I've been feeling well lately, contented. I'm working on something I'm enjoying and feeling hopeful for it.
I know these November days are short, can be grey and depressing. Cold days and nights, or worse - that constant drizzly rain, can confine one indoors. But as I sit by my fire, house quiet for once, knowing where all my loved ones are - I cannot help but feel content. I'm trying not to brood on a past I cannot change nor worry about a future I have no control over. Then I started to think.............
I have long wondered why Spring is my worst time of the year. From late March I often feel a huge sadness building in me. Why, when the natural world is gearing up to its brief magnificent season do I feel at my lowest? All of the worst bouts of long lasting depression I suffered occurred between late April and July.
But I love gardening, love sitting in the sun like a big fat lazy cat. So why, when I should be anticipating great pleasure, do I often feel incredibly tense, anxious and low?
I was born in May 1961, first surviving child to my parents. Their first child, my stillborn brother, was delivered at eight months gestation in April 1960, a huge shock for the young couple who had eagerly awaited his birth. Mam had been taking the anti-morning sickness medication that was later shown to have caused Thalidomide. The baby was ten days dead before he was delivered, sadly he was also malformed. My mother never saw her baby's body. Dad did, but he never talked about it.
So when I came along thirteen months later their anxiety levels must have been very high. They poured every bit of love they had into me, and I blossomed. Mam quickly became pregnant again and my first beloved sister, Judy, was born in April 1962.
At that time women were ‘confined’ in hospital for up to five days after the birth of a child. I was eleven months old, my father had to work so I was sent over to my beautiful Aunt Norah, Mam’s sister, to be cared for. There is a picture of me standing in a playpen at the gate of Norah’s house. Apparently it was the only thing that quietened me. I would stay there for hours looking up the road, waiting for my world to come back to me.
AND SHE CAME!!!!!!!
When I read Owl Babies by Martin Waddell to children I tell them ‘Mammys ALWAYS come back’. Of course, in reality, sometimes they can’t. Serious illness or death can pull a mother from a child. Mam didn’t die until I was twenty nine, but the wrench was as bad as if I were five. And she died on March 20th. Which would explain my feelings of grief around that time since then. But what about before 1991? I reckon that when I sense the days warming and lengthening, and see things growing, it reminds me of my anxious vigil at the gate in April 1962. And I must have been miffed that someone smaller and cuter than me usurped my position as ‘baby’ in the house.
Judy once said she didn’t always feel loved at home. Perhaps Mam and Dad overcompensated with me – afraid I’d be jealous of the new arrival. Apparently I did once balance a large 1d coin on her lips and stood, waiting to see what would happen when she opened her mouth! I don’t remember being jealous of her. Envious yet – she was (is) incredibly beautiful, with a stillness and serenity about her I longed to emulate. I wrote this for her some Christmases ago. It’s not great poetry. But it’s heartfelt.
You were the most beautiful creature -
huge trusting eyes
the bolster on the double bed
Its creaky iron frame
bathed in the light of
the glowing Sacred Heart
candy striped brushed cotton sheets,
a maroon eiderdown
topped by a Gardá great coat;
its buttons left an imprint on your face
insignia of peace on chubby cheek.
You whispered -
‘Let’s play the drawing-on-the back game,
I loosened your pyjama top
and sketched a scene,
plump childish fingers intent on detail
hoping you wouldn’t guess it right
and I could crow
‘Now me’, I whispered.
But you were sleeping.
I spooned in behind you
And lying still inhaled
Pears soap and Cusson’s talc.
Now, if I close my eyes and deeply breathe
I can almost feel that moment
That safety in our kingdom -
our hot water bottle warmed
Evelyn Walsh, Christmas 09
So our Juders, it’s all your fault I am a moanin’ Minnie. But I am very glad you are my sister – let’s blame the parents!!