Sunday, 9 October 2005

Being Five

This post re-published December 2012

Cheryl has written a powerful and beautiful post on Being Five. If it was a painting it would be one of the classics in the National Gallery, twenty foot high and painted in colours with a lightness of touch and a magic that draws you in and at once plays happy games; envelops with love, peace, tranquility; and leaves you wanting more.

On the other hand, my portrait of "Being Five" is a dark little number hung in a room at the far end of another gallery with hundreds of other little dark paintings. The room one rushes through in order to get to the toilet or elsewhere but not a room worthy of visiting in its own right.

On my third birthday my mother gave me a doll that was bigger than me. I gather it was at great expense and effort but I'm afraid I wasn't impressed and was actually terrified of it. I wasn't girly and didn't play with it much. I can see why I was such a disappointment to my mother back then. Already my life was about mindgames and surviving. At the age of five my brother decided to cut the fingers off the said doll with a pair of scissors. I had no say in the matter and can't remember why he did it.

My mother found the fingerless doll and hit the roof. She had been mid-vacuuming and I remember her in the hallway having summoned my brother and I. She demanded to know who had done it and of course my brother kept his mouth shut. After a goodly period of time I finally, and for the first time, pointed the finger at my brother (excuse the pun!). My mother had wanted to know the truth so I decided to tell her. To which I got into the biggest trouble so far in my young life for "telling on my brother". The doll was now forgotten.

I was accused of all matter of crimes and the worst of all was telling tales. I was utterly confused. This was a powerful point in my life as it first imploded on itself. My mother warned me to never tell on my own brother ever again. She taught me well did my mother. This gave him carte blanche for the rest of our childhoods to beat me silly and when my mother wanted to know what the noise was in the next room I'd lie and say something innocent.

I can see why my painting is so dark. As well as the obvious it is lacking in all the detail although I can describe that hallway and vacuum in detail, but chose not to, there are no other details in feelings. No richness of love to paint round the edges. Just terrifying black holes.

Thank you Cheryl for painting such a beautiful picture. One I would like to buy and fill my house with, or at least re-visit many times in the Gallery. I'm afraid I still didn't manage to create such experiences as yours for my children but I didn't do too badly either. I wonder what others were up to when they were five and if that affects their adult life.


Jo said...
Oh makes you wonder what some think the point of having children is doesn't it? I have little ones myself and I have a picture of you going through all this, translated into the landscape of my own children.
Poor little you, hun.

A question and a thought...

How much does it still trouble you? Childhood experiences stay with us and colour our interior lives for years. But we do have the chance to redecorate internally, as it were. To say to ourselves that we're no longer going be hurt by the memory anymore. That's not to say we forget, or you dishonour the feelings of the little girl you once were. Simply that the upset can be left behind -if we try. Easy to say I know...Your words make me think that there's still pain there for you.

Be proud of your own relationship with your children. We are none of us Mother Theresa, we just do our best; but it does look like you've certainly come a long long way from that little 5 year old. And you could teach your mother a great deal about motherhood - much of which you have had to learn yourself?
Cheryl said...
I was lucky, I went through the mill, the mangle and the witch-ducker as an adult instead.
I wouldn't swap my cotton swaddled childhood for anything, but it took another 20 or 30 years before you could associate my name with any street cred. I had 'gullible' written across my forehead in neon lights.
Thanks for the plug, glad you were able to imagine it, and pleased you liked.
doris said...
Jo No pain! I'm fine and I suppose I am talking about this in order to "honour" the little me and what went before. However to say I no longer feel pain and can talk quite dispassionately about my situation is not entirely true. It is when I read pieces like Cheryl's "Being Five" then I become emotional and sad for what I didn't have, or rather makes it obvious what I missed out on. And the other thing is I still have night terrors but that is a whole different thing that I will blog about sometime.

Funny thing about my mother is that she now waxes lyrical about what a wonderful mother I am to the point she has said she wished I was her mum! Weird.

Cheryl I still had the gullible thing too but maybe for different reasons and that finally went in about my twenties. I can see that when you are brought up so beautifully you naturally expect everyone to be as lovely and wonderful as your parents but of course they are not.

Thank goodness for maturity and getting older :-)
Minerva said...
Such a powerful and evocative post Doris...I really felt for you, felt for the loneliness that shines through this post...
Badaunt said...
I suspect the five-year-old me was pretty happy, if somewhat confused. Most of my childhood I remember as being pretty confusing.

I hate that whole thing of 'don't tell' and then 'don't tell lies.' Adults should explain how to reconcile the two requirements if they insist on both of them.

Also, children need to be told WHY.

But we are not children forever, and we get over it. (Either that or I'm deeply scarred and haven't noticed it yet.)
zandperl said...
Jo said:
it makes you wonder what some think the point of having children is doesn't it?
Inability to use condoms. Oh wait, that's not a "point," because then having the children isn't purposeful.

Doris, once in a while you post things like these and I am shocked at what you went through in your childhood. It's really amazing that you've grown to be such a wonderful person after all that! :) I wonder what your mother's childhood was like.

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