Memories or Dreams?
Wide awake I stare out at the houses in the harbour as my parents sleep on the empty boat, not sensing my fear.
I hold my mother black and blue whisper in her ear.
Bath-time bubbles fade into silence – no chatter to hear, I am alone.
As I climb out into the street my parents sprint home, too late – I stand naked by the door.
I am four.
A child of the sixties, I was brought up by my grand-parents from birth, partly as a result of both my parents consuming such high quantities of ‘Class A’ drugs that I am sure they would have given Keith Richards a run for his money. Details of this time are scarce, but I know at some point I was taken from my grand-parents house by my parents, and from what I understand was taken to Ireland – via the occasional hippie commune.
The above poem contains some of my fleeting recollections of that time, etched into my memory, but with a dream like quality. Much of what I experienced is lost, probably a good thing as you may gather from the above. Discussions about my parents, or details about what happened were frowned upon in the family and in those days there was no offer of counselling. I was told that when I returned I wouldn’t sleep in my own bed for months.
Actually, probably my strongest memory of my dad was some years later. Returning from a summer holiday in Devon to find out we had been burgled and discovering that the only thing that had been taken was the money from my piggy bank. I have no idea how, but it was soon discovered that the ‘burglar’ was my dad. Hardly crime of the century I know – as I wasn’t exactly Rockefeller – but I felt a line had been crossed! Who knows, perhaps this is where my sense of social justice began forming, recognised and described by my mum as if it were an affliction.
I have never been keen to rake over the past to account for the issues and failures of the present and I seem to have come through the experience reasonably undamaged. However, when my daughter reached the same age that I experienced the above I was starkly reminded how vulnerable I was at that age to all that went on around me at that time and it did hit me hard for a while. It is startling how something from forty odd years ago can have such an impact.
I’m certainly not a perfect dad, but my experience did give me an abundance of ideas about how not to be a parent. I have also learnt to appreciate the guilt that my mum felt and still feels about not being, or able to be, a ‘normal’ mum.
So why have I written this blog? We are a product of our experiences and what I am, and am not, has no doubt been influenced by my early life. My dad, Spike Hawkins, was a poet – one of the ‘Liverpool Poets’ of the sixties. My sister is also a poet, less well known than my dad, but infinitely more useful as someone who holds regular poetry workshops for a wide range of people, including those that have experienced the care system – as she did first hand, to enable them to express their emotions through poetry.
I guess I’m also finally conceding that we may benefit from exploring our past, as unpleasant as it may be, as well as promoting the benefits of ‘letting it all out’. This is not the same as allowing ourselves to pin all our failings on what has previously happened in our lives. As my grandmother said “life isn’t fair” and we do have to deal with it.
The original purpose of my blog was to give people an understanding about my values and about what drives me. Of all the blogs that I have written, this is the most personal. Solidarity with all those that have gone through childhood trauma, many who will have endured far worse than what I went through.
I am not a poet, but I can certainly promote the benefits of setting out your experiences and emotions on the page – and have huge respect for those like my sister and others who have such a positive affect on people’s lives by encouraging them to do the same.
If I can do it, I know you can too.