I can just see over the grass, the scent of blue bells fill my senses and I lay in fields of long grass until the sun hides its face in the earth. Feeling safe.
Today is so good.
I have had my fourth birthday and it is not for the presents I received for there was none, but for the special day when we all walked together in Bluebell Wood. My Father too, visits the sacred wood in the heart of Sherwood, he longs for the green of Limerick and sighs, he smiles at me and I know somehow of his loss.
My small Irish woman who we call “Mammy” has remembered to make it special,and we sang at the top of our voices such harmony, all four of us as we meander back to the tower made of stone. It is a large forbidding building with rubble littering the pathways. I could not call it home, for we move, like the wheat in the fields. Some nights I have gone to sleep in one place and woke somewhere else. Itinerants, they call us and look down their noses. I will never care they will never hurt me; I am happy playing in the muddy lanes and being hungry.
I can hear her humming “Oh what a beautiful morning” absentmindedly and I watch her steely brown eyes follow me as I dance feeling warm in the chilly autumn air. I am wearing a red dress a little to small and I have blue shoes with buckles, unusual very really do I wear shoes. My hair is thick,black, long with a blue ribbon in it. I look different today because she dressed me this morning and I know she has tried and I feel loved.
Mainly she is tired and empty, so many children in such a short time.
The glass jar Sit empty she fills with water and then she places the blue flowers that the younger ones have picked, in the water. There are small sponge cakes and meat paste sandwiches. A small parcel with my name written on the brown wrapping paper ‘Katie’ in large letters waiting is for me. I had just learned to recognize my name and I become excited jumping and shaking my hands. I can not ever remember getting any other present before. She makes me wait, sitting the others down to the small banquet , they start to sing “Happy Birthday” I can only hear her voice; strong and melodic,the others are too young to know it completely.
She smiles at me “open it then” she says in the strong Irish lilt that she uses when she is pleased. It is my first book, too large for my hands and she steadies it. I look at the pictures there are horses, pigs and ducks. I understand the pictures but can not read the words. She reads as we go to bed and talks and tells us stories. It has been a bright sunny day, with blue flowers, food and happy voices. No clouds, or raised voices nor tears, not today. A remarkable day. Father was here. He was sober and smiling.
As I write these memories I hear the voice and the story of a child who’s reality and understanding beyond her years are standing at the side of her like Guardian Angels.
In one so small, much sensing and instinctively using experiences to survive the dramas of how things are in her own world daily. “Who’s in control “ I hear the echoes of grief and sound of tears stretching down the years. So much fear.
These situations appear repeatedly and she learns to gain control not really helped by the people closest to her. Mainly her parents, those who lives took them in to a place not made for her and who had forgot she is only four years old.
She panics and frets, these wayward parents are her world, finding them on some days proved very hard. Good at disappearing and reappearing worst for wear as she walks the country lanes to get out of the way. She experiences the outdated map, the cultural trap.
As my memories moves on, I think anyone with any problem solving skills could see the thing was never going to work without some kind of stability.
“It’s the road less traveled “ and see it spanning for the next millennium. The cycle of neglect. I begin to wonder how this child survived and a sneaky idea of some thing else came into view, another way of thinking so handy for four-year-old’s.
Find a love object, and transfer a “little love” and as these things come naturally, it is easy and there he is youngest son a golden child, small and vulnerable and loveable she pours her attention on to him and they are saved. Two intertwined souls.
Memories of this remarkable time play in her mind for she knows they will stay forever, adding and subtracting has the day moved on. Times when those few short hours were hers and the family she never knew. Of the walks in the Forest, dew, spiders webs, the mists and silences of the dense wood haunted her. The sounds of laughing voices, excitement and exultation.
She remembered the smell of woodsmoke hot red-hot fires burning to keep warm, and was central to the camp. And later ached to be there again.
There is something about the open air that gives life a different feel.
The feel of the air and birds, always birds, she loved them there was something magical about them. She knew their freedom.
I love listening to this small voice and as these memories unfolded they touch me deeply. The highs and lows of dysfunctional families are created out of joy and grief. For now I am just glad to listen and know that the small child’s voice is still as strong “They didn’t subdue her passions and the sweet voice that echo’s so many sounds of childhood and innocence”.