It’s a cheery one today

4 Feb

I don’t know what age I am, maybe five.  My pink bedroom looks grey in the dark.  Summer twilight enters through a chink in the curtains, making a stripe on the floor and my blanket.  I lie in bed, wide awake and full of dread, imagining the plane crashing over the ocean, my brother and I becoming orphans.

My parents used to travel a lot when I was a small child and every time they  went away I would have a knot in my stomach until they returned, safe and sound and bearing presents.  I didn’t tell anyone about my fears, they remained an unspoken shadow throughout my childhood.

I wouldn’t say I was a particularly anxious child, I was always the first to scramble up a rock or dive into a swimming pool, but this was a terror I couldn’t rationalise.  The succession of Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents who died during my childhood, some far younger than is right, did nothing to reassure me.

I was constantly watchful around the beloved elderly people in my life.  I didn’t understand the concept of ‘having a good innings’, being ready to go.  I knew that old age was followed by death.  But I wanted them to be with me always.

I am an adult now, and the fear of death has not left me.  In recent years, the very real nightmare of losing a child has been added to the list.  And it’s not a theoretical anxiety, I know people who have lost babies and children.  There’s no such thing as being too young to die.

In these post motherhood, crying at the Coop advert days, I try to avoid thinking about death except in a seize the day, live life now kind of way.  But sometimes it comes up.

It was my birthday this week and the five year old was guessing my age.  He said 77 and I laughed “that would make me an old lady”.  He slipped his small warm hand into mine and whispered “I don’t want you to be an old lady, Mummy”.  I know just how he feels.

This post was written for Josie’s writing workshop at Sleep is for the Weak.

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13 Responses to “It’s a cheery one today”

  1. Its a Mummys Life 04/02/2010 at 10:04 pm #

    That’s just so evocative of your early years. Really wonderful writing. Has inspired me to recall some of my early memories and record them.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 05/02/2010 at 3:01 pm #

      Thanks, I look forward to reading about your youth!

  2. Crystal Jigsaw 05/02/2010 at 10:44 am #

    That was a lovely post. 77 is quite young these days isn’t it!

    CJ xx

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 05/02/2010 at 3:02 pm #

      It is I suppose, but my family seem to have a habit of dying young.

  3. Dawn/LittleGreenFingers 05/02/2010 at 10:46 am #

    By coincidence, 77 is almost my exact Wii Fit age…

    Lovely post

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 05/02/2010 at 3:03 pm #

      My Wii Fit age is bizarrely close to my real age. Considering how little exercise I do and how much chocolate I eat, that’s a miracle!

  4. Paula 05/02/2010 at 3:23 pm #

    Lovely post, so evocative of those horrible childhood fears, and you’re right: they never go away, they just transfer…..

    Good attitude though, it’s all to easy to forget to seize the day but you’re walking, talking proof that it’s possible and I salute you!

    Px

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 07/02/2010 at 10:48 pm #

      Thank you, what a lovely thing to say.

  5. Kate 07/02/2010 at 6:50 pm #

    Evocative is definitely the word for the first couple of paras. Great writing. Fear is never rational but realising that is the first step to conquering it!!

  6. Vegemitevix 06/03/2010 at 10:06 pm #

    This is beautiful Victoria. My father travelled a huge amount when I was little and I used to pray a lot about the plane not crashing…

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 07/03/2010 at 2:17 pm #

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one. It’s made me really funny about leaving my children. My mother doesn’t get why I’m so unkeen to go away without them (we’ve had the odd night, but not many). I haven’t been able to tell her how wretched I felt when they went away.

  7. 21stcenturymum 07/03/2010 at 12:08 pm #

    I totally relate to your post. I do think a lot of the way you feel as an adult relates to your experiences as a child. My brother died when he was 18 months old and I was about 4 and a few other close family members also died way before they should have done. Ever since then I have been scared that the same thing would happen to me and now I also have the added fear of losing a child too. It’s something I think about a lot. As Kate said fear is never rational, but it’s very hard to conquer it.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 07/03/2010 at 2:14 pm #

      Thank you. I my case it was a sucession of aunts, uncles and grandparents over what must have been a harrowing two year period for my parents. I was most upset about the dog of course, but it was an early lesson in mortality either way.

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