Sunday, June 01, 2008

I just spent half an hour online looking for it

Do you remember, PG Tips used to have little cards inside the box, teabag cards? For a while they were Flags of the World, and there was a series of Mysteries, too (I remember at least two mysteries - there was the Bigfoot, and also an image of a medium spewing out ectoplasm in a ghostly shape), but the one I want to reminisce about belonged to a series of landscapes, I can't remember what the uniting factor amongst them was, if it just wasn't a Places of the World sort of thing. I had moved to London quite recently, let's say less than a year ago, and found a boyfriend and become a sort of a step-parent as well, as my boyfriend had a son who turned three in our first October together, and whom he was trying to see regularly and from whose mother he'd had a messy separation not that much before I met him. We collected the PG Tips teabag cards for his son, and he actually got quite good with knowing the flags of the world. I think we kept the flag stack at our house so he had something interesting to look through when he stayed with us, but I also had a little collection of the landscapes series which I gave to him. We were taking him back one night, to his mum, and in the car he sat at the back with me, his dad was driving, and we were talking about this and that, the little boy and I, and I have to say people hadn't really taken a great deal of trouble talking to the boy, my boyfriend included, and this should have served as a forewarning for me but it didn't, because youth is stupid and I was only twenty-one and alone in a strange country and a city too big for me. So the little boy looked through the stack of cards, there were maybe ten or so of them, I hadn't that many landscapes, and there were two of the same - a castle at sunset, somewhere, maybe Wales but more likely not (that would have been too much synchronicity), somewhere by the sea, the sky was pink and blue-hazy and the water reflected it although there were waves, and you could see the turret and the castle wall and there was a mist in the air. It was a beautiful if a little kitschy shot, the cards were small, remember, about half the size of a packet of ciggies, and he realised he had two of the same, and he wondered silently over this for a moment and then, I think without saying a word, he gave me the other one, and I intuited he wanted me to have it because he had decided to trust me and be my friend. Eight years later when he had become the half-brother of my two sons and I left his dad, I spoke with him on the phone once, once only, his dad put him on I think simply to hurt me and make me feel guilty and bad, and we spoke a few words, I said I had to leave your dad but you know I love you, don't you, and he said yes, yes he did, and that he loved me too.

I failed to keep in touch with him, I sent him a card and a trinket for his twenty-first birthday, from Hawai'i, ten years later - ten years! - but he didn't write back. It belongs to the category of "things I did really badly make a mess of", and I think I still have the teabag card somewhere, somewhere, it is certainly embedded in my memory, this card given to me half my life ago, by a small child who trusted me with his friendship and who will this autumn be the age I was when I became a mother, and I wish there was a technique to pull images off the brain and download them onto Macintosh computers, because I would like to put that picture here.


nmj said...

This is beautiful to read, Anna - I can just feel that wee boy trusting you as he hands you his extra tea card.

I remember those wee cards, I think all kinds of tea had them, maybe not?, but my memories are more vague, of the kitchen in my childhood, 70s, I can see the sliding doors of the high up cupboard and the wee indented circles you used to push & pull them.

Anna MR said...

Thank you, NMJ honey. This issue of How I Failed to Keep Up with My Step-Son is one I keep in the mental nook reserved for things to upset myself with that cannot be changed.

In my half-hour search for the card, I think I have uncovered which series it belonged to - "Discovering Our Coastline" sounds like a very possible candidate. Hello, all teabag-card collecting nerds out there - if you recognise mine from my description, I am willing to write you stories without using a letter of your specification, in return for the card. Or really, any other sort of stories as well. Just name your price.


Reading the Signs said...

Anna, guess what? I too met my stepson when he was not yet three and his father (the worthy Mr. Signs) was trying to see him regularly after a messy separation. And I was older than you were and emotionally ill-equipped and not like you - didn't learn how to be with children until I had had my own. But in this respect circumstances, fate, many things came together to make it ok, and this boy, who I came to love dearly, who is now a man, came with his girlfriend for Sunday lunch today.

You have written about this beautifully and I am moved.

I think also that the people, especially the children, that we carry in our hearts do know, at some level, that this is so. Even if they might not be aware that they know. I hope that the boy who gave you the PG Tips card knows. I am glad that you were there in his life, for a space. I am thinking of him now. And you.

Anna MR said...

Oh Schwesterchen, too much synchro-life to comprehend, really. But thank you for your words of comfort (it's always extra nice to move you). It was a bastard thing of me to have done, though, whichever way I look at it. Abandoning a child. Horrible, inexcusable.

I wish he was in my life, still.


Merkin said...

Any of these look familiar?

Anna MR said...

Merkin, you are currently my hero of internet searches, for there it is:

14 Dunstanburgh Castle Northumberland
The dramatic rock outcrop - the Whin Sill - on which much of Hadrian's Wall is built - surfaces again as Dunssanburgh before its final appearance as the Farne Islands. The great rock under the castle is an excellent defensive site and has been fortified since as least 1255 - when Simon de Montfort held is. On de Montfort's death - the stronghold became the property of Henry III whose son - the Earl of Lancaster - strengthened is considerably before he in turn was executed. Next John of Gaunt re-organised the defences - primarily as a blockhouse against marauding Scots and - despite repeated attacks - the castle never fell.

My description (and memory) of it a little flawed - there aren't any waves, strictly speaking, as the disturbances in the surface of the water are caused by rocks, but it is unmistakably and (for me) instantly recognisably the card I remember. Funny thing is I was on these pages and couldn't seem to navigate into looking at the full set. Thank you, that was a delight to find (and in spite of the typos in the text, which I'm itching to correct since I only cut and pasted, I am tickled pink by the mention of the "marauding Scots").

For all interested parties, and also for the benefit of those who couldn't care less, the link is now under my name here.

Merkin said...

Good that this Maurading Boldscot proves he can still please the ladies.

Curious, though.
Which is better, the flawed memory of the photo or the one you can see now?
Or do they reinforce each other in some way?

I ask for a reason.
I 'lost' a batch of photos covering twenty five years ie nearly all my photos from first camera to late thirties.
I still have the photos but they are stuck together in a huge mass after drying out.

Nonetheless, I still get flashbacks to particular photos and situations that were on film.
Just curious as to whether I would be disappointed if I ever manage to restore these photos.

Dear Mister Agony A,. . . . . . . .. waddya think?

Agony A, MR said...

What a tale of total horror and misery, Merkin - losing your photos, I mean. I hope you get them recovered, somehow (maybe they'll develop a technique for getting photos unstuck from each other, in the future, you know). I think they (my memory of the card, the actuality of the image) do reinforce each other, in some way, but how exactly is very hard to say. Possibly I like the image in my brain better, because it's the one I got from the little boy, if you see what I mean. But it's super special to be able to look at the "real" one as well - there is an anchoring into reality there, or something, fucked if I know, oh dear.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Anna

Lovely. Sad. And good luck with getting a photo onto a Mac. I've been trying two weeks!

Anna MR said...

Hei Pants - two weeks? Was this generally onto a maccy, or a brain-to-maccy transfer? For if you manage the latter, let me know, please. I'll happily put two weeks into that effort.

Lovely to see you, incidentally. Sorry about late reply, hoping all is well in the upside-down HoP.


LottieP said...

This is a moving story, Anna. I want to know if it really is too late?

If I were this boy I would understand that people do things for real reasons and we are all imperfect and he will remember that you said you loved him and know it is true.

Track him down and tell him again.

trousers said...

Oh, ms mr, this is indeed lovely and moving and sad. And those cards have got me feeling more than a little nostalgic.

I heartily concur with the sentiments expressed by everyone here x

Anna MR said...

Lottie dear, I'm sorry to have left you and your lovely comment (thank you for it) unanswered here for such an age. It's totally shite manners of me and I apologise. I know what you mean, though - I ought to try again, I feel I owe it to him and the relationship we had when he was a child. But oh, does it feel difficult...

and housut, hei, the apologies go for you too, as do the thanks.

x x