I spent last weekend in sunny Kettlewell, North Yorkshire. It was the annual Association of Christian Writers weekend at Scargill House with Adrian and Bridget Plass and Tony Collins from Lion Hudson.
The weekend involves seminars about writing and then we are given a challenge…This year we had to choose from playing with 300 words and creating something magical, or writing about a journey.
Two of us, independently ended up writing on the same topic. Anne Jordan is the author of Behind the Sea and myself wrote about autism and disability based on true scenarios. Anne gave me permission to publish her story here, and you will see where it comes from as you read it. My story is based on a young lady who is my friends’ daughter. Here they are…
A Mother’s Journey. A true story by Anne Jordan
The year is 1944. The young woman has an appointment with the school medical doctor of health. With her is her three year old son, a trusting gentle lad with blond curly hair. The young woman is here to ask one possible life changing question, “Is my son normal.” She lists her worries, the strange face contortions, the awkward gait, the stammer, not wanting to play with other children. Is she worrying too much? She knows she is a worrier but her instincts are saying something else.
She scans the doctor’s face but cannot trace even a thread of human emotion. Her voice trails away in to a tense silence. She waits for him to speak.
“Take him away he’s an idiot, he will never go to school, he will never learn.”
She flinches as the bullet words fire against the white walls of the room and burn the air. This is her child, a gift from God. No she will not own this, she will seek another opinion.
The journey to Great Ormond Street is uneventful. London is still recoiling from the events of the blitz. A faint burning smell still lingers in charred buildings.
She weaves her way down unfamiliar paths with youthful agility dodging spectre shadows of humankind, her quest, to find the cathedral of medicine. She finds it, now inside she sees a notice ‘careless talk costs lives’ apt words for today. She waits. A figure in white calls her name, another white room. Will she hear kindness this time?
“My dear we have worse children than this here. It’s the war.”
It’s another dismissal; there is no time for those who are not normal. What she will do now, she thinks? She will teach him herself. The will sing nursery rhymes count trains, make cars, play shops, she will show them.
Let me take you forward to spring 2016. The little boy with the blond curly hair is now grey, He is my brother. I think about his life, going to school, qualified electrician, hobbies, drivers licence. My mother did a good job. She would do it again for my grandson, who has autism, if she was alive today.
Oh and by the way my brother beats me at Scrabble!!
I’m having counselling for it!!
The Sacred Diary of Stephanie Green aged 9 ¾ – by Lynn McCann
“Well-cooooome! How are you?” says the lady with the sourdough smile, all pretentious on the outside but heavy and indigestible on the inside. To my mum of course, she didn’t even look at me. It’s the same every week.
“We’re fine,” says mum brightly, even though she hasn’t slept for days. I can’t help it if the night time is when I have the most urge to bounce. There’s something in my brain that just won’t switch off and go to sleep.
I love my mum. She’s my guardian angel, my nurse, my cook, my teacher, my servant…and a better actress than Judy Dench.
We go in, mum shuffles towards a seat at the back, but I’m having none of it. I want to go where the rainbow lights are. They’ve not arrived yet, but I know he will bring them, the man who comes to dance with me.
But first I have to sit through the boring bit. A man with a strange rustling dress that sets my teeth on edge talks and talks in a voice that sounds like buzzing in my brain. Today there’s a stomping noise through the building as the heating runs through its pipes. Can’t others hear it? There’s a crowd of unfamiliar people whose chatter assaults my ears as if a motorway was rushing through my brain.
Then the sourdough lady says we can’t sit in this place. She wants us to move to the back. I sense my mum’s touch as she puts pressure on my back, “It’s okay, I’ll keep you safe,” it says.
But it’s too late. I cannot process the noise, the clanging, the thunder in my brain. The answer is no. I cannot move. I will not move….my brain goes into meltdown.
I don’t know how we ended up at the back of church, in the dark and empty porch. I came round, being cradled by mum mum. She was crying. “I’ll take her home,” was all she could say to the sourdough lady, frowning at me as usual.
Through the glass of the door I saw him, the man who brings the rainbow light. Before anyone could stop me I bolted from mum’s grasp and straight to him. Then the band began to play and the worship songs I love so much filled my tired brain with white joy.
The man laughed and waved his arm towards the stained glass window and on cue, the sun appeared from behind the clouds, bringing the rainbow lights that smothered me in ecstasy as I danced amongst them.
Me and Jesus, dancing in church.
I think the sourdough lady ‘tutted’.