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I Married My Mother by Hilary Maraney

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I Married My Mother

I Married My Mother uncovers the complex relationship between a mother and daughter, from a dreamlike quality of wonder to fragile emotional states.  A surreal memoir about a little girl growing up in Cape Town in the fties, set against the backdrop of a white middle class society, seen through the eyes and voice of the child.  A holographic journey into the psychological effects of hosting the ‘enemy within,’ the heroine scarred by the myriad reections of her mother’s negative entities.

Delapse – Fairytale

by hilary maraney  10 years old Kings Rd School 1952 delapse_ all fall down fairytale_ make believe Once upon a time there was a little girl  who thought that life was beautiful. One day she met a bad wolf  and spent the rest of her life trying to save herself and failed and nally gave up struggling and killed herself.  And that didn’t help her because she had to come back and face the bad wolf  again and again until she said no to the wolf but he didn’t listen so eventually  she had to kill him which frightened her but she did it so she could be free.  And it was only then that she could see the wolf ’s identity. It started with mother moved on to husband, son then another and another. Oh, she cried they’ve all become me … so she let go of all of them one by one and a beautiful pink rose grew in her heart and she spelt

Copyright © Hilary Maraney, 2007 Cover photograph: Benny Maraney   All rights reserved. Made and printed in Cape Town, South Africa. ISBN 978-0-620-35086-0 (print edition) | 978-0-620-44264-0 ( PDF ebook edition) No part of the publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.  (publisher)

to meet my Aunt Gladys. She fetched him from Waterloo Station and that was the rst time he saw Mummy. He was leaning out of the window of the train. He recognized Gladys and waved and stared at the beautiful girl with her. Her younger sister,  Vera. She wore a sky blue dress and hat, her fringe peeping out and he loved her instantly. They were married like the prince and princess in my storybook and lived happily ever after.  Then I asked about Larry and Dad said Larry had come rst, being a boy. I didn’t think I liked being second. I could never catch up. I asked Mummy about it that night. She laughed as she tucked me up tightly in the bunk. “The rst time I saw your father I thought he was an Indian. His skin  was burnt from the sun. He was the best looking man I’d ever seen.  You’re like him. An Indian princess.” “Will I marry a princess?” I whispered, half asleep. “Yes, of course. A prince. And be happy ever after. Now go to sleep.  We’ll be docking tomorrow. You’ll meet your cousins.”

teddy and loo

 We lived with Auntie Phyllis. All in one room above her and Uncle Mark’s Kinema. My cousin Esme-Sue was a few years older than me. Everyone called her Sue except Auntie Phyllis. Sue wore thick glasses and the prettiest dresses I’d ever seen. She was best friends with Aunt Gladys and Uncle Henry’s daughter, Sheila. My brother adored Sheila. She bossed him around but he didn’t notice. I was thrilled to be a cousin too and have girls to play with but it didn’t work out quite like that. I was the baby to be spoilt and petted when they felt like it, discarded when they didn’t. Mummy said Auntie Phyllis had waited eleven years to have Sue. She and Uncle Mark loved her so much that she could have anything she  wanted. And so she did. She had a special room, a nursery lled with toys.  A Forbidden Room … ‘you’re not allowed to be in Magic Land, Hilary.’ My cousin Sue showed me into the room and told me never, never to touch. Each and every toy lining the shelves was unique, hand-made and as far as I could tell alive, waiting to play. A teddy bear leaned against  Jack-In-The-Box. Dolls in prams with pink satin bows, treasure chests, and in the corner back-lit by light from a window so high, stood the

in the air and seated her gently on Dobbs, who rocked proudly back and forth carrying his mistress with pride.  Allowed to look but not touch. I secretly vowed I’d come back to hide in this magical room and nurse those dolls, arrange tea parties for two, invite Sailor Boy and Loo, the Wettoms doll with large blue eyes, real hair, her own pram. No one would know my deceit. On Sundays Sheila joined us. We played school with me as the pupil pretending to read the words I hadn’t already learnt, or Mums and Dads.  Afterwards, because I always had to go to bed earliest they settled me down with a story and Sue brought out her special tin. Her plump ngers  wrenched it open. The three of us stared longingly at its contents. We  were allowed two sweets each or one biscuit and one sweet. Because of the war everything was rationed. Sue had more than most people because Auntie Phyl took supplies from the Kinema stock. I’d usually settle for a blackcurrant lozenge and chocolate wafer biscuit wrapped in silver paper. The papers became twinkle stars for the play school. Many an hour was spent in that room while Sue was away at school.  All the toys woke up and together we’d travel to the end of the world. Dobbs, the rocking horse, never ever grew tired. One afternoon, just before tea, I noticed a bottle lying on its side on the bookshelf, half hidden behind the  ‘Now-A-Day and Every Day Fairy Book.’ I couldn’t resist a bottle as small as my thumb. Dark navy blue with a round red stopper. It smelt like heaven. In my heart I knew it was  wrong. But the dear little bottle was my delight. My secret and Loo’s.  After all, I’d found it. Into my pocket it went to stay there ’til the night. I hid it in one of Dad’s old cigarette tins in my crayon box. I’d been  wicked. I waited. Nothing happened for a week or two. Then one morning Sue said as she opened the front door, “Mum, I can’t nd my perfume bottle.” “You go off to school. We’ll look for it this afternoon.” I didn’t put it back. Next day, a terrible cry from Sue, the girl with it all. “The bottle is missing. Oh, nd it, do. I cannot rest ’til you do.”  We all went hunting up and down and all around the house. Drawers

In the afternoon when Mummy rested I ran downstairs quick as I could. In the Kinema below the at I was allowed to sit and watch suitable lms for a child my age. My greatest delight was through a door marked PRIVATE where I pushed aside velvet curtains, found my way in the inky light down the aisle and squeezed between the seats until I was in the middle. The seats were velvet too, with worn patches everywhere. Once I sat in one that had a hole in it large enough to wiggle my little nger. I usually took my Wettoms doll. It was her outing. She couldn’t stay upstairs alone. She might cry if she did. Gazing up at the wide screen, snowakes of ickering grey white and black danced across the wall. Pictures appeared, a lion roared. He turned his head from side to side. A voice boomed in my ear, “British Movietone News Presents …” Music ooded the hall and I was off on adventures so wild nothing could ever compete. Every heroine was me. The only reality was on that screen. Half of me believed all the people were real, they spoke to each other but I couldn’t be certain. It seemed like the make-believe games I made up, only different. For grown-ups. After a minute or two I didn’t care. All I wanted was to be in the play. The King and Queen and Princess Elizabeth and her sister giving a soldier a medal. How grand it must be to be a princess, although they didn’t wear crowns and they only  wore coats.  Auntie Phyl’s voice boomed out as she walked down the aisle offering teas, hot chocolate and biscuits. All going for 5p. each. Musicals were the best. I promised myself. I vowed to God. I promised the doll on my knee that one day I’d be a star on that screen in that world of make believe, where everything imagined came true. Daddy thought so too. “You’ll be an actress, my actress.”  As long as I told someone where I was I could watch the pictures. I never told about the scary ones. I had to shut my eyes and stick ngers in my ears. I couldn’t bear it. They called it war. People went to sleep if you hit them bad and never woke up again. Soon after that we moved to our own house. Grandmama Lily helped.  Although she wasn’t really grand I loved her. She lived with Auntie Phyllis, Uncle Mark and Sue and looked after everybody.

tea. Auntie Gladys sang and giggled with Uncle Henry. Rosie called out ‘Who wants currants’ as she put the hot buttered scones on the table. She lifted up her skirt to dance. They sang ‘ Knees up Mother Brown ’ as I bent down to catch a glimpse of her putty coloured knickers. They were enormous, ending just above her knees, held there with thick elastic, her grey Lyle stockings wrinkling out of them. Sheila said I was rude to look and worse to laugh. But Grandmama knew and winked at me.  Two apple trees grew at the bottom of our garden. Dad attached a swing to one of them. I spent hours swinging, breathing in the summer garden scents all mingling together. Blackberries, redcurrants and gooseberries grew higgledy-piggledy over the rose bushes. My garden was lled  with fairy friends calling out to me, dancing a fairy ring. I ran through the kitchen, out of the door tiptoeing on the fairy dew. Bluebells in the witching hour with cherub faces took my hand and led me to the dance. Round and round in this ring we danced, their clothing like mist enfolding me. Music played sweeter to my ear than any heard before as I sang, “Please God, I want to play all day. I’ll bring the dolls. I’ll make the tea. A celebration it will be, as fairy friends and I discourse, beneath the apple tree.”  This was far better than Sue’s magic room. It was my special place  where anything wished for came true and everything was safe. Larry unlocked a door in the fence near the apple tree. We walked along a path and suddenly we stood in open ground with waving grass and lilac and yellow owers. Butteries everywhere. Larry whooped, ran and called and I followed as fast as I could. After he caught them he put the creatures in a box. I made holes in the top for air. It didn’t help ’cause they died. Perhaps they were hungry. Larry and I were always hungry. We ate mostly date sandwiches from the war rations. My birthday party. Sue gave me her hand-me-down dress. It was made of organza. The pockets and Peter Pan collar had embroidery all over and the bodice was smocked. It even had its own petticoat to wear underneath. I dressed all my dolls and sat them in a circle for tea while  we waited for the party guests. Sheila gave me a book with stories and

said “unwrap carefully and give me the paper back,” which I did. Inside the box was a porcelain toy tea set for two. Nothing could be better than that. But then it was. And all to do with my dad.  When he came home that night he kissed me happy birthday, told me to shut my eyes and put something smooth and cold into my lap. A handbag  with a zip and a long strap to go over my shoulder. In bright green. “Oh Benny, we’ll be rich, we’ll be rich,” Mum sang. “If we can nd a couple of people to go in with us and manufacture to this standard,” he responded. He drew a pair of men’s braces out of his pocket, complete with holes for the trouser buttons. They were also green, made from the same hard shiny stuff as the bag. “It’s plastic. Soon the whole world will want it. Everything we use will be made from it. You’re the rst little girl to have a plastic sling bag.” I was so proud of my dad. “Will it always be green?” “Oh no, every colour you can think of.”  The bag stayed in my cupboard for ages, even after it faded with scratchy yellow markings. Of course, Dad was right, everyone wanted plastic but  we didn’t get rich. We got cold. The winter came and with it snow. The rst morning I saw the garden covered over I thought the fairies had turned the world white. It melted in dirty, splodged holes with the world peeping through. The air was so cold it made my throat sore. Mummy  was cross because no one had money to buy plastic handbags so Daddy  was making picture frames instead. She frowned; “Who needs picture frames? How are we going to live, Benny?”  The grown-ups talked a great deal about washing machines. Dad knew a man who had a warehouse stacked high with machines from America. He wanted to buy them and nd a shop. Customers would bring in their laundry, have a cup of tea and a chat and presto! the job would be done. Serious discussion took place between Dad and the family which always ended with upset and bad looks.  Auntie Gladys took Mummy into the kitchen. “Henry feels Benny  would be better off with a steady job.”

“Now, you know what the crop’s for. Those men can look but not touch.”  “You wouldn’t.” “You better believe it.” “Have you ever?” “Yes, when I worked on a ranch in the States. I must show you the photos some time. I was grooming one of the horses and the bugger bit me. I just saw red. I whipped him ’til I could not any more. He had to learn, to know who his master was.” “God, Augusta, be careful.” “Listen here, Hilary, you can’t stand by and let a beast tell you, a man or an animal. You know, I grew up on a farm surrounded by love. My parents worshipped me and my brothers treated me like a princess. It was only when I was sixteen or so I suddenly thought … I told the garden boy to wash my car, to do it now, whatever he was doing. I didn’t care. He had to obey. It had been that way forever. I stood there watching him and for the rst time in my life I thought, but he’s not a boy, he’s a man. But you mustn’t take it in the wrong way. It is expected. A person has to be tough, fair but strong. Jy weet? That’s who we are, always. “One day, I was about four or so, my brothers were calling me to go to church. I was in the barn. One of the farmhands told me he had something to show me there so I went to see, maybe a mouse or so. Hilary, I trusted him. I let him lift me on to the hay, ag, you know, I  was about level with his groin. He was pushing at me, fumbling. All I remember is my brothers shouting and he ran away and my mother and father looking so cross in the car and then I thought dit is snaaks, it was funny. My father caught him later that night, left him lying in a ditch at the side of the road. “I must show you my gun. Hey, you should come with me to the shooting range sometime. Ag Hilary, your head thinks fairy stories. You need a gun, to handle any man. That’s what Africa’s turned us into. I could go back to America, have a wonderful career in the lm industry but I can’t leave. I’m an indigenous being of Africa, a tree or an animal. I won’t grow there, anywhere. I’m like my painting downstairs, my tiger. You know, I sleep with my gun under my head.

up. I thought someone had sneaked into the house and was touching my neck, so I thought I would assess the situation. I was calm. I was prepared to shoot to kill. I turned over slowly, pretending I was asleep. Something ran off, a spider or cockroach, perhaps a mouse. “Come now, don’t scream. Ag, you are so scared. We’re living on  Voor-trekker land. It’s wild here. I jumped out of bed for the spray. Now that’s what Africa has made of me. Had it been a man, I would have killed him. “Anyway we must go and show face. As for the farmers, look at the rest of Africa - what would they have had here if the Dutch hadn’t colonized it? No, think about it, Hilary. You don’t know the real story. Pitbulls, no longer useful, chained to railway lines mothers giving birth on the tracks  leaving behind their newborn babies …  farmers forming vigilante groups desperate to prevent a reign of terror  children forbidden to play outside the house  a killer hiding on her sister-in-law’s farm  two nights of tracking and still no trace  her sister-in-law’s friend murdered while her husband was out working the farm  their eleven year-old-daughter raped while protecting the baby two younger brothers helpless, managed to ee  Augusta hopes the army get to him rst  they will shoot to kill  a whole community in shock the manhunt continues  two men are caught  main suspect apparently avenging his father’s death  twenty years ago an accident occurred whilst a group of farmers were out hunting birds, shot richoceted hit a farm labourer

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