So this isn’t weird at all right? Writing to your dead mother and sharing it for the world to see? I mean, I could just sit here talking to your ashes that are sitting on the shelf in the original cardboard box, wrapped in an M&S bag, in the wicker basket with the black bow and ‘tasteful’ hessian blanket, yet somehow that just seemed too awkward.
Remember when I had just turned 12, Grandad bought me a Commodore 64 for Christmas? My first computer. I’d had a funny little typewriter toy that was supposed to teach me to touch type…I was OBSESSED with the thing, spewing a string of letters for me to hit, increasing the speed each round. I never did learn to touch type. But I loved it all the same. Perhaps I had a competitive streak in my early years? But I digress, you may need to get used to me doing that, it’s a bit of a habit. We didn’t really have many conversations in my adult life, so you maybe wouldn’t know that about me…but it’s something I remember about you…your brain firing off in a million directions; always curious, incredibly creative, sometimes downright delusional, compassionate and spiritual, while at times terrifying, as you shouted both sides of a ‘conversation’ alone in the kitchen.
But back to the C64…I remember sitting at the dining room table in our family friend’s house pouring my pre-teen heart out through the keyboard and watching it flash up on the screen. Thing was, I wasn’t very technically savvy, and although I had a little tape recording thingy that plugged in, I couldn’t for the life of me save what I wrote. But I wrote anyway, and at the end, off into the ether it went, like a sand mandala brushed away once all the hard work was complete. God, I would love to read it now, I can just imagine all the angst, confusion and drama. Our messed up world seen through the eyes of a 12 year old, a child who had only days before declared to a social worker that she wanted to move to London to live with her aunt and uncle. Confident enough to add the caveat that if that couldn’t happen I’d rather grit my teeth and stay with you than go into foster care…the memory of the night I spent with ‘child services’ indelibly inked into my memory along with a personal vow never to go back there. No. Matter. What.
I took great comfort from the fact that my Grandfather’s final gift to me was that computer, he left this world not long after, but left me with somewhere to direct my attention as my entire world crumbled and was rebuilt in a matter of months. It only recently occured to me that me typing away on that chunky keyboard, trying to put into words what I was experiencing, would in today’s age have likely been my first blog post…thank God it was 1992 and the internet hadn’t made it into our homes yet, let alone social media…I can see the memes now:
I was a pretty sharp tongued little cookie and had more than my fair share of pent up anger just ready to unleash via the likes of Instagram.
A couple of weeks later my aunt and uncle came and picked me up in their VW Golf, packed up what little belongings I had into the boot and began the first of many trips down the A1 to my new home, new family, new school, new dramas. I looked back briefly once, to see you standing on the curb, but as we pulled away I didn’t look back a second time, I never wanted to look back and I rarely ever did when we said goodbye.
To your credit, in your more lucid times you must have realised it was for the best that you let me go, you could have clung onto me. You’d just lost your father, your only safety net in a tiny, rundown town full of judgemental, twitchy curtains and nowhere to turn. The events leading up to my departure being enough to fuel the gossips for years to come, but with the perfect tabloid ending, losing your child…because they would likely never truly understand that you didn’t lose me, you set me free, and that was probably the biggest sacrifice you could ever have made, which meant you were in fact a billion times better than those ‘perfect’ mums with their afternoon teas, perfect smiles and cheating husbands…yikes, there’s that angry 12 year old #sorrynotsorry
I’ve decided to write to you now because there are so many things about our life and our relationship that I truly didn’t understand, as a child, as a teenager, in my 20’s, even up until 34, when you died. Some of which I get now, especially with a daughter of my own, and others I still wrestle with. But we never reached the point where I could share any of this with you, and so much of it needs to be said – I’m pretty sure that though you can’t read my mind (I really hope you can’t, it is a mess in there?!) that somehow putting it all into words that this time won’t be brushed away, will mean they get to you via some crazy digital/spiritual osmosis – don’t worry, I’ve not become a Scientologist.
Letters were really your main form of communication with me once I left and until you passed…and boy did you love to write them. Pages and pages of stream of consciousness. I could tell if you were sober or drunk when you’d written them, or if you were medicated or in a manic state, I probably learnt my best lessons about communicating tone through the written word from you…probably not an approach I would wish for others, I must say. The contents would swing from wild fantasy to updating me on the latest royal news courtesy of Harper’s, Hello or Vogue, your favourite magazines. Sometimes you would be angry and ranty, others apologetic, heartbroken, lost. One theme that ran through every letter or card or annotated magazine page was how much you loved me, that I was the best thing that ever happened to you, that I could achieve anything, that I needed to aim high because I had so much potential and was destined to do great things – because hell, I was the illegitimate daughter of Bon Jovi wasn’t I? I was set to be a superstar…one of your many delusions, but there is still a part of me that wonders when I see him on the screen, his 80’s perm (a feature of my earlier years), our eyes, it’s a little creepy I have to say. But how sad was it that while you succeeded in ingraining that self-belief deep, deep, deep, deep, deep down (with more than a little reinforcement from my aunt and uncle I must add) our broken relationship and let’s be honest, your at times shaky mental or intoxicated states left me questioning the legitimacy of the source, and in turn whether any of those things could be true…and true to form I chose the path of least resistance – why hello low self esteem, make yourself at home. But sometimes, when I get very low and therefore very, very quiet, a tiny little sound comes from the depths of the mine, a canary that has just enough oxygen sings me a song, reminding me I was destined to do something great, and that I need to keep going, because one day I’ll find whatever that is, and everything we went through and I’m going through will not have been in vain – oh and can I Uber Eats it a little dinner, because seriously, a bird’s gotta eat. You put that little bird in front of me, long before I even knew how to dig.
I’d better go, I promised to be home by 6 and I have to get your granddaughter some dinner and into bed…she’s quite the character, but I think you probably saw that when you met her. I tell her she’s amazing, that she can be whoever she wants to be and to aim for the moon…I hope she truly believes it, that she learns to sing her own song to the moon more often than she listens to the canary, but I will put it there anyway, just in case.
It was good to talk to you. I hope wherever you are things are better than they were on this godforsaken planet…you’ll be enjoying the news about the royal wedding I bet, less so the situation with Trump, but even more so the current women’s movement, after all #youtoo, right? I forgot to mention, ‘he’ got in touch with me last year, not sure why he chose that time, but he wanted to send me pictures of you from ‘before’….I haven’t looked at them yet, that’s unchartered territory, before he irrevocably changed you, broke you and left you in a jumble of pieces that just never quite fit together again, an entire lifetime before me, but we can talk about that later.
This is the first in a series I will be sharing on my personal blog, Remember To feed The Canary…but if you would like to see it here let me know in the comments xx