Monday, October 02, 2006

What is remembered: the electric chair.

When I was six, I accidentally broke a branch from a tree in the back yard of my friend's block of flats. The other girls were aghast - "oh, oh, you mustn't do that, it's not allowed!" I was horrified, too, as I was an overly good girl, never naughty. I developed a terrifying fantasy about being put in an electric chair for my crime. I tried to fantasise my way out of this fate, too: I thought my mum could tell people I had died already. Whenever I would have to venture out, I could wear the wings of my Christmas pageant angel costume. Mum, I thought, would help me by cutting suitable wing apertures in my winter clothes. It did occur to me that grown-ups didn't usually believe in angels. I tried to console myself by thinking they would have to, when they saw my wings.

This worried me for a whole miserable winter season. It was my first experience of thinking myself way down a neurotic vortex. At the time, my mum was in hospital, recovering from neurotic depression.


nmj said...

oh, anna mr, this is potentially such a heartbreaking piece, but you made me laugh out loud with the electric chair fantasy, i had similar neurotic fantasies as a child - for different reasons . . .i must ask, are those fish eggs in the last post, those wee orange glassy balls?

Anna MR said...

Yup, this memory is (for me) both hilarious and woundingly sad. I have tried ot write it up in a couple of ways, but I find it very hard to get a hold of it.

As regards the wee glassy balls, that's what they are - fish eggs, or roe. From rainbow trout, to be more specific. Yummm. We had caviar too, but it's right back at the other end of the table.

TPE said...

My God, Anna MR, this is horrible. I'm sorry, but it really is. What a terrible imagining for a child. Where on earth did such an idea spring from? Does it come back to you, ever? Awful, awful, awful.

I can see why NMJ laughed, really I can, but I'm afraid to say that I have absolutely no inclination to join her in doing so. These things just get me too much. What a starkly shocking and psychologically troubling state of affairs.

I'm glad you led me here, but I'm not - if that can possibly make sense to you?

Hugging the younger you,


Anna MR said...

Ha - found you, tpe.

Yes, this memory does come back to me, has done over the years a lot. It was the one that opened a way back to the dark side of my childhood, more painful than I can describe. I can still feel the taste of that horror, the sense of helplessness, utter aloneness, an almost Greek-tragedy-esque sense of the fateful thing having taken place and there being nothing left but to face the fatal consequences. Of course, it had to be linked to my mum's illness - I probably blamed myself for her "going away", and the thing is too, I have a memory that goes back to being in a pram, literally, but the time of my mum's illness is very sparse. It must also have been crap at home before she went to hospital. A linked memory is of the same friend (on whose yard the fatal silver birch grew) and another girl and me being ice skating, the two other girls teaming up and skating away, whispering to each other, giggling, and then shouting from across the rink "your mum's going to die in that hospital" -

you know tpe, it was decades before I could think of that memory without crying -

but I have developed an adulthood to protect me, in the right way, now. I am the adult who looks after that little girl.

Like I said in my reply to nmj, I have tried to write that memory (actually both of these two afore-mentioned ones) up in a couple of ways (this in the sense of "attempting to turn it into literature of sorts"), but it is very difficult for me to get it anywhere near right. A very bad play version with a narrator throughout alternating with a child monologue is the closest I have got.

tpe said...

Yes, but it can sometimes feel especially difficult to articulate these things. On the one hand, you don't want to make it sound and feel too contrived, because these are your realities you are trying to express. And then on the other hand, the unvarnished versions are often too painful to touch and simply demand a distancing technique from the writer.

I think you have done very well, Anna MR.

I can see what you mean, too, about your adulthood serving as a shield for (or maybe from?) the younger you. It's never really that simple, though, is it? Memories and hurt, like water, have a habit of sneaking under the door and slowly filling up the room.

Love to you, Anna MR.....


Anna MR said...

TPE, my dear, dear friend - what can I say but thank you: for your understanding, for your wisdom, for your kindness, for your goodness. For your friendship, more than anything, perhaps.

Love to you, TPE...