Monday, August 31, 2009

The Cusp

From 11 to 12 is only a year but the transition stands out in my memory. 12 was a no-man's land of limbo.

Children's clothes no longer fit, but adults clothes didn't either. It was 1961-62, and I straddled the land of childhood and adolescence awkwardly, feeling as though I belonged in neither. I was always tall and prone to plumpness. Now I was decidedly chubby and in the morphing from child to young woman there was not a swan in sight.

My curiosity about sexuality was partially satisfied by Mum. She did a good job of explaining what to expect physically so that I wasn't surprised by what was happening, but there was another dimension to sex that I learned about from Dad's hidden Playboy magazines and his bookshelf, which I studied with interest. Still, much of it was a mystery that I was naive, curious and confused about.

Instead of walking through the churchyard with its tall elm trees and along the long, hedge lined black path to the village school, my friends and I now caught a bus outside the Red Lion that took us to Redditch, and Bridley Moor Secondary Modern School.

I didn't enjoy that first year at Bridley Moor, and developed headaches to avoid it when I could, supplemented by days when I would leave for school but come home once Mum had left for work, or spend the day in a tree in the churchyard reading,or walk to nearby Barnt Green and the Lickey Hills with a friend and hide out for the day. According to my school report for that year, I was absent 24 days.

Musically Britain was entering an exciting era. Up to this point we were either Elvis or Cliff Richard fans, but suddenly we heard of a new group called the Beatles. Music became absolutely entwined with the experience of growing up. For Christmas 1961, I had a small box record player and the Beatle's record, Please Please Me and I Want to Hold Your Hand. I still have that record.

The Beatles, Rolling Stones and a myriad of other groups and singers, many of them from Liverpool, established a culture that was unique to our emerging generation. Their songs expressed our longings, our imagined experiences and heartbreaks.

At 12, a group of us became friends at Bridley Moor: Eileen, who lived in Redditch, and Linda, Elaine and Diana from Alvechurch. Eileen now lives in the north of England and we are still close friends.

Mum was now working in an office, at Autocar and Transporters. Dad was working at the Austin Motor Company in nearby Longbridge. They were not any happier together than before, but I developed my own coping mechanisms--I kept busy and distracted with friends, or reading or drawing in my room.

I have a book of poems and stories that I wrote the year I was 11, illustrated with angels and fairies--the stuff of my imagination. In some of the poems, my faith in God is evident, a thread that had been woven, however tenuously, through my life from its beginnings. Fairy tales and Greek mythology had been my passion. They were about to be exchanged for the thrill of ghost stories and science fiction.

Meanwhile, the village wrapped itself around us, with its dense fogs in which time seemed to stand still, and people grew older alongside the memories of those that had been, borrowing the streets and fields and shops as a backdrop for our lives.


Meg said...

I love your real but gentle way of sharing these memories. They inspire me, and give me permission to be real about mine. There is starkness, and gentleness. Thank you for this, Belinda.

Susan said...

Wow, did you ever do a good job of capturing the angst of those years... I'm sitting here a wreck! (I skipped 40 days my first year of high school, which amounts to 20% of the entire school year, which should tell you something!) The last line you wrote was brilliant.. Amidst the uncertainty and shifting sands of adolescence was a grounding connection with 'the village'. I can't wait for the next chapter...

Marilyn said...

Like Meg, I enjoy the mix of frankness and gentleness.
And, like Susan, I was transported back to my own travels down those bumpy roads. Even now, it gives me chills. FOGwalking indeed!

Suz said...

Your words ring true for any girl of that age of transitions. Well, said.