Today friends posted lovely words and images to acknowledge and celebrate their daughter’s 5th birthday. Where my heart should have been singing it instead whimpered and cried with the memory of what being 5 means to me.
Five was when it all went horribly wrong. It was already bad enough but little did I know or could ever comprehend was just how bad it would get, year on year until now, aged 48 when the pain is indescribable.
At 5, I was a child far older than my years.
Far older than my years? What on earth does that actually mean? Well, it meant that when I looked at you, you knew immediately that the eyes you were staring into were conveying a pain that you barely knew existed and that was before it got any worse.
My Mother, my beautiful crazy Mother had been impregnated by a smooth, handsome bad boy who really didn’t give a damn about her or anyone. She was only 22 and he was her first love. I don’t really know any of the details, which is probably just as well but can only imagine that having fallen hook, line and sinker for this man, she wasn’t thinking about the long term consequences of unprotected sex.
So, eight months later – I was born a month prematurely – Mum was handled a screaming bundle of responsibility and was left to get on with it. There was no sign of my father. He had handed her a £20 note and told her to get me aborted.
During a Mother-daughter chat when I was fifteen, my Mother relayed these heretofore unknown snippets about my auspicious beginnings and then said that she would have had me aborted but couldn’t afford to.
Fast forward 6 weeks after my early arrival into this world and you would have then seen that screaming bundle being handed on once again to a foster mother. My foster mother. She was a widow with two children of her own and another fostered child.
Within six months my foster mother announced that she had grown too attached to me and suggested that my Mother find someone else to take me.
This new mother; my third in my first 6 months on the planet, was less motherly. She kept me locked in a dark room, sat naked on a potty in a filthy dirty vest daily. Maybe that explains my severe claustrophobia?
Never mind, mother no. 2 – my first foster mother came to visit and approximately three months later I was returned to her as she couldn’t bear what she had seen. That being my fourth home in my first nine months of existence.
Now fast forward once again to me being 5 years of age. Generally, I was as happy as a little girl who spent weekends with her biological mother and weekdays with her rented one and was totally aware of the difference.
My therapist has explained that my deep seated issues came about due to the lack of attachment. Babies usually develop attachment automatically through being parented. Through feeling safe and developing trust. My parenting was disjointed and unsatisfactory. I had been abandoned a number of times and so I felt unwanted and out of place. I clearly didn’t belong and that’s a hard feeling to come to terms with when you have only been on the planet for 60 months or thereabouts.
As usual, my Mother came to collect me that Saturday morning and we were all excitedly awaiting her knock on the door. As my foster brother recently said, “Her visits were like the arrival of Hollywood glamour into our home.”
My Mother was/ is beautiful. Astonishingly so and made more apparent by the fact that she is totally and utterly unaware of that fact.
I was so excited to see her but also knew that the countdown to being abandoned once again had already started. Her arrival marked the beginning of the weekend – almost two days of being with the person I most loved in the world – and then being handed back. Of walking back into a home where the seal had grown over my absence so that it was difficult to find my place once again when I walked back in the following afternoon.
On this particular Saturday Mum was skittish and excited. Rather than traveling on a bus to Manor House and then changing to another that would bring us all the way to Warren Street, we got into a mini cab. It smelled of smoke and I soon felt overwhelmed with nausea.
The journey seemed to go on for hours and hours, swooping around corners and jerking in and out of traffic until we screeched to a violent stop and alighted.
We were at Heathrow Airport.
Obviously, the only thing I knew about airports was that aeroplanes flew from and to them and so for one brief moment was excited at the thought that perhaps my Mother was taking me far away to be with her.
No such luck.
Instead, my Mother breathlessly announced that there was someone she wanted me to meet. As she was so excited, I too became excited wondering whether this was her way of telling me that I was about to meet my father.
Instead, still feeling thoroughly sick, I was introduced to an ugly and unsettling man who she said was her boyfriend.
I was astounded. This man was like a Beast to her Beauty. There was something very wrong with him and yet she was looking at him with doe eyes and behaving like an overexcitable child.
What on earth was going on?
We got into another mini cab and headed back into Central London, to an ugly prison-like council estate near King’s Cross.
The sickness I was feeling was staggering. By this point I wasn’t sure whether it was down to the motion of the car or the discomfort I was instinctively feeling at being in close proximity to this man.
Very quickly, this vile creature asserted his position and made sure that I knew that my Mother was his and no longer mine.
Mum called me into the kitchen. There was a giant spider in the sink that she told me to come in and have a look at. As I entered the kitchen, he grabbed her right in front of me and started kissing her. I had never seen two adults kiss in real life and certainly not when one of them was my Mother and the other made sure not to break eye contact with me as he slobbered all over her. It was repugnant.
Somehow during the following hours I managed to keep out of his way. His hands did try to reach for me many times but I was nimble and afraid – actually, I was repulsed by him- and so thankfully scooted hither and thither out of his reach. I guess he knew I would be trapped within reach sooner than later.
Sooner was later. Bed time.
I was taken upstairs and put into my bedclothes and left to sleep in a big strange bed. I fell asleep fast and deep, as young children often do. It was quite possibly the last deep sleep I have ever had.
The next thing I knew was that I was woken up by a hand that was between my legs. His hand.
That’s what being 5 years old means to me.