My Childhood Memories
By Rebecca Morgan
Key Themes: poetry, childhood, mental health, family
Using diaries written from an early age, Rebecca gives an evocative portrayal of her childhood in Hertfordshire. She reflects on her upbringing with her parents and her four siblings and tries to trace the origins of her mental health problems. She acknowledges the difficulties in her past such as her father’s heavy drinking and the stresses within the family which pervade into her grown up self. Many of the memories are happy ones but there is an underlying insecurity and anxiety which linger into her adult life.
About the Author
Rebecca Morgan was born in Hertfordshire in 1951. She obtained a degree in Modern History and Politics from Sheffield University in 1973, followed by a Post-Graduate Diploma in Librarianship from Birmingham Polytechnic in 1975.
In 1978 she became a Chartered Librarian and has worked for 20 years for Sheffield Libraries, Archives and Information Service.
She has experienced severe depression, postnatal depression and psychotic illness during her life.
Rebecca is married with one son and lives in Sheffield.
This is her second book, following her vivid picture of her years of mental illness in Hertfordshire and Sheffield portrayed in her first book: “The Nest of Sanity” also published by Chipmunka Publishing.
Rebecca Morgan is a pseudonym.
Flowers, once tended, now sprang up carelessly amongst the long grass, bindweed and bracken. Daffodils still bloomed in season, forget-me-nots and snapdragons and of course the buttercups, celandines and dandelions. We would play tag amongst the trees, or climb up into their branches. Once we even strung up an old wicker chair to an overhanging branch of a large tree and made a rustic swing. Another time I fell from a tree into a patch of stinging nettles and was sore from stings on my legs and arms. Towards the far end of the garden was a small green gate; we would sit astride this and swing back and forth in accord with the squeaking hinges. The soil here was wet with clay, and once there had been a shed, for the concrete foundations still remained. We would make our camp here; this was our centre, our meeting place; nobody from outside our gang was allowed to trespass here. Kids from the surrounding houses and from the nearby St. Catherine’s Road often played with us in the garden and we were a ragamuffin lot, rather scruffy (sometimes we’d be in our vests and navy knickers!) so that one or two neighbours in particular complained at the state of us and the garden. Dad never took any notice of the comments.
I often devised my own games of imagination. I had a small bicycle wheel of white rubber tied to a piece of rope which I called my ‘Horsey’. I would drag it around making whinnying noises for hours on end. My reading was often stories about gymkhanas and lucky posh girls who owned a horse. In reality I was scared of the real animals as they were so tall and powerful, and I never had riding lessons like my older sister Caroline did. As sisters we used to be rivals for our parents’ attention and sometimes used to fight with hair pulling and scratching of faces. Caroline usually won as I was much smaller than her. I was jealous of my sister from an early age because of her confidence, a trait which I lacked. Also she was popular and I struggled to make friends. I used to follow Caroline around a lot in the garden and surrounding roads and she used to try and shake me off, especially if she was meeting her friends, two whole years older than me!
My brother Stuart built a tree house, by name only, as it was just a table top platform balanced between two branches. With my brother Henry, Stuart set fire to the privet hedge at the end of the garden, much to my Dad’s annoyance. Once, my eldest two brothers dug a big hole down the garden and held me and my sister captive in a clay dungeon, covered by an old table top. Frightened by spiders and nameless creepy crawlies, we screamed till rescued. I have had a fear of spiders ever since. On one occasion when quite small I ran down the garden and jumped, only to land with one foot in an ants’ nest. Transfixed with panic, I watched in horror as the myriad creatures darted up my bare leg; then my yells brought help and my brother Stuart swung me high in his arms, brushing off the offending midgets. One frightening day, a herd of cows which had escaped from a nearby farm trespassed up the drive and I ran in fear to tell Mum, who was as usual at work in the kitchen. We huddled together in the sitting room having bolted the door and shut the windows. We were both very scared!! Another time, an injured swan from the river appeared on the drive and we had to ring the RSPCA to get it collected.
The garden was to us a green land of escape where we played cowboys and Indians and performed amateurish plays; tales of kings and princes, of witches and pitiful babes; written and directed always by my sister Caroline. Our old tin chest contained a mysterious collection of old coats and skirts, scarves and shoes, which added colour to the productions.
When I was first at school I continued to like dressing up and we had old clothes in a box which we could sometimes play with. I was about five or six when I saw for the first time a cheap ruby ring in the bottom of the dressing up box. I coveted this ring and felt that it should by rights be mine, as I didn’t have anything like it to be my precious thing. To my chagrin I remember I ‘borrowed’ this ring and took it home to keep as mine. However when I got home with it, I felt ashamed and guilty and slipped the ring through a crack in the floorboards, where it was never found again. I felt some small satisfaction that no-one at school would get the pleasure of wearing it ever again and only I knew where it lay. When the teacher asked if anyone had seen the ring I said nothing. Years later I wrote a poem about it.
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