this afternoon I have been listening on the radio to a tribute to a pop star who was a big part of my early teen years. As I hear the music I am surprised to find tears are slipping down my cheeks. Strangely I was never a massive fan, I did buy the records, we all did, and spent many evenings playing over and over again the tunes of our youth. We had no idea that as years went on, and our lives moved and changed over the decades, that most of our teen poster boys would not be long for this world.
So, tears this afternoon, what is all that about? It is about me being taken back in time, to my family home, Mum and Dad and even Nina still a constant in our lives. The Aunties and Uncles of our extended family were frequent visitors, and our family was all around, all the time. A time before we knew the pain of loss, before we knew the responsibilities of grown up life. A time when the big problems, were in fact, no problem at all.
I can still see my teenage bedroom, the posters on the walls, the mirror with a clipping from a magazine proclaiming ‘Don’t Panic’ stuck firmly at the bottom. I was so proud of my orange hairdryer with its own hood and hose and a handy strap to carry it about. I remember the smell of Dad’s Brylcreame and of Mum’s perfume, and my annoying little sister who always seemed to be walking just behind me. The only telephone in the house was in the hall, there was no such thing as a private call, and the angst of teen love, waiting for the boy to call, hoping against hope that if the call came, Dad wouldn’t stand and grin at me while I took the call. He usually did.
How I wish now that I had paid more attention to my world then. I was always eager to grow up, to move on, to find my place in the world. I escaped what I felt was mundane through books, reading everything I could find, no Ereaders then, just regular trips to the library, for a little bit of other worldness. I wish I had looked up from those books, turned away from the record player and really looked at what was in my world.
Mum, when not working in a shop, was always there. Calm, kind and with high expectations for her girls, she could laugh out loud and the next minute let you know just how you had gone wrong, then back to laughter. Dad, coming in after work, in denim work clothes, his chin prickly and a smell of cigarettes and metal that clung to him. How I miss that smell. Sometimes when one of my boys has been smoking a roll up it lingers, that smell of man, that smell of Dad, it makes me want to hug them tightly. Then there was Nina, who missed her Welsh childhood, her black cat and her one true love, Mum’s Dad, her husband, she kept the old ways all of her life.
Death makes a difference. A simple statement but oh so true. Without the people who gave you your roots, it is easy to get lost. Losing people before their time is tough, we grew up fast my little sis and I, clinging together through trauma and bereavement, hanging on tight to our husbands and in time to our own children. As the years have passed others have been lost, of the Aunties and Uncles there are few left today, and with each one passing, the memories and the fixtures of our childhood go too.
It is time to record those days of ours, all the way back in the last century, for the things learned then have seen us through a lifetime of ups and downs. I will find the time to document our family, as they were in those post war years, when everyone we knew had a loved one lost. In doing this I will unpack the fabric of love and loss and hopefully will share the life we had back in the day.
A time when the pop stars ruled our emotional world, they were singing songs of love the like of which we could only imagine. This was a time when friendships won over family every time, and when we made plans to live a different sort of a life. If only the me that was then could have known what was in store. She would have put down the book and looked around more. She would not have been so dismissive of a small life in a small town, and she would have had some understanding of what she might lose.
Today, I am all grown up, my children have children of their own, my life is a bit mixed up just now, but I know that the roots I was given, back in that small town, by those that loved me, well they have served me well.