I did a reading today at The Queens Hotel in Leeds for a conference of children in “Care”.
How institutionalised must we be to believe that “leaving care” is a good thing. Look at those words again “leaving” and “care”. Until the words reflect the situation we’ll always be in a mess. There’s a leaflet that says “can the state be a good parent”. But as long as the state can not hug a child it can’t be a good parent.
I was in a pub once with a few friends and we were talking about our earliest memories. I’ve got a shite memory. I think its because of early and consistent trauma in childhood. If there is noone to remind you it happened, how can you prove that it did. Memories are established in equal proportion to their relevance to other people – family.
Anyhow, I really wanted to join in. “did you ever remember thinking there was a rope that you could grab”. No reaction. I tried to explain it better. “When you were really really young, at infants school, in the sports hall. You know, a rope that you could haul yourself up with.” There were blank expressions all round “You must’ve” I said more desperate now. “I thought everyone had that memory. You are lying on the floor on your back and you think a rope will dangle down and you can put both your arms out and grip the rope and pull yourself up – at the same time the rope would pull up too. Everytime I did sports in the school hall as a 5 year old I thought the others were doing the same thing”. They were not.
I thought that this was one of those universal memories that all children had. The whole table said no. Later on that evening as I walked home a memory filtered through the darkness. A boy on his back with his arms outstretched, not at school. It was much earlier than that. Much earlier. No-one came. It’s my birthday next month.