I’ve met death before, but it never wrapped itself around and choked me, like it’s doing now. When children are buried under a landslide in a coal mine in Aberfan, it makes everyone very miserable.We hear our teachers whisper to each other about a school incased in coal. We children are gloomy because we watch the news with our parents and see huge mounds of coal.
“What’s a ‘slag heap’ Mum?” a lot of coal Angie in a large pile, like a hill? Mum replies her eyes glued to the flickering black and white screen. “Why are people crying Mum? What happened to the children? A million and one questions pour out unfiltered and children learn that children like us are buried underneath a black avalanche, and our parents shake their heads around us, and hug us just a little bit tighter than usual. Parents mutter to each at the school gate and look distraught and we watch sobbing parents over and over again on our screens.
When I’m in Primary school, Winston Churchill dies. My mother doesn’t think very highly of him, she says,
” he never set foot in Jamaica, just stayed on his ship when he visited the Caribbean.”
We learn that he made grand speeches about fighting them on beaches, but Mum is not impressed. She kisses her teeth “Chuuppps.”We all know this is a sound which means dislike, distain, disbelief and don’t care, all in a single sound.
All our family watch Churchill’s funeral on television one Saturday. At school our class make a large scrapbook history of his life from magazines and newspaper cuttings that our teachers give us. We also write our own stories about him, although we don’t know much about him, just that he likes sticking two fingers up in photos, the victory sign, but if you turn your fingers the other way you are telling people to fuck off.
At the end of the year the teacher gives me the honor of taking the scrap book home. “Look Mum we made this at school,” Mum glances at it. “Find a safe place for it” she motions with screwed up lips to a place in the corner of the room. I’m enormously proud of my scrap book and keep it for years looking at the clumsy writing of eight year olds and the slightly askew placing of back and white photographs.
Then as if in a fit of absent mindedness, when I was least expecting it the scrapbook disappeared.
“Mum have you seem my Churchill book?” “Oh you mean that old thing that was falling apart, I threw it out ages ago.” and she Chuuuupses long and loudly.
When I’m in primary school my older sister Rose Marie starts attending secondary school and Rose Marie’s books are more interesting than mine. Secretly I borrow Rosie’s copy of “Lord of the Flies,” and read it.
I still wear pink round National health eyeglasses just like “Piggy.” I’m scared.
“I hope I don’t end up like him,” I say to myself” over and over again.
I worry about this a lot and never tell anyone.