A salutary tale for Monday

What a difference 24 hours makes. Apart from anything else it’s bitterly cold today, I’m sure its colder than my phone alleges.

When Alice and I got the bus to school this morning a lady started talking to us. She thought Alice looked tired. Probably. She said that when she was a child, she was always tired at school and then went on to tell us why. It made me reflect on Mother’s Day and blog writing and the horror of some people’s lives and how lucky I am and, well…

For 10 years, from the age of 4, this lady was sent to a Irish convent boarding school that was primarily meant for mentally and physically disabled children. She didn’t learn, she said and the children there came out dumber than when they went in. But they were punished.

“If I did something wrong” she said, “I would be hit, on the front or the back of my hand and if I didn’t learn my lesson, I’d be whacked on my inner thigh. When we were really bad we were locked in a cupboard, with no light and nothing in it, for 24 hours at a time. No toilet, no nothing.”

She finally left when she was 14 – her stepfather realised it was doing her no good and pulled her out.

She was also sectioned twice, when she was 7 and 11. She never knew why or by whom. But when her Mum died she found the evidence. Her Mum’s signature was on the papers, both times. To this day she doesn’t know why. She says she can’t forgive her, but “she’s still my Mum”. Now in her late 40s she is self-educating herself, learning to read and write. “If it wasn’t for that place I’d probably be a lawyer by now”. I don’t doubt it, she came across as a strong and bright woman who was learning to stop her past overcoming her. Amazing.

Of course I have no idea of the context of her story, or even the truth of it. But she had no reason to lie and whatever the details, it’s a salutary counterpoint to Mother’s Day and my schmaltzy post of yesterday. A child’s love is extraordinary and it’s a responsibility we must take seriously.

I don’t want this blog to be a saccharine-loaded piece of fluff. It’s easily done – just blog about the shiny bits. Of course there’s plenty to celebrate but there’s also plenty that’s a lot harder to manage, understand and cope with. And some people’s lives are simply horrendous.

This blog is part of my journey into a new happier chapter of life that I’m really enjoying so far, but my life is not a stream of sugary joy and nor is anyone else’s I know. I haven’t suffered like the woman on the bus, not at all, but I want this blog to reflect some of the truths about life, not just the good bits.

Will I be able to do it? Is the temptation to choose the sparkly bits too great? Is it a kind of therapy? Am I too shallow to blog about the tricky bits? Is the truth too risky in the blogosphere? We’ll see. Keep me in check if you please. X

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