Thursday, 10 January 2013

editing history

Apologies for all the words ~ it's been that kind of day ...

I was looking at Smiler, Noah and Petal today, and wondering how you could go through all of childhood and more with someone, and then have that relationship end.  All those lazy afternoons playing in the garden, laughing in the kitchen baking fairy cakes for tea, smilingly choosing new bed covers while cringing inside at the price, solemn conversations after parents evenings, driving to swimming lessons singing along to the radio, awkward conversations about adolescence ...

* * * * *

What is it like, to spend sixteen years being a parent, and then for  that to be over?  Not in a tragic, terrible way, where you can be furious at the stupidity and carelessness of a drunk driver, or cry bitter tears at the cruelty of an agonising terminal illness, or wonder at the senselessness of a teenager experimenting with drugs.

How does it work ~ do you have to edit your history, metaphorically tippex out your daughter, your sister?  I know my brother refers to himself as an only child, does my mother consider herself a mum of one?  The casual conversations we all have on a daily basis ~ yes, I remember playing on the beach when I was little, I used to make huge sandcastles and my sister would jump on them and knock them over ... Yeah, I had the little bedroom ~ the other one was my sister's where suitcases were kept ... We only wanted two children one child ...

* * * * *

What about physical, tangible reminders?  His school photos perhaps, does he get them out to show his children?  Does he cut them in half so doesn't have to offer any explanation when they ask 'Daddy, who's that sitting next to you?'. Or more likely, am I that black sheep of the family that everyone knows not to mention?  Am I the crazy sister, the troubled daughter, the vindictive cow who ruined years of their lives?  I've heard that history is written by the winners ~ I'd imagine that in their lives, they win, and there are more than likely a few war stories about what a difficult child I was, what a horrendous teenager.  And in my version ~ well, in my  history, I was hurt by them, and now it's over.

* * * * * 

Does it hurt, to have sixteen years, and then no more?  I cannot envisage an end point to the connection I share with the people I love.  I cannot conceive of events which could result in a calm, measured decision to break that bond ~ but then, could they, the people I share so much genetic information with?

Do they think of me?  It bothers me that I care, and if questioned I would more than likely deny it, but I suppose it's only natural that the people I spent sixteen years living with should have some pull on my thoughts now and then.  For weeks at a time they don't enter my mind, then someone uses a particular phrase, or one of my sweet children ( ... my mostly sweet children ... ) ask an innocent question ~ whether I ever studied French perhaps, or how old was I when I first moved house, and it's there, right in front of me.

* * * * *

People say you can't choose your family, but I'm not sure that's accurate ~ I was born to a mother, a father, a brother ~ a fairly traditional family, in the technical meaning of the word.  But isn't family about more than genetics?  Isn't family more than a random result of a pull on a one armed bandit? [tweet this].. Isn't family about emotion and sharing  and communication, dreams and tears and joy?

Don't we all choose who we spend our time with, who features in our aspirations, our hopes and our plans for the future?  To me, family is partly about unselfish possession ~ Mr Manley ~ he's mine.  Smiler and Noah and Petal ~ they're mine too.  They're all in my heart, my life, my future, and my love.

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