Childhood

In 2014 I was told my totem is the bat - a black bat. I have them tattooed all over my arm. A castle with bats. Graffiti on my fingers. Toes.

My Mother's pregnancy was complicated. Let's just leave it at that. My Father thought he was going to lose his beautiful Wife. 

My parent story is classical and beautiful. Meeting in Glasgow, Scotland. Invited to a dance. Courting (where did that term disappear to?) Love letters and audio tapes.

My father immigrated to Australia (short stint in New Zealand) and kept corresponding over four years. That is correct. You read right. Four years. Eventually my Mother decided to come to Australia and they lived in a unit before buying a house in Bexley, Sydney. My great Uncles and their partners soon followed.

Sydney was booming. My Father (trained as a horticultural gardener in Scotland) found he could work at anything he wanted to. Being a very physical person he worked at many differing roles that involved manual labour and long hours. My Mother, a gold medalist nurse trained at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow and was soon working at St. George Hospital, Kogarah, Sydney after a stint working at Sutherland Hospital where I was born.

We grew up religious. Church on Sundays. Early service, mid morning service. Night services. Easter. Christmas. Lent. Bible classes where my mother taught. Slide nights of the Minister's trips overseas (yes). Bible readings. Choir. Fetes. Camps....and that is a whole other story. In short, Christ Church, Bexley, Sydney, Australia was every bit that. It was our social life and little occurred out of that reference point.

Grace before breakfast, lunch and dinner. No TV.

That's correct. In the entire time I lived in my parents household we never owned a TV...only when I left did they get a television. Yes...we had a phone. A big black bakelite one. I could never understand why my parents recited the phone number to the caller upon picking up the receiver.

I remember that my Father worked incredibly hard as did my Mother. Long hours. We lacked nothing. Everything was about us as children. We lived humbly and we lived well. We lived in a home with home grown vegetables, hand built cubby houses and a steel wheelbarrow. Seaforth Park was our sanctuary and hot balmy nights riding scooters seems to be the best memories I have. I also have memories which collide with those softer ones.

Asthma. Chronic. Postural drainage till my ribs ached. Skinny, I ran from everything. Terror dreams. Alien visits. Climbing trees in the dark. Exploring drains. Smoking behind the cubby house. Screaming, shouting and ending up in hospital with a split head and ear. Stitches. I feared my Father. I grew up tough but resilient.

My earliest childhood memory is one filled with blood and fear. It isn't worth recounting here.

My Mother read me everything there was to be read. Fairytales spun my brain into fantastical adventure and being an inquisitive child (still am) I explored (still am) and built things and created (still do) with no interruptions except for meals. Sleeping was boring so I spent many hours burrowed away in books. Newspapers. Flyers. Medical journals (MIMS). Comics. Arms heavy with books from the library. Curled up under my bed sheets with a small torch I was whisked far far away...from here. This place.

Bexley Primary was filled with kids from 55 nationalities. I was the odd Anglo out. "That Scottish kid..." My boy friends were Lebanese, Greek, Yugoslav. My girlfriends were Italian, Croatian and Italian. I do not remember a gender divide but I do remember the monkey bars, asphalt playgrounds and getting the cane.

Repeatedly.

Mr. #####, ...you are a cunt. You took great pride in hurting me. I was your target and not even my parents knew how many times you almost broke my fingers.

At age 7 someone discovered I could draw. That saviour might have also saved me further harm.

Took a photo of me with a lead pencil and a dinosaur. I thought it odd as I had always drawn since I could sit up. In chalk on the back step. In the food on my plate. On the steam of the bathroom tiles. 

Some say that evangelically we grow up as sinners, guilty, repenting and forever needing redemption. Others posit that we live here and now and that the past is past and the future isn't here yet. It took me many years to discover that existentialism is as close as I get to a religious label. Even Buddhism has it's schisms. I know. I've lived them....a number of ism's.

Scottish, broad and alone my parents kept to themselves. Home was always this far off land where everything was greener but also blacker.