i took part in the NANOWRIMO project last year – this the first couple of sections – not sure whether to continue ot let it die a quiet death
A new month, a new season – the onrush of winter, the need to make sense of what goes on in my head & a perverse pleasure in starting a diary at the end of the year – why wait for Jan, if nothing else, I have learnt in this life, new starts rarely deliver what they promise.
So, a journal that starts at the tail end of this, my 40th year, 40 seems such a strange age, beyond child bearing, except for the botoxed celebrity or the brood mare churning out numbers 7,8 and nine.
But, here I am barren but still linked to some menstrual madness, a monthly pull with even less function than before & and at the other end my changeling child writhes in post pubescent misery, teen & crone within the same home – we are both moon mad, moon changed, hormonal, opposite ends of the menstrual cycle – peddling away in parallel diverging pathways [ pun intended- sadly at my age, only I find myself funny, the blank stares of strangers reproach me for these comedy moments] .
My daughter once said that I sleep reaching out for something. My greedy, grabby hands outstretched. As a smaller changeling [ she was never a child ] she believed that it was her I reached out for & would trustingly place her tiny sweaty hand in mine. But waking in claustrophobic panic , I would push her away, wondering in that split second between sleep & not sleep who was holding me – consciousness always brought disappointment – who ever I reached for, it was never anyone who actually shared my bed.
Curled in foetal memory, in that moment of womb return, warm, safe, snug against whatever is out there, I seek again & again to re-create that moment of completeness, that time when I was defined by completeness not lack , not absence, no sense of something missing. Like an amputee, I experience you only by your absence. My life has been defined by what I am not, not have ever been except in some pre-memory, pre-language moment when you & I floated together………………..dear twin what would you have made of fat, forty & alone [ the changeling makes a virtue of her aloneness, making it clear that companionship is not to her taste at all]
Dear reader – how deliciously Victorian that sounds – as if there will ever be a reader of these mad scribbling, my pledge to keep a journal fell at the first hurdle, one entry & then silence…………….. I realised that I actually had very little to say, but today is a special day, my birthday. 41 years old, 41 years alive and you, 41 years dead.
As a child, I truly believed that the cemetery was the destination of choice for all special birthday girls, our muted celebration always included such a pilgrimage. I walked, often in snow & slush – didn’t it always snow in January then, my unsuitable shoes letting in the cold & ice, several paces behind my parents, clutching this years’ choice of soft toy. My mother in front, stiff, unbending, carrying a bunch of hot house forced flowers – a tiny part of me resentful that these gifts, so different from my solidly middle class presents, an improving book, a new winter coat, shiny new felt tips, would be left to age, sag & die in the cold open air.
I can remember the moment, the actual date, when I discovered that not all birthdays began with pilgrimage. April 19th – the 7th birthday of a classmate – my special status ensured that there were only classmates, never friends. She, Joanna Carter, she of the shiny hair & most magically to me, her very own pony, had a mother affluent enough to hold a party in a church hall, but with sufficient social conscience to insist that all her daughters’ classmates were invited. We, the marginally invited were too solidly middle class to hold the true stigmata of dispossession, none of us wore other peoples’ clothes, our hair was clean [ if perhaps the wrong colour], we spoke with pleasant accents, none of us smelt of wee, but even at 7 we understood our tenuous attachment to the social whirl.
We stood, nervous, straight backed, clutching our birthday offerings, unsure of what move to make & hoped desperately for an adult figure to take over & teacher like to impose some form of social democracy.
My mother had no expectations for me, she understood only too well that social success was not the goal for me, but all around me, those parents of the lower castes, the untouchables, positively twitched with social desire, today would be the day that their child would shine, would move from their default setting of surly loner to take their proper place within the sunshine circle of small girl popularity.
The party quite simply confused me, used as I was to birthdays inhabited with a general air of melancholy.
All around me, small girls and more perplexingly, large adults, moved in a frenzy of happiness, all seemed equally charmed by balloons, games of pass the parcel and badly wrapped gifts of scented rubbers.
Well brought up, I smiled in all the right places, remembered my manners & took part in all the activities on offer, whilst inside the very wrongness of the event sat lump like in my throat, my facial expression mistaken for over indulgence in Battenberg cake.
Collected exactly 10 minutes too early & escaping in a flurry of best coats & party bags, I walked home slowly, trying to assimilate this new shape of partyness, to make it fit with my understanding of what a birthday should be. Looking to my mother, walking her customary 5 yards in front of me, I already knew to say nothing.
I have retained a fondness for graveyards & an anxiety about parties all my life – the changeling shares [ for reasons of her own] my party antipathy but refuses, according to her own agenda, to ever accompany me on my birthday visits to a graveyard .