Today is the first time I can remember writing the words, “My brother” I think he died when I was about two years old and he was five. I have no memories of my own about him but I do have four grainy photographs. Frustratingly, in two of them his head is turned away from the camera! I know nothing about him as a child. In fact I am still looking for his birth certificate and his death certificate.
I know if he had been born in the same generation as my children he would not have died of leukemia. All I have is a note from the nursing staff who cared for him in St Mary’s Hospital, Stratford (London). I think they were touched by the little boy with curly brown hair and big brown eyes. They cared enough to write this letter to his devastated parents. They cared enough to tell them that he was loved.
A family history should be more then records stored in anonymous buildings. Families are made with love which may ebb and flow with time, adversity or luck! In the absence of any research material the best I can do is to share my own words.
Hold My Hand Brother
Many photographs of the young boy were tantalisingly incomplete. “Boy with head down” , “Boy looking at feet” were titles that came to mind when viewing them. A couple of them had escaped the ….. There was one that stood out from all the others. In this one the young boy was perched on the edge of the fountain in Trafalgar square. In this one his dark, deep set brown eyes looked straight into the camera lens. His sturdy little body radiated the stilled vitality that seemed to encapsulate the countless photographs of young children when they are forced, cajoled or bribe to, “Stay still!”
Not much is known about the young boy’s life. At least not the personal ones that breathe life into an image. Of course the important chronological details are a matter of record even though the record is a short one. Date of birth, date of death. But what was his favourite colour? Did he have a favourite toy? Was he frightened of the dark? “Time heals all wounds” we are told so perhaps that’s why he was never spoken of. No one wanted to disturb the healing. Pragmatically I understand this but it doesn’t help. I regret not asking when I had the chance.
A mid life crisis is the butt of many jokes but is less real when you are the one experiencing it. The urge to find my roots is not very original but then neither is a mid life crisis. It also presented me with a second chance to find the answers to the questions that had never been asked.
As the child of a Ten Pound Pom my journey took me back to the East End of London. I scoured my birthplace for the playgrounds, the streets and the people who had lain dormant in my mind for so long. I was surprised at how many were still there. Still reachable and still a part of me. Families told me of things that had happened that were only vague wisps in my imagination. They recalled times of shared memories that began the process of connectedness that I had never consciously realised was missing.
Conversations jostled seamlessly around the room from one person to the next. They all centred around “me” as being part of “them”
“I remember coming around to your place one day when you were about two years old. You were waiting for your Mum to come home from work. There you were, chatting away, holding your brother’s hand.”
It is almost impossible for me to give words to the emotions that this memory unleashed. It happened so fast it took my breathe away. There was no warning. No intellectual reflections to analyse. In the smallest passage of time the young boy had become my brother!
When I started “Warts and All” I viewed it as both a hobby and as an outlet for creative writing. I did not imagine it would prove to be so much more. If you would like to share one of these moments with others please add your comments below.Just Vicki