Esther still sought dignity,self respect, self esteem; to a degree she had found it in her little town. A town of streets,roads,lanes,churches,fewer pubs and now a wind-farm where white arms silently whirled near fields,valleys and their municipal rubbish tip where pigeons and rats scavanged and fed from yesterdays rubbish.
She wasn't rubbish anymore. She didn't feel rubbish anymore nor did she hate anymore or yesterdays shadows impinge on her life so much. If there was one thing she hoped her writing would do was a small hope that if, having read this true tale, some might think again before they judge those who don't fit with their fitted world or live in the best streets in town.
Her dream of finding a new life in a place where others didn't know her or of her past had faded. A place where antiques, people in steeples,lanes,woods and the flowing Ise River carrying yesterdays flotsom called harder to her now.
She was Esther; there was nothing the matter with Esther;faults dreams,white lies, the same as everyone else. There was a tomorrow to live where she might, she hoped continue forgive and take forward the best of what she had from the past when she first knew what love really meant.
If she couldn't discover her paternal roots perhaps it was time to stop and so for a while she did!
It was difficult to explain why she needed to do it and quite strange how the thought had just appeared. As usual, she had sat quietly amidst the small group in the same parish church where she now only went for funerals and weddings. The Millennium Committee listened whilst she made her suggestions.
“I know history is important and that I have no intention of repeating all the historical books that John, our historian here, has already written but I want to take another approach”.
They all sat quietly listening, including their new parish priest, Father John. Then she continued,
“I am thinking of all the people I have grown up with here and the varying lives they have lived. I want them to share their memories with me, if they will”.
They all agreed she should go ahead, as long as she was prepared to do it unsupported, which didn’t worry her too much.
She then coaxed her son James into designing a poster on her little computer, including a map of the town and what were her main aims. Then the artwork was displayed in various shop windows, including the newsagents on Wellingborough Road and then she waited for a response. Did she have people battering at her door or blocking her driveway and annoying?
Perhaps folk simply did not trust her enough to share something as precious as their memories with her, for it was quite a big thing she was asking them to do. Her new opening came quite naturally and, in fact, unexpectedly whilst visiting a dear friend who was already aware of her intentions and also knew quite well about her past, remembering meeting Esther’s dad when they had been on a family holiday in London; that must have been just before he had died, she had thought.
Now was the time to try to move on
Everywhere, including on the radio, TV, in newspapers, among other support workers, in shop aisles and at coffee with friends, the main topic of conversation was the millennium year. A time of new beginnings maybe; tidying up stuff from her past.
“I know it’s silly hanging on to mum’s things all these years, so I think you are right, take them away somewhere. Please though, do it when I am out with Kate and Caroline shopping next weekend”.
Arthur reached out and lightly touched her on her shoulder as he put the attic ladder aside for a while. Esther then carried two small boxes containing, amongst other things, their now grown-up children’s stuff, including Caroline’s homemade Christmas cards from both nans, and a telegram sent by her mum at the birth of her first longed-for grandchild. There was a clay model made by Kate of a fireman with a large tummy and glasses, just like her granddad George. It was as Esther continued with memories and all of their past lives, that she came upon an essay she just couldn’t remember seeing before. As she read it she realized just why.
At the weekend when everyone was lighting bonfires in their gardens, Daddy took us to see Mummy in hospital and she cried lots. We didn’t know why she sat on a seat in the park and Daddy stopped pushing my swing and went over to give her his hankie and she told him off for using such a dirty one and he got mad as they sat together. Daddy said to us that she was there to help her get better and to try to stop crying and being so sad. He asked us not to keep wanting to know when she would be back home as he didn’t know and that would be up to the doctors, not him, but he couldn’t cope with her just now. Then a kid in the street thumped me and said mum was mad and she wouldn’t be coming home again and I thumped her back.
The essay was, after all, their past, so Esther carefully folded it and put it back in the pile with all the rest of their memories. She then thought back to those long, lonely days in a locked ward where she and the other patients swapped their own reasons for being there, each time with a cause from their pasts when experiences had first scarred them, and there they were locked away from those who may have created that pain.
No telly in the ward, but a headset hospital radio. She recalled an odd curtain that had been mysteriously replaced round a bed at the end after a patient had hanged herself from it; but no-one knew about that till they got home again. Then there was food served on blue plastic plates with clear lids scratched from the dishwasher. Staff dealt with them kindly mostly.
Laura suddenly remembered the day she had taken the four children to the hospital. When she reached the ward, sister asked them to wait, and when they got to James, they found screens round his bed. He had been put on a saline drip, she found. Forty-eight hours later, he died. She sat through a long, endless day behind those screens. She held his hand as he struggled to stay alive and, at last, he was gone from her and her little family. At first she was numbed by the shock and could not take it in, and then had come the utter, hopeless grief. It was as if part of her body had been amputated. She was never again to be the same complete woman. She was still the children’s, and she loved them all passionately, and she lived for them completely until they were all grown up, but the joy had gone from her life forever. She was in this depressive state when she met Joe…
He was sixteen years older than her and she had met him after falling for the charms and smooth talk of his pen-friend Braille letters. She had agreed to marry him because she yearned for some kind of companionship to fill the terrible, aching void in which she existed; soon had begun her bondage. The chains that were holding her were hard and unbreakable, and the position made worse by the knowledge that she had put them there herself and quite voluntarily. Now only death could separate her from Joe, for he was a Catholic. Most of the time she had been a buffer between the children and her cruel second husband as she shielded them from his angry outbursts, taking the blame herself and she did this as a desperate desire to protect her children. As for herself, she soon discovered that Joe was a hard, sadistic, cruel man and she had to endure long tirades of angry, virulent speech. He tried almost to keep her a prisoner in her own house and if she went out of the house on a shopping expedition, she would dread the reception she would get when she returned in the late afternoon. The years had slid away. She had grown more and more dejected and empty until she felt an empty shell. Now, though, Joe was dead and she was free (if only that had really happened then, thought Esther, as she continued to read her mum’s story). How desperately sad it had been that her mum was never to have her chains broken free from him until dark death cut them free and her family was then left with memories of her whilst they picked up the pieces that were Joe somehow. True now, in spirit, she could go out and come back when she felt like it and there were no more boundaries or restrictions called life.
Oh, how Esther hoped that death was not the end but instead the beginning, and that somehow or other she was gazing down with her beloved James as they all moved on with their lives.
As Esther had grown she hadn’t ever loved the pathetic weak creature she saw but she did often feel something that bordered on sorrow that one human being should hurt so much and then pass on that hurt. Yet she wondered why he was as he was. Maybe because he had gone to boarding school, where he had scrubbed the floors at night and had soap pushed down his throat by those that should have cared for him then; but then hadn’t others had far worse pain and still got on and lived decent lives?