She left the Elm trees swaying in the early spring breeze, picking up rocks as she walked. Feeling the smooth, calm, coolness of them as she slipped them into her pockets, one by one.

She was leaving the only home still standing, the only one ravaged by pain, rather than the Germans. How could she hope to recover this time, when once again, everything was beginning to tear at the seams?

Another rock, another weight.

She had left the notes, only two. Her words hadn’t flowed and that’s when she knew.

Another rock, another certainty.

She returned to the Elms, swaying in the summer sunshine.

Finally finding peace as she slept beneath the intertwined trees, which she had once named after each of them.

‘Against you I fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O death! The waves broke on the shore’

~ Virginia Woolf, The Waves

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Where The Swings Used To Be

I jotted this down as a note a few weeks ago on my phone. My husband and I had gone up to Gloucestershire to visit my parents for a few days, and on the first evening we took our dog out for a short walk before bed.

If you have read my previous post, you’ll know that my teenage years were a little difficult with school and the bullying that I encountered there. This feels like a good time to share this writing… not only as a follow on from that, but also because I’ve realised that going back to a place can stir up so many different memories, emotions and even behaviours. However, I have also realised that a ‘safe space’ doesn’t always have to be co-ordinates on a map, it can also be a person.

I am very lucky, that my safe person is my husband. I realised when I spent time in Gloucestershire a couple of days ago without him, that I felt very different to how I feel when I am at home in Somerset. He helps to ground me, here in the present. He reminds me – often without words – that I am safe, I am loved and that I am not a scared fourteen year old girl any more.

I still have a lot of healing to do – but I have been with him now for sixteen years. Sixteen years of visiting my parents and not once did I attempt to bring him to this place described below – it was too painful. However, as an adult, with him by my side, with the healing that I have started to do I felt brave enough. However, as you’ll read, it did also stir up a lot of emotion.

This is unedited.

I was going to take him there, to show him the spot where a smaller version of me would sit, and wait

I never knew what for, but I knew where I didn’t want to be, where I couldn’t be, who I couldn’t face, again

Two swings and a slide, bark upon the ground. It was like a little secret area but it wasn’t a secret at all.

My mum once told the woman from the school that I could be anywhere, that I knew those alleyways like the back of my hand… I didn’t know them tonight as a woman. I lost my way, doubled back.

It was gone, all of it. I looked at the house that now stood in its place, it was established.

Nearly 20 years on and I am not established.

Bricks and mortar don’t erase a place. They don’t erase the sadness that a place can hold.

I wonder if when they tuck their children up in bed, they know that a girl once sat in this place because she didn’t know where else to go.

That she was so lost, just 5 minutes from home.

That in 20 years she would hold her husbands hand as she looked for that place, the place that is so vivid in her mind and find that it was long gone.

Just another house, in another cul de sac.

But one full of memories.

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Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

They all called her Treasure, the reliable and friendly ear at the end of the day as they sat and drowned their sorrows before going home to their wives.

She had been working the strip bar for most of her life, seen many come and go. There was a time when she worked the floor and the poles, but not now…

Now she was a mother. Not in the literal sense, she had never had an opportunity like that, but she was a mother to her girls. The wide eyed and lost, turning up out of the blue looking for some money in their back pockets and a place to hide out, so long as they didn’t mind exposing their secrets for all to see.

She loved them like a mother would, didn’t that count? In fact, she loved everyone like a mother would… always a friendly ear or a soft bosom to be comforted by. Some stayed, but many moved on. Back to the big city or off with the newly discovered love of their life, many stayed in touch. The mirror behind the bar was strewn with photos of places she’d never been.

No… she stayed, as summer gave way to autumn and the years ticked on by, she stayed. She told herself, she knew that this was where she was meant to be. She put her uniform on every day; the lipstick, the make up, the skirt, top and heels, she did it for them. She got herself in the bar and she listened… she listened as they drank and wept, listened as they celebrated the birth of their first born, second born, third and fourth born. Listened as they told her they were single but the tan lined band on the finger told a different story. Listened when they got the job, didn’t get the job, hated the job. Listened and comforted when their dog died, or their parents or their wives. She poured the drinks and leant in close and she knew these lives inside out and cared for these people like a mother, each and every one…

If she left, who would listen? So she didn’t leave. How could she leave? She knew her purpose was within these familiar walls. On her good days she knew she was doing the world a purpose, these people could go on to do great things, simply because they had been heard.

And so they all called her Treasure, because that’s exactly what she was.

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