Category Archives: family

The Author of my Being. Part 1

MY DAD. By Jane Basil, aged 8 years and 7 months

My dad’s the best. He can do anything. He can draw and paint, make sculptures and pots,build walls and shelves, and fit doors and window frames. He can answer any question and tell you whatever you want to know. He’s the cleverest dad there is.

My dad’s quite famous and is sometimes on TV. People want to meet him, and talk to him about art. I think he likes the women that come to see him best. They come a lot. 

My dad treats me well and tells me I can do whatever I like with my life. He says the only limit is my ambition. He knows I’m a girl, because everyone says that when I was born he was thrilled to have a daughter, but he lets me do the same things as him. I can help to mix concrete, and put up a course of bricks. I can knock nails in straight almost every time. Yesterday I carried tiles up a ladder, and handed them to him, so he could mend the roof, but today I’m helping my mum in the kitchen.

Dad’s in the studio side of his workroom doing stuff I can’t help him with.

My mum’s lovely and ever so kind, and cooking’s all right, but it’s for girls. I’m certain there’s been a mistake; I was meant to be a boy.

>

I’m ten years old.
Naked women crowd our living space,
their painted shapes pressed against framed glass,
or shaped in oak and in clay, arranged just so, on every flat space.
Shelves bend beneath the weight of fat albums
brimming with glossy breasts and hips, captured in Kodak Bromide.

In the workshop, chippings curl beside finest chisels.
Deep within an oaken block, another naked form
waits patiently to be unpeeled by her master’s eager hand.
No more than a coy shoulder is yet revealed.
Her eyes have not been created, and cannot see the devan,
where a lady lies, and the camera clicks.

My mother speaks gently of the aesthetic beauty of the fleshy curve,
making no mention of lascivious urges.
I see no trace of bitterness on her face,
or guess at any untold ache.

I’m too young to think of lipsticked kisses,
of tangled tongues or stolen intimacies.
Too young to place the scent of my father’s sins.
I think he’s the best; I bask in his praise
and revel in every task he sets me.
He seems to silently accept that I need to be a boy.
Maybe he sees that it’s better this way,
as girls are prettier than me

To my shame, my body is changing.
I can’t stem the growth, or the flow of blood and time.
All the same, I feel proud when my father suggests photographs;
he’s taken no pictures of me since I was three years old,
and even then his act was unwilling.

I choose a bulky jumper to cover up my determined bumps.

After a couple of clicks, he wants me to take it off.

He’s my father, so where’s the harm?

(A lifetime later, I still blush when I see what he has done to me. My blouse is a shiny sky blue, and he has made me pull at the hem, exposing the shape of my breasts, and look down, as if I am admiring them.)

Next, he wants me to remove my top. I love this man;
if it were possible,
I would stand naked for him, but I can’t.
I’m embarrassed, but there is something else,
something very wrong.
I try to grab it it, to find a diagnose,
but I feel dizzy.
My ears ring, making me stutter as I utter my refusal.

I’m hot, and something is dying. I can feel it in the air.

His game lost, he selects his consolation prize.
He chooses disgusting French kisses, and a grinding grope.
I see his eyelids droop as he considers the ultimate crime,
but he crushes the idea.

With a sneer he says
“I think you enjoy being kissed like that.
I think it makes you feel good,
but you’d prefer it with someone younger.”

I can’t speak for horror and lack of oxygen.
I feel nausea rising.
Grasping the door handle, I stagger
out into the fresh air and spit.
I spit and spit,
but the taste of my father’s iniquity has spread
to my gut. It has filled my lungs
and is making its way to my heart.

I

am

ten

years

old.

Without warning, war has begun.

There will be retribution for my denial of his will.

There will be revenge that he dare not steal his filthy thrill.

He will bend my childish spirit and redesign my mind.

>

I chose not to include images, as none would be appropriate, except the photos he took of me, and my scanner won’t let me upload them – perhaps it’s concerned for my modesty.

to be continued…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Leaving home

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Whenwe  left the smog of the city to live in this backwater place, I lay curled in my mother’s womb. Although my family was looked upon as foreign by the rural folk, this is the only home I’ve ever known. As the popoulation grew, attracting those from distant towns and counties, I rose from my outsider status to become a local. My roots struggled to find a way through the stony soil, and tenaciously they clung. My four children came into being, and were raised here; seeds of the next generation which now thrives. All of my descendants save for one – my grandson, currently at University – are within this ancient burrough, within easy reach of me.

My daughter is at the graveside of her beloved, saying goodbye. Her bags are packed. I put them in the car, to save having to slog later. I come back to the flat and switch on my laptop. It’s slow to warm up, so I go to the bedroom to apply some hand lotion, and see the gap where her possessions had been.

With a jolt similar to a jagged bolt of electricity, it hits me. Aged thirty-one, my little girl  is leaving home.

Written for The Daily Post #Jolt

©Jane Paterson Basil

This is living

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A snippet of my day. Written for The Daily Post’s Prompt #Lovingly

Walking in the rain, grateful to have it dampen my face, feeling alive, batting away complaints from those who forget it sustains us. Mineral rich, we are earth and water, dry skin contains wet inside.

Rivers running down man’s roads, man’s transport making a splash, soaking my thighs, making me smile.

“This is living,” I think.

Unhappy umbrella people dripping by, deep worries submerged beneath the perceived tragedy of wet weather.

She comes down the lane where people seem to meet by chance, neat hair flying despite the damp, walking like a royal in a rush, when she sees me. She looks at me Lovingly, hurriedly hugs me, tells me she loves me, to which I reply in kind, and then she’s gone. I walk on, my smile widening, my great day hitched to a higher notch.

This is living. I feel alive again.

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I met my daughter, Laura, with her boyfriend, in almost exactly the same place as I last saw my son – a well-used thoroughfare near our town’s bus station. She said they needed to get to the bank. It was only  a few minutes to closing time. I’ve seen the facial expression, the stance, and the walk of the addict dashing off to score drugs. Neither Laura or Joe displayed any of those characteristics I know so well; they were just a normal couple in a hurry to get somewhere before it closed, walking, heads held high, with an innocence of mind.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Somewhere he walks with children

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I loved my uncle Robert even though – or perhaps partly because – he was an irrepressible, irrisponsible alcoholic.

I was nine the first time we sat at the mouth of a river, drinking cider that he’d hidden inside his jacket. My mother and aunt believed him when he said we were looking for shells.

In the mornings it was best to leave him sleeping until late, when he was ready to wake, to evade his ill-tempered hangovers, but the rest of the time he was endlessly entertaining to we children, even though he may irritate anyone over twenty eight or so.

I must have been eighteen when his lung cancer was diagnosed. What with his dicky heart, his schlerotic liver and other complications, his body was not strong enough to survive.

After he died, my brother’s best friend, Pete, with whom I had dallied for a while, wrote a eulogy. The guy wanted to be Bob Dylan, but couldn’t, as the post had already been taken by a better poet.

Pete’s pretentious poem was read out at the funeral, accompanied by his inflatable ego. It claimed that my uncle knew something clever about glass houses which the rest of us didn’t. It sounded good, but wasn’t true; all my uncle knew was where to get the next drink, and how to blow up balloons so children would follow him down the street, in a parody of the pied piper, but without any harm coming to them. He loved children because he never ceased being one.

They laughed as they ran, and so did I, but the laughter stopped for a time after he died.

Maybe I grew up that day, standing with my family as his coffin was lowered into its resting place. I tried to see his face through the wood; to take in the truth of what it cantained. I had seen him several hours after he stopped breathing, and yet it was difficult to understand this final leaving.

My left hand clutched a sodden tissue to wipe my stinging eyes; my right one was plunged deep inside my pocket, fingers squeezing secret balloons in the bright hues he had liked. I’d placed them there with the intention of filling them with air while the grieving trickled dirt into the horrid oblong hole, but when the moment came I thought it would appear pretentious; just as Pete’s poem bore no relation to my uncle in life, so the balloons bore no relation to him in death, and there was a risk they may upset my aunt, who already gave the impression that her face was melting.

Those balloons stayed in my pocket for months before I threw them away. Even then I wondered if, in not inflating them, I had let my uncle down.

The last wisps of resentment cling tenuously as I admit P. had previously written a bitter poem about me, making the damning claim that I was a fake (to which I would have liked, childishly, to respond, “It takes one to know one). The reason? I didn’t love him.

Maybe he thought my uncle did, but Robert was pretty indifferent to all but children, mothers, relatives and alcohol.

The one thing P. said which made sense was:

Somewhere he walks with children

I hope he does.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

Dear childhood self

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sweet little start of me
through ancient mist I see you
aping our mother’s daily routine
washing yesterday’s dollies dresses
while she scrubs the sheets
concentration creasing your cute face
as you rinse and squeeze the tiny pieces
your fingers bleached and shrivelled by the task

and later
you mix a cake
grinning in vanilla-kissed contentment
while she cooks dinner
for your father, your brothers and your sister

a ginger cat curls round young calves
his tail tickling your giggly knees
his unpredictability tripping your feet

I see you
distant as as the stony stream
flowing around the stones
in the crook of our childhood valley
silent as a graveyard angel
frozen in the photographs of my imagination

I tried to keep you near
but you sank away
clinging to what you thought you could keep forever
instead of growing with me

I miss you
and what I expected to be

©Jane Paterson Basil

Drum roll

drummers-642540_960_720.jpgI don’t usually write posts of this flavour, but I feel moved to put my thoughts on record, and where better than on WP, where I feel understood…

My eldest grandson applied to three Universities, all of them in Bristol. His first choice was UWE – the Universtiy of the West of England, but he was convinced that he wouldn’t get in, because he hasn’t worked hard enough at college, and his grades aren’t good enough to fulfil the official requirements. He knew they wouldn’t be anything to brag about, long before he got his results.

He didn’t think any of the Universities would accept him, so he made arrangements to do a degree in the local college where he’s been studying for the past couple of years, but it’s not the degree he would have chosen, and the college has no great reputation for its music. In addition, this town is no place for young people right now, for reasons I won’t go into. He needs to get away and have a chance to grow up outside the confines of his home.

He lost his laptop charger a few weeks ago, and hasn’t bothered to open his emails on another laptop because he didn’t expect to receive any important ones. Today he got a new charger, and he finally checked through his emails.

This evening, when  my daughter Claire rang me with the news, I broke down and cried. I’m still not sure whether my tears were of joy or grief – both, I suppose. I have dried my eyes, but even now I can feel a pricking sensation behind the lids.

Daaa daaa daa daa da da dadadadrdrdrrrr (that’s a drum roll)

His results don’t matter. He has been offered an unconditional place in UWE because they were so impressed with his music!

His birthday is on the 19th September, but we’ll have to celebrate early, because that’s the day he starts his University course.

I watched him come into this world, my beautiful first grandchild, and I’ve stayed close to him throughout the years. I find it hard to express my love, but I love him; I cannot describe how much I love him. We’ve been though a lot together, and many times I’ve feared for his future. No doubt my fears will recur, as it is in the nature of love. That aside, he has given me many causes to be proud, particularly on the many occasions when he’s picked me up when I’ve been down. He reminds me of his father, who sadly died before Mark was born. He was also very musical, and I know that he, too, would be very proud to see the man his son is becoming.

I feel foolishly emotional tonight, and am unable to put my thoughts across clearly. I’m happy that UWE has so confidently held out its arms to Mark, but I’m going to miss him terribly. I can feel a band tightening across my chest. I have to stop writing about this.

The Daily Post Prompt #Eyes.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Sarah and Claire #Senryu

xxxxx

my two golden stars

reach out their hands and lead me

forward to daylight

xxxxx

It’s a well known, but sad fact that when one of your children is an addict, he or she is likely to get more attention than the child who is not addicted. This isn’t through choice, but because the addict demands so much attention, and brings so much pain that it is hard to focus on anything but the bare minimum. My two younger children are addicts, while my older daughters, Sarah and Claire are lovely, caring mothers with decent lives. Much as I love and appreciate them, they rarely get a mention on by blog. They have been bravely supportive throughout the difficult years, although the addictions of their siblings hurts them too, and this Senryu is a small tribute to them – far less than they deserve.

In this week’s Sandbox Writing Challenge Calen asks us “If you were lost, what would help you find your way?”

©Jane Paterson Basil