Thursday, 13 August 2015

A Lesson From Ann

Today I had chance to think. I’m not very happy with my last blog post, which is why this one follows so shortly. My blog wasn’t created for me to rant. It was made so that I had the opportunity to reflect on past experiences, and appreciate the people and events that have led me to where I am now. (And also a great opportunity to learn to write like a human being again).

So this blog will be focused on a woman from my childhood, who influenced my life without probably ever knowing.

I was about 6 years old and I remember being sat in a room with my sisters. I don’t remember my brothers being there, but they must have been. A woman came in and explained that my mum was going away for a while, and that we would be staying somewhere safe. I can’t remember what exactly happened, but I remember different places, none I knew well enough to be able to form a description. I remember my mum’s friend. I remember the drive to my Uncle Georges house with honey sandwiches. The smell of honey still makes me feel sick.

My Uncle George’s girlfriend would say “Call me your Aunty Julie” to which my twin sister and I would reply with the uttmost loyalty, “We already have an Aunty Julie”. I have the feeling she never did like us much. I don’t know the setup, but my twin, Charlotte, my little sister, Melissa, (then about 3 years old) and I would go to stay with a foster parent for various weekends and holidays. Her name was Ann Jackson. She was one of the kindest ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Ann took us to carboot sales, a cowboy fair, the first holiday I remember at Cayton Bay. She bought all three of us rabbit teddies. Mine was called Brownie. Because he was brown. Inventive isn't it? They were all different colours, and I think all three of us have them still. She was determined to make us have the most of our childhood, so I remember her making us go to the foster care group to watch the total eclipse. I didn’t even understand what it was at the time. I just knew from the way all the grown ups went on that it was probably something important and cool.

One of the most memorable things I remember from Ann was how supportive she always was. When the letter sent from my mum came through the door, she would sit with us and read it. I remember her being a kind and patient woman. She never lost her temper when we came bundling down the stairs at earlier hours, or when she’d catch us jumping on the bed, and arguing way past our bed time. But the thing I remember about her the most was her wisdom. She had an certain air about her. More so than other adults. It was as if everything she said was the truth and she was always right. But not in a “I’m always right, you should always listen to me” kind of way. But in a “You can trust me. Believe me if you wish, but I’ll be here if you don’t anyway”.

She taught me a lot of things. A lot of things that I didn’t appreciate until I was a lot older. This is the worst thing about it because I didn’t thank her when I was there. I can’t remember knowing that it would be the last time I got to see her. It had been a while since our last visit. We were in a petrol station and she was there. My Uncle George said hello and we followed. Soon after that we had gone to live in Bradford, and Ann was just a memory. Had we been naughty kids? Once in an argument my mum said that’s why Ann didn’t want to foster us anymore. I don’t know if it was true, but I hope it isn’t. We never saw Ann again, but I think about her all the time. Is she still in the same house? Would she know who we are if we did find her? Would I recognise her?

I don’t know the answer to any of those, but I know this. I know that she instilled something in me that didn’t truly come to life until much later in my life.

Charlotte and I had been fighting for some reason or another.
“I don’t like her” I said to Ann.
“Yes you do. She’s your twin. You love her” Ann replied.
“No I don’t. She’s always horrible to me”
“Laura, you both love each other. She’s not horrible. You should always try and see the best in people even when they’re not being nice to you. Now go say sorry” And with that, the fight was history and we were back to being best friends.

That lesson is something I have tried to remember, especially in trying circumstances. I no longer remember her face, or her voice,  but I remember those words. I remembered them when I received horrible emails when I first came out as gay, I remembered them when an old man at work made fun of my accent, and I’ll remember them whenever the world turns into a dark and miserable place.

I hope that one day she will get a chance to read this, or her family will. And everyone will know what an amazing woman she was and how much of a difference she made to three very scared children who felt alone and abandoned.

Thank you Ann. Wherever you are. I hope I get the chance to meet you again, and thank you for everything you did for me, and the person you helped me become. 

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