How many ghosts loom out of our past and stand over our beds at night ready, willing, and waiting to enter our dreams and haunt us? I guess we all have them. But, like the animals in Animal Farm, where some are more equal than others, I guess some of us are more haunted by our childhood past than other people are.
What haunts me most from my childhood? Loneliness, rejection, and abandonment, I think. An only surviving child, I was sent to boarding school at a very early age. This initiated the sense of rejection. In my own mind, I was clearly being thrown out and equally obviously, nobody wanted me around. This reinforced my sense of abandonment. Rejection and abandonment were complicated by loneliness. When I came home for the holidays and talked about ‘school’, nobody in the family knew what I was talking about, because nobody in my family had ever been to a boarding school. My school experiences were foreign to the rest of the family.
We lived in a working class area of Wales. It didn’t take long for my ‘posh accent’ to further single me out and this led to even more torment inside and outside the family. I will not repeat some of the things that were said, but I have never forgotten them. Only recently have I begun to understand what many of those words and snide comments actually meant.
“Sticks and stones can break my bones,
but words will never hurt me.”
The old Welsh proverb seems to ring true. I certainly got the sticks and stones, above all the sticks, daily beatings and canings in school. Back home, the words swarmed like black-fly and yes, they stung, hurt, and did a great deal of damage, much of which still clings around me.
Loneliness: how important was that? Both my parents worked, so when I was home from school for the holidays, I was either at home all day during the working week, alone from early morning until late afternoon when my parents came home, or fostered out to family members, not all of whom wanted me around. Many, many days I spent at home, on my own, face pressed against window panes, waiting, watching the eternal rain.
There were some blessings: I learned very early how to cook and I have carried the love of cooking with me always and everywhere. For me, cooking is a joy, a filler of space and time, a beloved occupation that dispels loneliness, and abandonment, and fear. Cooking: the thinking, the planning, the creativity, the activity … I hated cleaning up afterwards, always have. But, it’s amazing how many people love you, and love to hang around you, when you know how to cook, and how to cook differently and well.
Why do I write about this now? Well, I read this article on trauma and addiction a few minutes ago and it moved me greatly. Clearly it’s time for me to face some of those past ghosts and to banish them from my life. Can I do this? I don’t know. But I’ll give it a WIGAN, a jolly good try.
2 thoughts on “Ghosts”
About this…. I daren’t say a thing. I have too many awkward memories lurking around me, and I never boarded at school, though it was a boarding school. The meals were always fantastic at lunch. Five shillings a week!
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It cost me a lot to write it. However, the old ghosts are suddenly less fierce. And yes, those terrible, shameful memories … yet when I drag them into the light, they are old skeletons. They rattle dry bones, grin once or twice, and vanish. That is what is so good about the exercise. Five bob a week … those were the days … my dad left school at 16 and I found his initial employment letter when we cleared out his house: a sixpence a week. And he was lucky to get that much, Many didn’t. At least he never had to work in the mines or the smelting industry (Copperopolis).