bounced from side to side; throwing fake punches. “Round Two,” said Pauline, throwing her arms dramatically in the air.

As the two girls fought over the floral jacket they all knew Edie didn’t even want, the rest of the sisters knew better than to pick sides. Seven neatly-ribboned heads watched the punches fall.

There was never any question who the winner would be. Bespectacled Edie was at a disadvantage the second her glasses fell to the floor. Cherry leaned over to Hannah and whispered in her ear, “Edie’s crazy, I swear. She was never going to beat Hetty, was she?”

“I know,” Hannah replied. “But that doesn’t matter. Edie had to fight as a point of honour. You know how it works, Cherry.”

Shaking her head, she sat back in time to see her older sibling crumple to the floor. Caroline (always the saviour!) rushed a glass of water to her side.

Peering through narrowed eyes, Edie glared at her sister. “I hate you, Hetty. Why are you so good at this?”

“I’m not good. You’re rubbish.” Henrietta laughed and skipped back inside.

“I hate her,” said Edie to the rest of her sisters as she felt in the grass for her broken spectacles.

happy families

I was given this picture prompt back in December and let my brain wander to dark pastures.

Evil Snowman

 

happy families

childhood’s fingers claw at
my brain
taking hold of that part of me which
survived
dragging my thoughts into winter

the screams
brittle as ice
that battled inside of me
force their way
into the air
they slash and scratch
at my face and arms

a loop of festive tunes
plays like a dirge
snowmen snarl and hiss
child catchers in action

breaking this
little girl
taking this
little girl
killing this
little girl

winter
for all your false beauty
i know the depth of your
evil
i’ve witnessed it
tasted its bitterness
recoiled at the
rotting stench of
happy families
and i need you no more

the shade in which i live
is bearable
and there are moments
i feel the sun
warming my shoulders
touching my skin with
fresh beginnings
and in those moments my
barren dreamscapes
become fruitful and
full of life

Impromptu Contest

My prompt for today was to write a piece of flash fiction containing as many names of US sitcoms from the 80s and 90s as possible. Quite a task! Very enjoyable. So, I’m going to share with you my writing. It occurred to me I could make a little contest out of this.

The contest is to read it and reply to this post with how many titles you think I’ve included.

You have until midday GMT tomorrow (so, 24 hours from now), and the person who guesses right (or nearest to right) gets to feature a poem or piece of their writing on my blog. How does that sound?

If lots of people guess correctly, I’ll feature all of you. It will be wonderful to be able to share some of the talented people I’ve met through blogging.

So. Here is my story:

The Memory Chest

treasure-pirate-chest

 

Emptying my mother’s house is harder than I anticipated. This intricate little box incites butterflies to float and dance in my stomach. The box, which is shaped like a pirate’s chest, is a deep plum purple and decorated with tiny green rhinestones and cut-out silver spoons. Mum was obsessed with spoons. I have already taken five complete sets to charity shops. I kept her favourite for myself. On top of the chest, Mum has written “Small Wonder”, her nickname given to me following my miraculous, if somewhat arduous, fifteen hour birth. It is a perfect title for the snippets of life I find inside. I lift the lid to a plethora of old photographs, newspaper cuttings, and letters.

The photographs are bound together with a length of purple lace so dark it reminds me of aubergines. I smile without trying when I see the first picture. It is taken at our old house, 227, Benson Road. Three girls, as yet untainted by the traumas of adulthood, smile awkwardly at the camera. On the reverse, Mum has written “Roseanne, Kate & Allie”, 1989. My smile falters when I look at the background scene. I see the looming figure of Mr Belvedere, our creepy next door neighbour. I could never understand how he made a living out of driving a taxi. He smelt of mildew and feet and was always watching us from his garden. One time, I ran straight into him when I was late for the school bus. I got to see his (not so) lazy eye study me carefully. It was too close for comfort. I was happy when we moved to our new house on Alf Tyler Street. Our new neighbours, The Jeffersons, were much less intimidating and, as far as I know, they never once smelled of feet.

I dig deeper into the chest and find my mother has lovingly documented every stage of my growing pains; all my happy days. There is a newspaper cutting, which evokes the fondest feelings inside of me. The picture is of my two friends and me. This time, we are smiling with all the confidence our new-found adulthood and sexuality has brought. The heading reads, “Three’s Company For This Homegrown All Girl Group” and underneath, the article continues, “The Golden Girls of Tucson land their first top ten hit.” Not just our first, but our only hit. I read the whole article, which gushes huge helpings of praise onto Saved By The Bell, a decidedly average song which, somehow, made it to Number 6 on the Billboard Chart. Mum almost burst from her pride in me. It was a magical time, a different world to the one I inhabit now.

Today, I am married … with children. Three children, they are my world and I am a full time mother to them. My life is still full of cheers. My full house of loved ones is more rewarding than all the bright lights and fame in the world.

Even so, I think I’ll keep this treasure trove of memories. When they are old enough, I will show it to my children. Maybe I’ll create my own box and fill it with my new beautiful family ties.

A Childhood Lost

 

stopdomestic violence

a childhood lost

 

the t u m b l e

d

o

w

n

stone wall

draws me nearer

it’s years since i’ve

dared to stand before

this house

d a n c i n g  leaves perform

a show of  s

w

i

r

l

i

n

g

s h a d o w s

hypnotic silhouettes

teasing me in

one

step

toward

the uncared-for, splintery door

as though reflecting my thoughts

a vast

looming storm cloud

st ea ls

the sunlight from the a i r

leaving only a vestige of a time long

g o n e

i step into the past and

wonder if i should be here

light and darkness mingle

dotting the interior

with sepia sadness

i loved this home

i hated this home

stairs creak under my weight

still i take them

one by o n e

light headed,

trepidatious,

i know i must do this

to regain

control

so i ascend

to the height of my

r

a

e

f

and i’m greeted by

hideous

peek-a-boo shadows

a childhood lost

i glance inside the

dusky remnants of

The Room,

and that is

enough

i turn

i leave

outside

the suffocation ends

my lungs expand

and light once more suppresses

darkness