Naturally I remember the day we first met. It would be strange not to when it altered my life so radically. People around us thought it a dalliance. But I felt differently. I sensed there was change afoot. Doors were opening.
December 11th 1994
“I’ve met the man I’m going to marry,” I told my mother when I came in that night. She’d been waiting up for me in the living room, knitting a bright blue jumper for one of my cousins, by what was left of a once roaring fire. A handful of shrivelled coals glowed in the grate, their heat reaching no further than the boundaries of the old shag pile rug. Outside the wind picked up. It toyed with the letterbox and rustled leaves as if it had lost something important and was hell bent on finding it. A powerful down draft whooshed down the chimney scattering ashes and soot all over the place. The wind must have changed direction.
“Hmpf,” was mother’s response to its mischief. She set her knitting down on the table and reached for her trusty brush and pan.
Mother belonged to a generation of women who were typically very house proud. She had a low tolerance for dust and dirt of any kind, even in places where it was quite normal to find it – like the garden. After she’d swept up every little speck she settled back down to her knitting with a sigh. I was beginning to wonder whether she had heard me at all.
“So was it a good night then?” she asked eventually.
I felt let down. I’d been looking forward to seeing the surprised look on her face when I told her my news. But she didn’t seem interested at all. As I warmed my bare legs, I started to realise how ridiculous I must have sounded. I’d walked in like a fool, spouting off about my latest crush. Statements like that belonged in romance novels. Not the lives of regular folk like me. Yet the words had fallen out of my mouth before I could do anything about them. Something in them rang true. They were instinctive, like the feeling of being watched or the knowledge that someone is honest.
No matter how trite they may have seemed at the time I have never been able to forget them. Years later I would still remember the innocence they held. In the dark. On the road. Whilst our children slept in their beds. I would wear them again like clothes, found locked in a dusty attic. They were the ball gowns and frocks left over from another time. When I wore them I became another me.
I waited for her to burst my bubble, to echo that faintly audible warning coming from a far off place inside my head.
“You’re only sixteen! What are you doing? You’ve already had one relationship that ended in disaster. Are you really ready for another? What’s your rush?” the little voice had protested, as I had kissed my Irishman in the corner of the pub.
The more his dark eyes had burnt into mine, turning me to wax with the mere act of his presence, the more I shushed the voice of reason. His strong hands had felt perfectly right on the small of my back as we shuffled around the dance floor of the market town pub. I have no doubt that as we moved in synchrony he too was forcefully rebuffing his sensible side so that we could get better acquainted without hindrance.
“So I gather that you’ve met someone,” she said, looking up from her rapidly clicking needles.
The delay in her response was irritating.
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll tell you about it some other time.”
How was I to have known she’d be so upset that I’d come home an hour and a half late? Besides my head hurt and my ears were ringing, thanks to the pulsating beat at the pub.
“I have to go to bed,” I admitted, yawning widely. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Hang on just a minute now. I want to know what’s happened.”
My hand hung just above the door knob and I turned slowly on my heel. Well, better late than never I suppose…
“I thought you weren’t interested,” I teased, slipping my arms around her neck. She patted my hand and kissed me on the cheek.
“Of course I am. I’m just tired and I’ve been worrying where you’d got to, you know.”
“I’m sorry. We just lost all track of time.”
“So who is he? What’s he like?”
“Hang on. Just let me get out of these clothes first. Then we can talk.”
“Alright. I’ll be up in a few minutes.”
That was more like it. We were both wide awake now. Chances were we’d be burning the midnight oil on this one.
She stowed her knitting in the black and white check bag that she’d owned since the dawn of time while I shuffled off in search of my beloved PJs. From in the bathroom I could hear the kettle boiling in the kitchen below and the familiar sound of the battered old tea caddy being opened. Mum was never without a cup of tea in her hand. Especially during moments of crisis or excitement.
A short while later we found ourselves sitting on my shell pink bedspread, dunking rich tea biscuits into scalding tea. I was in my nightshirt because I couldn’t find anything else and mum wore her pale blue quilted housecoat that she had once bought for a stay in hospital. I wondered if she could see that I was still slightly inebriated. I hoped not, because she’d raised me as a Jehovah’s Witness since the age of four and they were never particularly impressed when one of their own went down that path.
Mother could testify to that better than anyone. When her first marriage had broken up, she had turned to drink in a big way and had got into a terrible mess. You would have thought that they might have offered her support, but instead she was expelled by the church and shunned by its members. How they thought this would help, I don’t know. Yet, somehow she managed to claw her way back from the brink of self-destruction and was now a fully fledged, teetotal member of the flock again.
“Well,” she said after taking a long slurp of tea. “What happened then?”
I definitely must have been a little drunk still because once again I repeated my ridiculous claim.
“I’ve met the man I’m going to marry.”
She responded with a strange lilting laugh. It made me feel good to hear it.
“Marry?” she said.
There was giddiness in her voice – a tinge of excitement, which I wrongly interpreted as approval. I’ve thought about the way we were a lot since that day; the late night chats that ended up in me sharing far too much information and the way she had to know simply everything. I’ve come to understand that there was far more to us than a mother and daughter who were just ‘very close.’
Modern thought has it, that some mothers develop a relationship with their daughter’s that’s so close it’s more like a friendship. They become enmeshed in virtually every aspect of their child’s life to the point where they live vicariously. In other words they live through their daughters.
Over the years we had become like that, especially after my first serious relationship foundered. She had prided herself on being there for me, when my heart was broken and those of my own age let me down through one reason or another. We would sit on my bed for hours, talking about what had happened and examining the minutiae till we lost all track of time. Poor Dad must have felt out of it I’m sure. But neither of us gave it much thought. We were simply doing what felt natural. It was parenting on a whole other level.
The lines were in danger of blurring further still now that this had happened, yet neither of us cared to acknowledge it. There was a lot that I did not see that day whether by choice or through the act of neglect. The recklessness. The neediness. The eagerness for this new relationship to simply be.
I assured her I wasn’t joking and gave her a little more background information on what I hoped would be the new man in my life.
“I met him at Steve and Rachel’s house. It’s Antony’s brother,” I said, trying not to look too besotted.
“So he’s a Jehovah’s Witness then?”
That was important. For us there was no such thing as dating for fun. You dated with marriage in mind. Nothing else. And nobody was supposed to marry a ‘worldy person’ or in other words someone who was not of the faith. You had to stay in the club.
“So he’s from Northern Ireland too. How exciting! You must tell me all about him,” she said, patting my knee.
I wasn’t hard to convince. I’d been bursting to tell her since I’d walked through the door. So regardless of the hour and the amount of vodka hurtling through my veins, we talked until the morning. Not mother and not daughter. But two friends with a story to share.
by: Samantha J Wright
sales rank: 526843
After a chance meeting at the age of sixteen, Sam leaves behind her father and her reformed alcoholic mother and moves to Northern Ireland to set up home with a man she barely knows.
The two of them continue to practice the religion they were both raised in but scratch below the surface and life’s not what it appears. This story documents her battle with depression, abuse, the aftermath of suicide, a troubled marriage, and most of all her disastrous involvement with the Jehovah’s Witness church.
It’s a journey that cost her dearly and as many of her readers have already discovered, Not Your Legacy is far more than just a series of real life events. It retells the story of one woman’s metamorphosis of mind, body and soul.