I was a sickly kid, some of it I remember some of it I don’t.  I wrote about the tricks of memory and they do abound.

Mostly I recall being in bed, soup, cute PJs…and the things associated with unwellness. I seem to have made it from 6 months to 4/5 years old reasonably ok. I don’t know how long I was in hospital, that is one question I never thought to ask. By the time I was pre school age we had moved to a smaller city. It was a Cathedral City, I am therefore unsure re the population or facilities. Clearly there was a hospital as my mother continued her nursing, at night. She slept through the day.

‘Marjorie’ came to live with us. She was what we would now refer to as a special needs woman. (she had been a long-term ‘patient’ at the hospital where my mother worked)  I am not sure what the special needs were. To me she was a rock. An ever-present advocate and defender. She would back me regardless. She made tomato soup for me. She loved me. She stayed in my life for about 5 years, yet she has remained in my heart forever. One day Marjorie, one day….

I started school and I started ballet classes. My ballet teacher married one of my school teachers.

I still recall this happy healthy moment. My mother made the dress. The lining was forest green satin. I wonder now who took the picture?  Shortly after I came down with rheumatic fever. I referred to ‘patterns‘ that became part or my life, from this major illness onwards those patterns were a powerful, mostly disruptive part of my life. These days there are some residual effects but the major impact was overcome. Just in time.

As illness eroded normal life, I missed more and more school. We relocated again, this time to a large city and a better lifestyle. The illnesses continued. When I was 8 my mother in, what I can only imagine was an act of desperation, thrust into my hand pen and paper and told me to write…This was a PIVOTEL moment. The 3rd in my life, maybe 4th. I was enrolled in a private school for girls and I felt safe there, able to be me. I see attributes of me now, that only came into being in that environment.

Yet the illnesses continued, increased,and perplexed my parents and doctors. As I entered my early teens the issue of illness began to build walls around me and in me. I began to draw away. To hold back due to the ever-increasing insistence that I was in fact quite well. I tried to believe them. Yet clearly something was wrong. In just a few years we would see what this insistence did to me, and then a few more years later came the confirmation that something was in fact not OK. Something serious.

My education suffered, not due to lack of ability, I see that now, but due to lack of confidence from prolonged absence and the intense expectation that I ‘be well’. If they were telling me I was well and I didn’t feel it then clearly the problem lay in me – somewhere. If not in my body then perhaps in my mind….

I am reminded of the words of Madeline’s lament

Something is not right
Something is quite wrong
 Something is not right….

M A D E L I N E