Thursday, 25 October 2012

Spoken Word Blog Round Up Take Two

I can't believe it has been a whole year since the first spoken word blog round up. This project is being hosted for the second time by the lovely Angie at Still Life with Circles.

I actually enjoyed doing the first one so much that I wanted to try reading a few more posts out loud. But I see that I haven't managed even a single one over the past year so perhaps it is supposed to be only an annual thing for me.

Just to let you know that it has been over four years since my daughter, Georgina, died. She was one of non-identical twin girls and this post is a reflection about my experiences raising her surviving sister, Jessica, and her younger brother, Reuben. Just thought that I should say that up front in case living children are not who you may want to hear about at this point in time.

So here goes . . . .and yes, I am as tired as I look.
I swear my eyes are slowly disappearing into my head.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Weak, encore

"Your problem is . . ."

She pauses, looking at me reflectively, assessing.
Weighing up all of my thirty three years and finding them wanting.
Alas and alack, my daughter.

"Your problem is that you have never faced any real adversity. And, as a result, you never developed any emotional resilience. No bounce in you. You just crumple at the slightest thing."

This hurts. More than it should. The truth does have a tendency to do that.

I wonder why I am weak.
Why I am one of life's leaners.
Why I am one of life's 'walks-with-a-crutch'-ers.
Overindulged. Not loved enough. Loved too much.
Saw too much. Didn't see enough.
And I'm far too old to keep blaming my parents and their dear caring hearts.
The buck stops here.
With me.

Why, when things go wrong, do I stand with my arms reaching outwards?
Like a trusting, foolish child?
Eternally optimistic, expecting the very earth to have an interest in assisting me.
An enormous great cuckoo in the nest.

And, don't get me wrong, I do believe that being able to ask for help is a good thing.
Just not taken to this extreme.

I wish I could remember who I was before. Was I always so pathetic?
I want to plead my case. To say, "No, you have forgotten. You have forgotten that I wasn't always like this. That it was the adversity that punched everything out of me. THE Adversity. That one time that beat me up and stabbed me in the gut and fried my brain and took everything, including my first daughter. Leaving me flat and shrivelled with no reserves for anything else."

Broken down cars. Schools that insist your child attend them and then won't let her attend as she throws up every morning. Slow moving traffic. Office politics. Money worries. Marital problems.

Those little things that everyone else seems to cope with. Because they don't know any better?

Weak. Weak. Weak. Still like kindling.
But I don't want to start a fire.
Because if I burn away my mother, my husband. What is left?
So I leave those neatly tied bundles of tinder unlit.


Reuben fell off his ride on this weekend. He fell forward and bumped his forehead on the floor. A huge bruise ensued. I took him to nursery and he cried and screamed and didn't want to be put down. They waved an enormous 'pre existing injuries' form at me. And I panicked. Because I'm scared.

Deep within me, I'm scared that they will be taken from me. Because I'm weak and pathetic.

So I smiled and said, "oh perhaps I'll just take him home."

Because it's safer there. I can lock the doors.


I stood in the playground with Jessica.

"It's Jessica!" scream the boys, wailing with delight. "It's Jessica."

She chases them, she keep going. In 'attack mode.' Or so I'm told by the boys.

Cough. Cough. Cough.

I touch her on the arm. I say, "Jessica, do you want to stop?"
And she stops and I cuddle her. She coughs until she is sick.

I ask the teacher if I may please have some wipes from her bag to clean it up. She says, "We can't take her now you know?"

I know. I know.

"Why are we leaving mummy?"

"Because you were sick my darling. I'm sorry."


And I need to get some strength. From where, I don't know.

Because there must come a time. There must come an age.
For putting away childish things.
To stop cooing 'cuckoo.'

A time for being strong.

When I was little, my parents were like totem poles holding up the sky.
I was certain of them.

But my children have seen me weeping.
As I whisper, "I'm sorry." into their necks.

But that doesn't cut it.
I need more. I owe them.
But it is a fight. It doesn't come easily to me. Calm. Stability.
Something bovine.
Not very much like me.


Doesn't mean I won't try.

Because I will try.
I'll try harder.
To grow those additional stiffening bones around the spine.
More vertebrae.
Because some of us were born without a sufficiency.
Doesn't mean we can't grow them.

And I want it.
I want strength.
Rings around the trunk.
Thick bark.
A ready smile.
Play dates. Friends.

Not yet.

But I do have.
I have something.
I hope that this is what they remember.
That and the fact that I am fighting.
Not against their sister.
But with her.

And it's something that is easily confused for something else.
It's hard to come by.
But it's all I've got.

Any tips?

Friday, 12 October 2012

Reminiscence Bump

'The reminiscence bump is the tendency for older adults to have increased recollection for events that occurred during their adolescence and early adulthood. Individuals can generally recall a disproportionate number of autobiographical memories from this period.

The reminiscence bump occurs between the ages of 10 and 30 years old where memory storage increases during times of change in self and in life goals.'

Taken from the great and glorious, occasionally dubious (hopefully not in this instance) Wiki P.

I seemed to experience the downward slope of this bump in my early twenties. I can remember sitting in a university kitchen, during the cold, clear light of the early hours of an English morning, birds calling through the crisp grey, discussing earnestly (and, admittedly, drunkenly) that I didn't feel things as keenly these days. That my emotions were muted, that my memories of more recent times were blurry, that my heart no longer felt as though it would split my ribs apart when the music played. I bemoaned my progress over the reminiscence bump and wailed that everything from this point forward would be lost in a fog of ageing and meaninglessness. And yes, yes . . . I was (am) fairly insufferable.

My voice caught a little as I quoted Antoine de Saint-Exupery. In a replica of the wobbly voice I used to listen to on a stretched cassette tape of the 1980s.

'So I fumble along as best I can, now good, now bad, and I hope generally fair-to-middling.
In certain more important details I shall make mistakes, also. But that is something that will not be my fault. . . . . Perhaps I am a little like the grown-ups. I have had to grow old.'

Because I thought I was a grown up.
Bwah ha ha ha.
Oh dear.
Poor, drunken, stupid, young me.


I've been thinking a great deal about Merry's recent post here. The legacy.

I think that the door that links my life in the here and now of 2012 to my life in August to December 2008 is permanently ajar. It is never entirely shut. But it is never fully open either. I peer around. I take a quick look and then I run away. But I keep going back. To take another peep. Just in case something pops back in, another memory of her perhaps?

The recollections of my own, brief and brutal reminiscence bump are full of holes where some sort of peculiar shut down occurred, things that I probably don't actually want to remember have been replaced by an absolute blank. And those months have been revisited so very often that I know I have decorated them, that I undoubtedly hidden bits from myself, that I have embellished and embroidered and lied and deceived. Unintentionally. The delusions of the defeated.

I could tell you a few things for sure.

The pattern of the mural on the wall on the back corridor of an infrequently used exit from the NICU, the handwriting on the call button for Jessica's ward, the curl of the hook of the coat stand, the smell of the parents' shower room, the tone of the voices of the women who worked next door, the skin of the consultant doctor.

And so I am haunted by randomness, by these disconnected images that ping about in my brain, when nothing else occupies it. This is why I try so desperately to cram it full of . . . anything going. I'm on season four of nineteen of America's Next Top Model. Oh yes.

But when Tyra and the girls are gone.
They sneak back in.
These small certainties, the pattern on the incubator cover, the scent of the hospital canteen.
I know this much is true.
And the rest?
It's anybody's guess.


The birth of my daughters seemed to rip all my memories away and cast them adrift. The past and the future. And I find myself marooned on a small stretch of time. Where I can't seem to connect with my own past and everything since seems a little like a dream.

I look back to the young woman that I once was. The woman who wanted her ribs to split open with music. Little did she know it would take more than that. And that you can walk around with your ribs splayed and nobody will even notice. Melodramatic sigh.

And those memories. Those treasured memories of the reminiscence bump that the majority find so accessible and vivid. Mine? They don't feel as though they are anything to do with me. Bump schump.

I know that I decided this and that. Read this book. Loved that man. Thought I had this friend for the rest of my life. Believed I stood for this or for that. Learnt these facts. Indubitably I did. I have some pieces of paper that state that I must have known something, at some point. Someone who looks a lot like me, sounds a lot like me, DID do those things and reach those conclusions.

But that person who I had so carefully spent twenty nine years constructing looks like a ghost. I look at her and think, 'hmmm facile much? Think about things much? Idiot much?'

And now I am almost scared to attempt to make a start on another persona. Because it just seems like an utter waste of time when I'll be tearing her down, burning her to the ground in another thirty years or so. And then I may only have one more shot left. If I'm lucky. So I'm scared to even try.

Wary of being faced down by sixty year old me. Sneering 'Idiot much?'

But, like it or not, wanting to or not, a new person is emerging from the ruins of me aged twenty nine and one quarter.

Perhaps Jill A. overestimated me when we talked about returning to a second adolescence? Perhaps I overestimated myself?

I guess that I am now, effectively, four years old. Having being reborn at roughly the same time as my daughters. On either the 26th, or the 29th, of August. I'm never sure if we all arrived together or if I re-struggled into the world as Georgina left it.

No wonder Jessica and get along so well and disagree so violently at times. We both want to play on the iPad, we both want to be feed and comforted and warmed. We are both learning, or re-learning, the laws of social interaction. Don't bite. Don't shout. Don't say what you really think.

We both don't quite know what we are doing.  Not yet.

Sorry Jessica. You didn't get a twin but, hey, here's your mother. The secret toddler. Trying to coax herself into some kind of coherent adult format. Filling in for Georgina.

Who seems to have got it right first time.


And memories of afterwards seem strange too.

Perhaps it because I am older?
Perhaps it is because I am a mother?

It all seems to rush past and I'm still baffled. The children sprout and stretch, like a fast motion film of plant growth in a nature documentary. I seem to stagnate but I know that can't really be the case. It's just a terribly slow kind of growth, even in fast motion. Achingly slow.

The years slither past and I'm still by the doorway, peering back to that place that seems to have changed everything.

The book I've just finished reading had a recurring theme.
"You just don't get it do you Tony?"
In this instance, I'm with Tony.

Because I just don't get it. The book. Or anything else much.
Perhaps that is the point?
That there isn't anything too get.
Because life isn't like a novel.
It's messy and incomplete and inane.
Full of things like eating breakfast and long, long stretches of boredom.
And mysterious things like babies who die and accidental injuries and relationships that disappear.
Events whose echoes seem to hang in the ether long after the breakfasts and boredom have gone.
Those things that lurk behind doors that never quite seem to be entirely shut.

I open up the hard drive of my old computer. And there's this photograph. Of my mother, me and Jessica. This time that seems to have shaken up everything and everyone and every single fact that I so foolishly thought that I understood. Sent me spinning backwards.

Through the permanently ajar door.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


I'm not sure where this strange little thing comes from? Just a sequence of images that keep popping into my mind. Partly inspired by Angie's post about crutches.

Once there was a woman.

Once there was a woman who had a child. Once.

A child who slipped and twisted out of time.
She left no mark.
Needed no crutch.
Needed nothing.
Except for death.

A child so brief, it was as though she had never been.
Except to the woman. The woman who once was.

She clutched. But there was nothing, only an empty space.
So her hands clutched the air where the child had been.

A second rate crutch.
And yet she clutched.
Because heaven knows she needed one.
Couldn't manage without one.
The woman who once was.

She clutched so hard that her hands twisted.
Around the crutch that was only a substitute.

Her hands.
That longed to cradle the head, the skull, the brain.
That they had cradled.

But now they cradled nothing.
Because her gentleness had left her.

Her hands.
They had lost the trick of joint, of synovial fluid, of flexion, of release.
Even in the ease of sleep, they remained.
Watchful, clawed, waiting.
Just in case.
Because you never know.
When things that seemed lost may be returned to you.
If they ever are.

Years passed.

The woman raised her hands to the sky.
As if to examine them.
She shook them.
There was something defiant in the rattle of her claws.
But whether they were lifted in triumph or despair?