The first stories I created were in my head – or mouth. I would play under the farmhouse on my own, my companion Pat. “Pat Ther Dog” was how I knew him, with his black n white hair, big fistfuls of it, made for snuggling into as ‘we’ listened to the footsteps on the floor above us while having a ‘tea party’, or played with dolls. The foundations of the house were L-shaped walls of red brick, staggered and spaced to create windbreaks to slow the wind. Each pair of opposite corners made little rooms.
One, under Dad’s bedroom, was where Pat slept at night. At the sound of the alarm clock’s bell, Pat would leap into action. I could sometimes hear the thud of his tail wagging as he jumped out of sleep. He’d dash out from under the house and off over the sloping green fields to start herding the dairy cows across to the milking shed. Dad would grab a cup of tea, and walk up to the shed to open the last gate and let the cows in.
No matter the place, I took my imagination and let it loose. I had conversations with people I could see in my mind – school friends, my sister… aloud or within my head. So real were my stories, I was convinced they had actually happened. This got me into trouble if I told Mum about what Christine had said, or Richard had done.
When I retold an ‘event’ shared with my sister, complete with full descriptions of where and when, and who else was there, of course she would protest. Mum knew the stories were false, and I soon became known in the family for telling fibs. ‘Liar’ and ‘Lies’ became the normal reaction.
Gradually my internal world closed down – but I became a people watcher. I’d readily learned to read and write, and I now learned how to read people. I’d watch games in the playground, other reading groups in the classroom, people’s faces as they taught us or spoke amongst themselves. I learned to recognise the timidity of a new face, to hear the emotion in a voice or expression.
Side note: this left me with a lack of confidence, socially – I am not good at reaching out to others. I am more of a responder – you need something? Whether I see what it is, or recognise your need, I am on it!
At middle primary (new school, new town) I kept my head down – but became a chatterbox. I have no idea what my scholastic progress was, as we never saw a School Report. Our schools never asked me to take mine home – perhaps my elder sister was in charge of that – who knows. Mum and Dad never talked about or discussed them, and no one in class talked about their reports. It was something I knew nothing about. This was the same at secondary school – I had no idea of what school reports were. If, back then, the teaching nuns gave me one, I would have meekly done as asked and delivered it to Mum, then forgotten it.
I know that when I began secondary, with my sister two years ahead of me, I was a tad peeved to find out she was taking a more interesting class – Clothing, Art– than I was. History, Biology, French… basic curriculum I thought. I envied her homework. Why hadn’t I got to design a school uniform? No one taught me how to iron Dad’s shirts! I didn’t get to draw! It was so unfair!
Of course, many years later while teaching, the penny dropped. In the meantime, life went on. I had some good teachers, a few ‘duds’, and some Great teachers. I’ve written all into the memoir I’m working on. Keep yer eyes on me…