This is my story, which I’ll be writing in several parts and may take some time.
By the time I was three, my mother was deep in the throes of occasionally suicidal post-natal depression; and my father had converted to a strange form of sectless, fundamentalist Christianity fuelled heavily by the sorts of books you can only get on special order from America. I had two younger sisters. My grandparents on my father’s side were dead, meaning that my parents became homeowners in their early twenties due to my father’s inheritance; and my grandparents on my mother’s side had moved abroad in order to capitalise on better financial opportunities than exist in our hometown – my grandfather started his own business and my grandmother became a deputy head teacher. When they moved, my mother was given the option of moving with them, but decided to stay and marry my father. My mother’s two grandmothers provided her with the support they could to help look after my sisters and I when we were small, with my father (a national award winning young technician at the time) having to take a different job with fewer hours and lower pay, in order to be able to help my mother more around the house and with childcare, as she could be very ill and withdrawn sometimes.
When I was a baby and toddler I clung desparately to my father, while my middle sister (born sickly, has always been sick) took up my mother’s preoccupation. My youngest sister did not have as much one-to-one time with a parent as my other sister and I did in our very early years. My mother had her tubes tied after her third pregnancy in four years hospitalised her, with my father refusing to have anything to do with it, warning that it was “against God’s will”. My father incidentally was not happy to use any form of contraception or for my mother to be using any. If he’d have had his way, he would regularly assure us, he’d have had a “whole football team”. He then attributed my mother’s later uterine illnesses to divine punishment.
By the time my mother first attempted to divorce him, when I was five, I didn’t care if I never saw him again. I had grown to loathe him because he would smack us, all the time, for pretty much anything. He would do it in anger, occasionally forcing me to change for bed while he repeatedly did it. One time he pulled me off the toilet with the piss still running down my leg to smack me for telling my sister to “shut up”. He left my middle sister’s legs black and blue all over on at least one occasion that I recall. I warned him that I would tell on him if he ever broke our bones, even by accident; and he spoke to me as though I was a traitorous piece of shit and sent me to my room without food for the rest of the day and night. My mother made me a sandwich after he went to bed.
My mother told me that she couldn’t divorce him at the time because she had been ill, his inheritance had paid for most of the house, and she believed that if he wanted to paint her as an unfit mother and get full custody, he would have got it. She went home and took us with her. I hadn’t missed him for a single day in the two months or so that we’d been away. I understand why my mother went back now, but I hated her for it at the time, not as much as I hated being back in the same house as him, though. I started smearing the wall behind my bed, where no one could see. I had thought I was going to be happy in a new country, in a new school, with just my mother (who was functioning much better now when it came to childcare) and sisters. I thought my mother had gone back because she loved him more than she hated seeing us mistreated.
I began to immerse myself in books and reading, which was very easy to do at the time as the TV had been removed due to potential demonic forces in the set. I wouldn’t voluntarily hug or go near either parent; they’d occasionally demand it then give up, always letting me know I was hurting them by not wanting to hug or kiss them. My sisters had imaginations and stuck together playing strange, inventive games with toys and dolls. I never played with dolls or pretend toys; just stuck to books, art and craft projects, stuff like that, and preferred to do things alone. In primary school I was a high-performing, socially inept poor kid; but I didn’t really notice in the Infants.
Juniors was different, especially when I hit puberty early in Year Three, aged seven.
On to Part Two.