A place to run to and just ‘be’

17 Aug

It’s been a while and I need to update my blog. Welcome if you’ve been referred to me via http://www.onlymums.org and thanks to Twitter’s @OnlyDads for recommending me!

A place to run to and just ‘be’

I spent ages 7 – 18 living in Hartlepool. It’s where my mam and dad grew up and once dad had left the RAF that’s where they chose to settle. I have mixed feelings about the place if I’m honest. I made some fantastic life-long friends there, had a fabulous school life and I LOVE the fact that it is by the sea. But a lot of crappy stuff happened to me whilst I lived there too including, finally, mam dying in June 2002. She was the only reason I ever used to go back so once she was gone there was no point in me visiting anymore.

In fact, I’ve only been back twice since my mam’s funeral. Once in 2005 and then just a week or so ago. So who did I visit then and who have I recently gone back to see? School friends? No – they all live elsewhere. Family? No – Aunty and Granny fell out with me after mam’s funeral [another story for another day perhaps!] Who then? Aunty Jean of course!

Aunty Jean isn’t really my Aunty, but that’s what everyone calls her. When I started primary school there was a girl in my class who I sort of knew but didn’t really play with – Claire. As well as being in each other’s class, we also ‘did music’. I had clarinet lessons with her and we were in the choir. Once at secondary school we became good friends and she encouraged me to get involved in ‘Oliver!’ – a show Claire’s mam was putting together…cue Aunty Jean.

Aunty Jean is Jean Williams. English teacher and Aunty to all. She never taught me but I was involved in the shows she did and being Claire’s friend I saw her a lot ‘out-of-hours’. She’s a fabulous looking, warm, intelligent, strong, thoughtful, caring Welsh lady! [Just like Claire tho Claire’s not so Welsh!]

Everyone who knows Jean knows that her house is open to all and there’s a glass of sherry in yer hand before your bum’s even hit the sofa! She has guided many, many students over the years…not just in the study of English, Literature and Theatre, but in life!! No wonder she was awarded the MBE for services to education.

For me, she’s been someone really special. She always kind of looked out for me and my little brother and sister [who also knew her when they went to college] and said lovely, lovely things about what an amazing lady my mam was. It’s since the loss of my mam that she’s become even more special to me.

I have lots of lovely friends [including the aforementioned Claire!] and a small but perfectly formed family. I miss my mam every single day and she’s been on my mind even more so since Squidger came to live with me. There are many times in life when I feel a bit insecure and need a reassuring call from my mam – who doesn’t? When I get those times I can ‘hear’ what mam would say to me. It’s nice. But it isn’t ‘real’. There are times when I need a real person to give me a reassuring squeeze…and my sis, brother and friends all do that for me. But sometimes I want/need the reassurance of someone older and wiser than me. Someone who’s had their own children. Someone closer to my mam’s age. Aunty Jean is my someone. And now she’s on Facebook! Brilliant! I use FB as my confessional so all anxieties, worries and joys are headlined there. Aunty Jean’s comments are often the very thing – like a mug of hot chocolate, or a shot of whisky!

I’m not on the phone to her every week and I’ve only actually seen her twice in the last 8 years, but she is ‘there’ nevertheless. You know the times when all you want to do is go home to your mam’s. You wouldn’t actually do anything or talk about anything in particular, you just wanted to ‘be’ at home. When my mam died I lost that. I felt a bit adrift. There was nowhere to call ‘home’. Not even bricks and mortar since she lived in a council house! But Aunty Jean [and the wonderful Uncle Ken] have always made me feel that there IS a place I could go to and crash and just ‘be’ if I needed to. And for that I don’t think they’ll ever know how grateful I am.

I took Aunty Jean up on her offer to ‘visit anytime’ earlier in the month and Squidge and I made an overnight trip. It was food for my soul. A good gossip; chats about old times; a touch of ‘home’. I took Squidger on a tour of my old haunts: by the beach; my old homes; schools! It felt good and sad all at the same time. I was with someone who knew me as a kid and was now seeing me as a mum myself. That’s a nice feeling. It felt good to be back by the sea again. Gosh I miss living on the coast. The sound of the gulls, the smell of sea fret – so soothing.

Let’s be honest, my trip home was in some small part about the trip I haven’t been able to make. The trip home so that Squidger could meet her Grandma. Mam would have been in her absolute element. She was an excellent mum herself and I am sorry she’s not here to help me with Squidger. What is it about becoming a parent that makes you want to revisit your own childhood? I guess, despite some bad memories, my overwhelming memories are happy ones…and Aunty Jean helped to reignite some of those for me. Thank you!

Squidge and I had a great time up in Hartlepool. It was an emotional visit for me tho’. On the way home I did a drive round tour of everywhere that had been significant to me when I’d grown up there. Finally, I drove past my mam’s old house. I could see her standing at the window waving and smiling just as she had done on May 23rd, 2002. I must admit to crying big heaving sobs as I left [Squidge was asleep]. I can only hope I’m half as good a mam as she was. I also hope Aunty Jean knows how much I appreciate her, and Uncle Ken, and doesn’t mind me writing about her! xx


4 Responses to “A place to run to and just ‘be’”

  1. Zoe August 17, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    just remember, when your mum had you – she was a new mum just like you are now, with all the concerns and excitements you are feeling. Who was she turning to for concern? Who was her Aunty figure? Who has/ had the answers? None of us and none of them – in their ‘old style hats and coats’…This feeling of newness, lump in throat, anxiety and hopefulness is what we all share.

  2. Sara Callaghan August 18, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    That was so lovely Sam it brought tears to my eyes. I can not imagine how hard it is for you, as I still have both of my parents but I can empathise with you having lost grandparents and the feelings that has brought. I know that you are a fantastic mother and that Squidger is a very luck little girl. I remember Jean and Oliver and the fantastic time we had during the production, it seems a lifetime away and I suppose for some it is. Whatever you do in life and where ever you go Its good to know that you have very special friend from childhood. Jean is a true star and I’m sure you are as inspirational to your Daughter and your students as she has been.

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