I wonder where you are right now? I am here – in my bedroom, in the house that I share, lying on my bed, propped up on pillows, legs bent to push this laptop close to my hands. I can hear the breeze in the trees outside, the gentle thump of the tumble dryer downstairs, and a train passing. I can feel the weight and heat of the laptop on my thighs and stomach. I can feel my hair, still damp from a recent bath and a vague, but always with me,ache in my lower back – I assume it is an unavoidable symptom of the gradual onset of middle-age. And I am thinking about you.
I wonder where you are right now? I wonder what you are doing? Are you indoors or out? Are you sitting, lying, standing? Are you still or moving? What task are you engaged in? Is someone with you? What sounds can you hear? What can you feel? What mood are you in? What are you thinking about? Are you thinking about me?
The answers to these questions will remain unanswered of course, but you are out there in the world and I am here – separated by 35 years and unknowable distance.
But it wasn’t always like that was it? We were once as close as it is possible to be. I was inside you. Part of you.
Most people cannot process the idea of a mother abandoning a child. Fathers they can get on board with – easily dismissed as assholes – but mothers they find a bit too complicated. Do you tell people? Do you tell them you abandoned your children? Do you explain that your two-year old son was “too clingy” so you called social services and demanded they take him away or you would kill him? Do you tell them you saw me once a month for a couple of years but even that became too much of a commitment for you, so you fucked off on holiday to Scotland and disappeared?
If you don’t, but you’re desperate to, then you have no need to fear judgement. At least not in my experience. You see, whenever I tell people, they often seem to have more empathy and understanding for you than they do for me. They offer explanations and justifications – you must have been suffering in someway, you must have been unwell. And they ask me why I have never looked for you but they do not ask why you have never looked for me – and you have not looked for me because if you had a Facebook search would have sufficed.
There was nothing wrong with me you know? Two-year old’s are notoriously hard work. Learning to tolerate some separateness from mother, and the frustrations involved in this, is an entirely ordinary developmental stage. I know this because I read books about attachment, object relations theory, and much else besides. I read them to understand the children I look after now and the children I hope to help in the future.
Although, of course, that’s just a cover story – I read them to understand me.
There is quite a lot wrong with me now but then my mother abandoned me when I was two – and that’s the kind of thing that will fuck you up.
Don’t worry too much though – I am doing OK. Dad did his best when he could and we are still in touch. Plus, I have been lucky enough to meet people who have treated me with a compassion and generosity I neither solicited or deserved. So I have not become an alcoholic or drug addict, I have never been homeless or served time in prison.
I have had some pretty serious bouts of depression mind you, and generally I feel quite low. I am not sure why that is really – maybe its connected to feeling inherently unlovable. I guess if your own mother doesn’t love you then it’s quite hard to truly believe anyone else will.
As you might imagine – my relationship history is a bit of a train wreck. My most recent girlfriend finished with me because she felt she had to mother me too much. It was a completely fair comment. You don’t really need to be Donald Winnicott to understand what might have been going on there.
This letter has turned out to be more bitter than I first intended. I am sorry. I do not know what happened to you – what your life was like before me. I wish I did. I know you probably thought you were doing the best you could do. And I do realise, when you called social services, you saved my life and I am grateful. It’s just, by any measure, your best wasn’t really good enough.
I hope, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, that you’re doing OK. I hope you are no longer suffering. And I really hope you think of me sometimes.
It’s just that I missed you.
All my love