I was four, nearly five when she vanished
I have lots of good memories as a child. In the 70’s I lived in Yorkshire, in a small village outside of Bradford. We didn’t have much money according to today’s standards, but I didn’t know that then so why would I be bothered about it.
Mum, as practically all mothers did then, was at home with us all the time. She loved crafts and was forever making things on her Singer sewing machine which she placed on the dining table in the bay window at the front of the house.
At the back we had big glass french windows, with a myriad of small panes. One day during the autumn I tapped each spider I found hiding in the corner of the pane. They were all outside, except one and I had the shock of my life when I disturbed him and he unrolled to become ginormous. I have hated spiders since then.
I never remember being bored as a small child. One day Mum bought three tubes of paint, a red, a yellow and a blue one. One each for my sisters and I. They had to last us a while. We baked regularly, chocolate brownies were always a favourite. mum also made real chips in a chip pan, using a potato cutter with a serrated edge so it made the chips crinkly. Some days she cut our initials out of the potato slice, but they always disintegrated in the chip pan.
One day I wandered into the rose garden and tried to eat parts of a daffodil, I even tried the small white seedy things in the swollen green part behind the flower. It didn’t taste so good, so I never did that again.
We walked everywhere because of course we only had one car, and Dad had that at work and mum had never learnt to drive anyway. I remember being placed high up on the seat on top of the Silver Cross pram, I could see for miles. The best place to visit was Five Rise Locks. I loved stretching my head up and seeing the black and white arms reaching across in pairs, tier after tier after tier.
Sundays we tended to drive to Skipton to meet up with cousins and Grandparents, and I seem to remember banana sandwiches most weeks.
I remember lots of things about the days before I started school. I even remember my first few days at school. The clay I moulded into shape. the toy cradle I used as a bed when we retold Goldilocks and the three bears, I was goldilocks of course, since I had a mop of golden curls.
Then one day, we were in our bedroom and I distinctly remember her putting suitcases up on top of the wardrobe. Where we had been I’m not sure. Possibly our other Grandparents, because we always went for Christmas or New year. Her hand went up to her neck and Mum complained it was sore. She had ‘cricked’ it somehow she thought.
And then she disappeared.
Looking back now it is just a black hole. There are no memories. Whatever I was told, whoever explained it, whoever looked after me in those first few weeks after she went into hospital, it has all been wiped out from my memory. My subconscious has buried those memories somehow, and they won’t come back.
She did return to us, eventually, after about six weeks so I have been told.
My grandparents came to look after us for the whole of that time, they must have moved in, but I have no memory of them putting me to bed. I have one image of Granny giving us chips for tea, and I wanted vinegar and tomato sauce, and she was none too keen on that idea. One meal out of six whole weeks.
I have two more memories before family life returned to normal once again.
One was visiting her in the hospital where she was admitted, in order to get the tumour was removed from her spine, just below her brain. It had been growing bit by bit for weeks and months unbeknown to us all. Anyway, the one time we were allowed to visit, maybe a week before she came home, there was a small boy in the Day room who kept trying to throw her walking stick over the balcony. She could move her arms again, but had pins and needles still, and her walking was getting better. There was a big long slope up which we walked. But the name of the hospital I’m not sure of.
And the other memory was finding a picture of a doll, drawn by mum, with two sweets in shiny coloured paper, (probably Quality Street) under my pillow. She must have thought of us all the time, day in, day out and drawing pictures of us was the only thing she was able to do, in the years before mobiles and emails were around. Even phones weren’t used much then. It must have broken her heart being stuck in hospital, well enough to see and feel everything, but not well enough to get home.
Three small memories. But nothing whatsoever about being told, or her going away, or her waving goodbye. Nothing at all.
She did come home. One very hot day during the summer and Dad stopped to buy us a paddling pool. It must have been the scorching summer of ’76. I even remember living in my swimsuit and pedalling around on my three wheeler trike and the vicar turning up for a visit, with me still in my swimsuit.
And life returned to normal again. She had returned. For now.
My mother died when I was 11. The tumour sneaking in again and twisting itself around her spinal cord, slowly but surely strangling the life out of her.
But I knew she loved me. I always knew that.