Thursday, October 14, 2010

11. Broke again and Maureen is born

As I said before, I cannot remember anything about the school at Worcester Park, but I do remember coming home one day, with my ruler, pencil etc., ready to take with me to a place where I was to sit some exams the next day, only to be told that we were moving and I could not go. The exams were for a scholarship to a good school and I was very disappointed. What I was not told was that Father had again lost every penny and that my mother, at thirty five, was pregnant. This was mother’s ninth pregnancy since my birth, the rest she had terminated; one of the terminations had been so late that she was able to see that she had been carrying twin boys. This latest pregnancy was supposed to be a happy one because father was trying to behave, but that was before he went bankrupt. Nearly all our furniture was sold and we found ourselves in a flat over an empty shop by the railway station.

I was sent to spend a few days with Grace and Ernest Cook, they were a very kind childless couple. On their dining room table they had a large bowl, filled with soil, made into a Chinese garden. There was a small oval mirror in the middle, which represented a pond, with a little china bridge over it. At each end of the bridge stood a small Chinese figure, one of a man and the other a woman, and I was fascinated by her lovely dress and their funny hairstyles. There were tiny plants representing trees, I don’t know if they were real or not, but I loved anything that was very small.

While I was staying there Maureen was born prematurely and was not expected to live; she was placed in my doll’s pram wrapped in cotton wool, and bathed in olive oil. The night of her birth father had one of his “brain storms”, as mother called them, and smashed up what little furniture there was in the bedroom, while Jane tried to protect mother and the baby. On my return home I found this tiny, tiny baby in my dolls pram, which was quite a surprise! By some miracle Mo survived, but I think there were many times in later years when she wished she had not!

It was February and extremely cold, and we had no gas or electricity. Jane tried to cook food for us on the fire in the living room, using wooden boxes we had found for fuel. At night we kept our clothes in the bed with us to keep them warm and dressed under the covers in the morning. And then I found a way of getting into the empty shop below us, and I would ‘dance’ round and round, singing, and playing imaginary games.

After a few weeks we left the flat and went to stay in Brighton, with some weird people father knew. They had quite a large house and Jane and I shared a bed in a room downstairs. One night I wet the bed and we sat up for hours trying to get the bedding dried in front of the gas fire. I was not happy. The new baby had replaced me as the youngest child and Mother seemed to have no time for me – of course she was far from well, we were homeless and she had other things to worry about, but I did not know or understand all this so I decided to run away. Heaven knew where to. I sneaked into the kitchen, made some marmalade sandwiches and set off along the beach. It was March, cold and windy and so, once the marmalade sandwiches were eaten, I returned to the house only to find that nobody had missed me! During my childhood I seemed to wander off quite a lot without being missed.

Mr. and Mrs. Markham, the people we stayed with, were spiritualists and so was father, so he probably met them at a spiritualist meeting at the Aeolian Hall in London. Spiritualism had only recently been “unbanned” as a religion, and Father was very engrossed in it. The subject of the next world and those who have “passed over” has always interested me, and mediums like John Edwards are fascinating, but I find that coping with this life in this world is all I can manage right now. Having said that, after my husband Tom died I did experience one strange happening. I was sleeping in his room when, in the middle of the night, the television turned itself on and a football match was being broadcast; Tom was a great supporter of Arsenal soccer club and hated Manchester United. I awoke, sat up in bed, turned on the bedside light, looked at the clock and said “Oh, darling! Not football at two o’clock in the morning!” I turned off the television and the bedside light and went back to sleep. I definitely was not dreaming, but I was not at all frightened and almost laughed at him.

Another strange thing happened after my mother died. Mother was once told that the souls of all the babies she had aborted were waiting for her “on the other side” and that she would find them when she passed over. My mother loved children, her own most of all, and would never harm a child. Well, I had this vision of mother wearing a lovely long dress, sitting on a chair surrounded by six small children who were all wearing the sort of clothes I knew she would have chosen for them. The little boys wore sailor suits and hats and the little girls were wearing pretty dresses, like those worn by Alice in Wonderland, and their long hair had been brushed into ringlets and tied back with ribbons. The strange part of this vision was that mother was singing to them, a song called “Butterflies in the Rain”, which she had sung to us as children and which I had long forgotten.

“When the rain come scattering helter, skelter, and the butterflies are caught out in the rain, leafy hollyhocks will whisper 'Come and shelter, until the rainbow shines again'.  In the heart of every rose a haven, from the pitter, patter, pitter pat refrain. There’s protection from the showers, in the sympathetic flowers, for the butterflies in the rain”.

Then it continues with something about “Sleepy head, get out of bed etc.” Now, how many of you have ever heard that song before? Well, my grand-daughter, Juliea, found it on the internet by just typing in “Butterflies in the Rain”. Shown there, is a short piano version of the music, with raindrops playing the notes, or there is a longer version played by Jack Payne and sung by a male vocalist. Having heard her sing the song,  the words are now etched on my brain.

Then another day, as I was driving the car, I had a vision in my head of mother dancing in the sky wearing a Ginger Rogers style of dress. When I told Maureen about it she said that she had seen the same vision at the same time. That was really strange, but we gained some comfort from thinking that she was happy at last, dancing and playing with her children.

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