Mum and I at the beach.

My foot’s stuck.  My fists clutch the cream cot’s flat, wooden bars.  I’ve done this before.  At least twice.  Maybe more.

The room is dim.  The blinds are down.  There’s grey light in the rectangle of the open door.  I can’t get that foot out!  I pull myself up on the right foot, my body off-balance.  I cling to the bars, find my balance…  then the left foot gets stuck!  Every time!

My right leg is shaking.  I try again.  Not quite.  The sheet and blanket are holding my foot.

To the right, there’s a bedside table.  Then the double bed.  This is Nan Dennis’ house.  We live in this room.  There’s a big mirror on the wardrobe door.  I lean to try to see myself.  I lean too far and nearly fall.  My left foot unfolds.  My body wobbles.  I hang on tight!  I crow with surprise.  How did I do that?  I’m standing up!  On both legs!

I look up with a joyful smile and see the silhouette in front of the grey light.  I know who that is!  That’s my Mummy!  I laugh to share my joy.  She doesn’t move.  She doesn’t talk.  She doesn’t tell me how clever I am.  She just stands in the doorway, her full skirt a triangle from waist to mid-calf.  And I’m happy and smiling and laughing and crowing…  And there’s no face.  Just the motionless silhouette…

***

A few years later, I tell my mother about the first time I stood up and how happy I was.  She frightens me in some way.  Perhaps she screams at me.  I know that she tells me I’m lying.  I can’t possibly remember back that far!

But I do.

***

Even more years later, I mention it again.  What’s wrong with Mummy?  There’s fear.  Hers and mine.  I don’t understand.  And I’m a liar again.  I can’t remember!  I was too young!

But I wasn’t.  And I do.

***

Later again, my aunt mentions my broken arm.  Broken arm?  Which arm?  The right.

I don’t remember.

How did it happen?  No-one knows.  I must have fallen down the kitchen step at Nan Dennis’ place.  We live in our own house now.  When a doctor saw it, the bones were already knitting together.  I was about fourteen months old.  A clean break.  He put sticking plaster around it.  The bones hadn’t moved so he didn’t have to break my arm again.

I’d been crying every night when I rolled on it.  I cried when I was having my bath.  Mummy said that it was around the time that I’d started having my bath in the big bathtub.  She thought that I was just frightened.  She put my baby bath in the big tub but I still cried.  One day, I tried to run away from her and she grabbed my arm.  I screamed.  Daddy was there that time.  So we went to the doctor’s.

I don’t remember.

***

Many, many years later, in hindsight, I wondered if it was true that no-one knew how I’d broken my arm.  Mummy’s mental health might have helped my arm to break.  How could no-one see that a child had a broken arm?  Why was Mummy so scared when I remembered the first time that I stood up?  Was she afraid that I would remember how my arm had been broken?

I don’t.

***

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