In front of other people my Mother appeared to be extraordinarily loving and devoted, always behaving as though I was the absolute ‘apple of her eye’ - whenever anybody came into the room, even just Eddie or Simon, she would immediately come over to wherever I was and pay attention to me, and fuss over me, even though she may have been completely ignoring me the whole time right up to that moment. I never understood it…she was always quite different when no-one else was around, usually moody and sombre, but as I was to discover she was a woman obsessed with herself and the ‘image’ she portrayed to the World, and that obsession was behind everything she said and did. Since living together ‘out of wedlock’ was rather frowned upon in those days my Mother simply told everyone that she and Eddie were married, but in reality, he was still legally married to his first wife, which all his neighbours probably knew anyway since they too had both lived in the basement, and being staunch Catholics, they would definitely not have divorced! My Mother however, was a pretentious and stubborn woman - she chose to see things the way she chose to see them - truth or reality had nothing to do with it! To her mind having a ‘husband’ necessitated spinning an elaborate web of lies for ‘proprieties sake’! She had come from a very respectable and fairly wealthy family, and although she had long since alienated herself from all of them with what she liked to see as her ‘free-spirited’ and ‘Romantic’ life-style she still liked to don a cloak of ‘respectability’ when it suited her, and would often behave as though she came from practically ‘noble’ stock. The fact that someone of such ‘superior’ breeding would probably not have ended up living in a London slum, never seemed to cross her mind, she simply attributed any apparent ‘incongruities’ to her noble, ‘self-sacrificing’ nature and left it at that!
Being a lady of such good breeding, she naturally felt it necessary to create an entirely new and far more ‘respectable’ background for me too, so quite soon after my arrival she began to paint a different picture of my childhood for me to believe - a picture she insisted I accept as being the actual truth. I was simply ‘mistaken’ if I thought it had ever been any different! It was a much nicer picture, the complete opposite of anything I had actually experienced, it was as if she seriously thought she could just press some kind of ‘delete/rewind’ button and start again, as if the past had never happened! I think this is one of the most disturbing aspects of our childhood, the way she manipulated both our young minds, making us participants in and believers of, her own delusions and lies, but dictating how others can think or feel, and also deciding how they can interpret either what is happening to them or has happened to them, is nothing less than brain-washing, and blatant mind control, both of which are more commonly used by unethical Governments and a variety of rather unscrupulous Religious Cults! Unfortunately, I would become increasingly familiar with all these aspects of her rather bizarre behaviour - they formed an essential part of her favourite and very creative ‘abandonment of truth’ approach to life! To her mind Life was indeed ‘what you made it’, and there was nothing wrong with her imagination! According to her [and this is the story she chose to tell me, and all her neighbours and friends to explain my sudden appearance in their midst] “I had spent a few wonderful ‘months’ living in a beautiful Convent, and it had been a marvellous time for me, but she just loved me so much she couldn’t bear to be apart from me any longer, and simply had to bring me home!” To say I was perplexed by her version of the ‘truth’ would be an understatement, the beautiful place she described, full of warm, loving people who had taken such wonderful care of me, didn’t reflect the horrible experience I’d been through at all! I didn’t know what to think…remember, I was only four and a half years old!
Simon of course, being the eldest, was required to remember whatever new ‘life history’ she created and adjust his own accordingly, so his Childrens Home became a Boarding School and mine became an unusually accommodating Convent! He had been coerced into supporting her in every single lie and illusion she had come up with for as long as he could remember. She had always given him various ‘worthy’ reasons to justify her lies, but there had already been so many of them by the time he was eight years old his life had become a mine-field of deceit! By the age of eleven he could barely keep track of them all anymore, and trying to remember who believed what and WHY was becoming virtually impossible. He could scarcely remember what was true himself anymore, there had been different ‘Daddies’ over the years, and even different siblings…she never stopped! I think she must have persuaded him they could both safely lie to me about my time in the Childrens Home because being so young I wouldn’t remember anything about it, but unfortunately for both of them I did! Once, and I believe it was the only time Simon ever referred to one of his own experiences in a Home, I subsequently shared one of my memories with him…he stared at me with a horrified expression on his face and said “You couldn’t possibly remember that, you were far too young!” Then of course, he realized his response in itself was an acknowledgement that what I had recounted to him had happened, so he promptly added “No, that didn’t happen, you must have dreamt it!” He refused to accept, as did my Mother, that I actually did know and did remember everything that had happened to me. Whenever I mentioned anything about those days they would both try to talk me out of believing any of it had actually happened, insisting it just wasn’t true, or I must have ‘imagined’ it. They both insisted I had spent a few months living in a Convent and having a wonderful time when I had in fact spent three miserable years in a Childrens Home! That experience was bad enough in itself, but to have your family tell you the whole thing is a figment of your imagination seriously messes with your mind! What kind of person plays with the mind, and therefore the sanity of a child, for the sake of ‘appearances’ and to put themselves in the best possible light, and forces her other child to support her in all her lies?
Being so young and impressionable I eventually began to accept her story myself. I gave up trying to balance what she said with what I remembered, and gradually bought into her lies, even knowing they didn’t in any way reflect my reality. I was anxious to please her, I knew there were Nuns there and began to accept that I must have been in a Convent just as ‘Mummy’ said. It’s true, there were Nuns there, but they were running a Childrens Home! [I confirmed that fact many years later as an adult, thanks to the Internet!] At that age however, I was far too young to know about lies, ‘mind games’, or ‘illusions’, I just knew I finally had a home and a ‘Mummy’ to please - one who became extremely impatient and angry if I didn’t believe what she told me to believe! I had no idea how absurd and abnormal many of her demands were. Children automatically believe their parents behaviour is ‘normal’ and that anything they tell them is true. A few months later I started School and my Mother went back to work. I absolutely doted on her by then because I had started to believe what she wanted me to believe, seeing things her way, believing she was wonderful and perfect. As soon as I learned to write I started leaving her little notes, in drawers and cupboards, just with the words ‘I Love You’ on them. I was with her in the kitchen when she came across one of them one day and I stood there smiling, expecting her to be pleased, but to my amazement she became extremely bad-tempered and annoyed about it, and curtly rebuked me for my ‘foolish and nonsensical behaviour’! Naturally, I found her reaction to what I had meant as a lovely surprise for her, very hurtful, and from that and other similar incidents I quickly learned that it was ‘safer’, and apparently more ‘pleasing’, not to act on my own initiative but rather to wait and be told what she preferred me to do, how she preferred me to act. I became reactive rather than proactive, because whatever stemmed from myself, my own thoughts and actions almost invariably turned out to be wrong. Slowly but surely, I was learning who I had to be if I wanted her to love me - in todays computerized World one might describe it as becoming little more than her own, immensely programmable little robot - activated when required and left dormant when not!
The next instalment of this true life story will be posted on 1st February 2020.
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