The memories that bubble to the surface are laced with sadness. The happy ones seem to stay in the deep.
I think of Golders Green and I think of all those days in nursery or reception where I would be bored because I could read and the teacher was doing some sort of flashcards. I think of the time I cried because I didn’t want to go home with whichever child it was because I didn’t like her. I think of the occasion in year 4 when my teacher hadn’t believed that I had read my book so quickly and made me copy it out. I think of home and I think about playing quietly in the corner, out the way, of putting my toys back in the toy box although I cannot remember a single toy that went in there. I think of my sisters pulling each other’s hair out. I remember being afraid to go upstairs on my own and preparing to run upstairs and get what I needed as quickly as I could. I remember picking my first real book off the shelf to read. I remember standing at the door to 1sis room and watching my mother throw clean clothes into a room that was knee deep in clothes and junk, my sister’s security blanket. The red bag I loved that didn’t travel abroad with us but vanished somewhere.
These are the memories that return, not going out to museums and places with my mother, not going to work with my father, not the fun times at school, my best friend, the first time I went to a boy’s house after school to play or the good times we had on holiday.
I think of my next 2 schools and cannot remember any positive times. On the occasions I was invited to birthday parties I never felt sure or safe that I wasn’t there to be made fun of. I never had any certainty that I was invited because I was wanted. I’m not saying there were no good times, just that they have evaporated. As for life at home I remember crying in my bed and keeping out of the way. Family barbecues were all about getting the feast marinaded and ready so my father could do the important bit of cooking it. Lots of running about and dancing attendance on him. Waking up after having had my one and only bike accident in the back of the car on the way to hospital with my mother saying in that exasperated tone I knew so well “she’s being sick in the car again”. I knew who was cleaning it up.
I don’t want to go on.
I’m wondering whether I’m being mean by deliberately choosing those memories but they evoke the emotions that I feel most about childhood: being nervous or scared, feeling isolated, afraid, that I had to do it on my own, that I had to be strong and survive. I remember that I wasn’t listened to, that my contributions didn’t matter, feeling that it wouldn’t make any difference if I was there or not. Am I exaggerating the reality? Probably, but it’s the perception that lasted.
I feel that I missed out on a “proper” childhood, of feeling carefree, going on silly holidays and doing silly things together as a family. Of spending time together in harmony. Of remembering times when there wasn’t someone, somewhere, being cross or complaining, however quietly.
Do I think that everyone else had an idyllic childhood filled with love and laughter? Not at all, but for me my whole childhood, and indeed much of my adulthood, is so tainted with unhappiness that I struggle to recall the good bits. When my peers are telling childhood tales I can never think of a positive one to match. So even the good memories are denied to me.
I wish I’d had a happier life. I wish my childhood had been full of fun and frolics. I miss what I never had and I do feel a sense of loss. Life’s not fair.
I also feel that I’m silly for writing this, that I’m just having a moan without being constructive. After all, my childhood is what it is, it’s made me who I am, I can’t change it so why am I bothering to complain about it. And it wasn’t that bad really.
It made me unhappy then and it makes me unhappy now. that’s why. And why do I feel the need to justify this? Because I’m not supposed to complain, I’m supposed to buck up and soldier on and make the best of it.
Well I’m learning to complain.