I learned at a very early age, what prejudice is.
At that time, I didn’t know what it was called, being very young, that word was not in my limited vocabulary. I did know however, that I was treated differently than other kids in my small Irish community… Skin colour or religion had nothing to do with it, as we were all the same colour and all of the same religion, sexual preferences didn’t come into the equation. When I first became aware of being treated differently, I was about six years old. Like all prejudice, it was bigoted, unfair and dished out by ignorant people who wanted to somehow elevate themselves in their own eyes. My crime was to be ‘motherless’
I lost my mother at the age of two and a bit. Not everyone was unkind; some showed me their pity, and that embarrassed me and also made me feel very different to my peers.
The cruel ones would treat me with callous dismissal and distain, and as someone of little importance, ignoring me at community functions, unless of course, they wanted to find out some private family business, then they unashamedly grilled me for details. If my sister got wind of me telling our business to anyone, I got a beating. Kids with mothers, who all knew each other, were praised and encouraged to do well, whereas I, was simply ignored, because they knew there would be no repercussions.
My maternal grandmother, would treat me as lesser than her other grandchildren. I was often forgotten at meal times. When it was dinner time, all the kids were seated at the table, except for me. I seemed to be left out a lot, just forgotten about. I was too afraid to ask for my food. Sometimes, my grandmother would tell me to go home for my dinner, knowing full well, there was nobody at my home, and no food for me to have.
I can to this day remember the beautiful aroma of the food cooking, and all my cousins visiting from England, well dressed and well fed, being coaxed to eat. I, undernourished and shabbily dressed, waited, hoping against hope, to be seated at the table. On the occasions when I was fed, I would eat slowly, trying to make it last longer.
My father did not fulfil his parental duties to any of us. My sister, the eldest, and my senior by twelve years, was my primary care giver and in reality, far too young for that responsibility. She showed her frustration, by abusing me both physically and mentally till I was in my mid teens. To this day, she refuses to admit her treatment of me, so that issue has never been resolved, and as a result, I have little or no love for her.
My brother was ten years older than I and didn’t play much of a part in my life.
My father often told me, he wished he had put me into an orphanage. I can remember so well, being fed up hearing this statement. One day, on hearing it yet again, I turned around and replied. ‘Wish you had done, I probably would have been much better off’
He was also fond of threatening to gas himself, when he was feeling sorry for himself.
This was something I hated to hear him say, but as I got older, I used to tell him, I’d give him the money for the meter! I didn’t mean that of course, but I was learning to speak up and not take everything dished out to me.
He and my siblings would go out at weekends and sometimes during the week nights too, leaving me alone. On one of these occasions, I was so frightened because I thought I could hear someone in the house, I ran to a neighbours crying. It was about midnight and the neighbour, trying to calm me down, was taking me back to the house to show me there was nobody there. My father came up behind us, a bit the worse for drink and as the neighbour took her leave; my father didn’t console me or try to comfort me in any way.
I just felt myself being lifted off my feet as he planted his boot in my ass.
I had caused him embarrassment and that was my punishment for that.
I could go on recalling many instances, but what I really want to do, is to instil in minds, that we can and do rise above all this sort of prejudice and cruelty. If anything is to be said in favour of my childhood experiences, it’s that strength was born in me out of a necessity to survive. I stopped believing that I would end up bad and that nobody liked me, that I was ugly and that I was useless. I knew better
I moved away from my home and my country. I worked in factories and shops and then sat an exam to get into a government job and against all odds, I passed the exam and that was the start of me being able to use my intelligence.
I am known today as a very strong individual, a person who is fair but very straight up front. I don’t say one thing and mean another. You always know where you stand with me. I love to laugh and joke and I certainly do not dwell on the past. I have great compassion for anyone who is downtrodden in life and particularly when it is for things which they have no control over. I can honestly say I am not afraid of any human being.
I see everyone as equal, no matter what their colour, religion, sexual or religious preferences. I have no heroes, nobody in my book, is better than anyone else.
I admire some individuals and some organizations, in particular those who help children and animals. We are all beautiful in our own unique way. Everyone has something to say and should be listened to and taken seriously.
We all have the right to an opinion and a right to our expression. We have a right to respect and dignity. The important thing is to express. Those of us who have been blessed with the gift of writing and poetry are so lucky. Our INK is our salvation, with our ink flow; we can take care of much of our emotional issues. We can get them out there and in doing so, we can revaluate and in a lot of cases start to heal. Our INK is our empowerment; it will be there long after we have gone. Our words will live on.
Frankie. July. 2010
All those days so long gone
When fear and terror filled my childhood years
Now just wisps of swirling drifting smoke
Licking my nostrils, jogging awake a faded memory
Providence bestowed upon me a keen intelligence
The older I got, the more I learned how I could use that gift
I reasoned with myself, talked myself through my fears and insecurities
All the negativity instilled into me, all the dire predictions of ruin and gloom
were carefully examined and bit by bit, I repaired my thoughts
No more struggling through the swirling churning waters
Of the undercurrent of my life with no lifeline, no learner floaters
When you get thrown into the sea of life, not being able to swim
you do anything you can, to stay afloat
Every raging mountainous wave you conquer is sapping your strength
You fight on, spluttering and gasping for every breath, the breath of life
I dog paddled my way out of that raging, churning sea of contempt and negativity
Every time, I went under, I struggled back up again, splashing, gasping, choking
Fighting every torturous inch of the way,
I MADE IT
Nobody pushes my head under anymore, nobody would dare try
I am no pebble skimming the murky waters of life
I am a huge rock with all the barnacles, shells, and thick seaweed of life
clinging to my toughened, street wise, skin
Repaired thoughts have seen me soar high above those murky waters
Flying through sodden rain clouds, seating myself on the rainbow’s arc
My thoughts on my station in life, and my role in it, were repaired
Nobody manipulates, degrades, belittles, or dismisses me
I was flung head first into the cruel, churning, unrelenting sea of life
My only choice, to sink or swim
I SWAM THE DISTANCE!
Frankie. July. 2010