My mum was one of seven children (good Catholic family you see!). Her mother strongly favoured her sons over her daughters. Mum told me how much that hurt and how she’d never really had a good relationship with her own mother. She even has a saucepan shaped dent in her skull which she says is from her, and which I’ve felt. I never had any issues with my maternal grandmother. She always treated me well on the few occasions I met her that I remember, before she passed away when I was six years old and she was just 55. But this is why it confused me that both my parents constantly showed favouritism towards my sister, ever since she was a toddler.
Shortly after my sister was born, we moved to a bigger, 3 bedroom house. I was given the second bedroom and she was in the box room, but after a couple of years, mum told me my sister and I had to swap rooms as she had too many toys. So, without asking me how I felt about this, and as I was about to enter my teenage years, I was moved into the box room. Ok, so no big deal, lots of kids grow up in box rooms, some kids even have to share rooms, so I wasn’t too bothered. However, there was hardly any room for furniture. I had a single bed, a desk and a built in cupboard. But shortly after moving into that room, my parents had a new boiler fitted and chose to fit it in my cupboard-so I now couldn’t use it for my clothes. I ended up being given one of those clothes rail things, which I stored at the end of my bed and it just about fit.
For years, that tiny room was my refuge and my escape from my parents. I was delighted on my 16th birthday when they gave me a small television set, (the old, deep, box type), so I now had no reason to sit downstairs with them watching mum’s soaps all evening. In fact, one of my most vivid memories from that ‘era’, was watching on that little TV, the news breaking of Princess Diana’s death in 1997. I remember watching the masses of bouquets being laid around the royal palaces and parks, never having seen (as most people I’m sure hadn’t), so many flowers in my life, and wanting to see them for real, thinking seeing so many flowers like that is something that only happens once in a lifetime (although sadly I never did get to London then). I remember thinking how sad it was that she’d died so young and so tragically, leaving behind sons who were around my age, and what a massive impact she’d had on so many lives that so many thousands of people came to lay bouquets for her.
Back in my little world, I was also really saddened by what my parents did when I went off to university-most parents I’m sure, would save their child’s room as it is, so they have somewhere nice to come back to during the holidays-but not my parents. No, as soon as I left, my bed was dismantled, the little furniture I had was removed, and the old, worn, stained, secondhand mattress from my bed was left on the floor, for me to use during holidays. It was the most uninviting, unwelcoming room, and I’m sure this was their intention.
When I finished university, I stayed in my university city that summer working and saving money, before coming home, but things at home were so awful, the yelling at me was constant even though the violence had stopped, that I decided to move out and rent a room off a lady in town instead. Although it felt very strange living in someone else’s house (she was a live in landlady and was quite pleasant although I didn’t see her much), I was so grateful for the peaceful, safe environment.
I remember earlier that year, my step-dad’s step-mother had passed away, and my uncle (who is one of the loveliest, kindest people I’ve ever met and I don’t understand how he shares DNA with my step-dad), had made sure that I got her car, as I was the only person in the extended family who could drive but didn’t have a car to drive (I’d worked for £2.50/hour, every weekend since I was 16 throughout my sixth form, to pay for all my driving lessons, and then my parents refused to insure me on their cars or help teach me-my sister on the other hand years later got all her lessons paid for, and was given a car, servicing, tax, insurance and fuel). My uncle even made sure he insured me on the car I’d inherited. He was so wonderful. (At university he’d also secretly sent me a cheque when I was 19 for £500 to go on my first holiday without my parents and with my friends, which I was absolutely taken aback by, and still to this day am so, so grateful for). So because I now had my own transport, it gave me freedom, which to me was absolutely priceless. And because of that freedom, I was able to move out more easily, start a job, pay rent and start to live independently.
To be continued…