Flower colour reminders

Before I went off to Dún Laoghaire last weekend I couldn’t resist taking some photos in the communal garden. This colour reminds me of my confirmation suit. It was a no-nonsense two piece suit to match a no-nonsense day. I remember not having a very spectacular confirmation day out with Ms. Higgins (the one with the glasses as she was commonly called) and one of the other inmates. I think we got a ten-shilling note each to spend, but we never knew what paper money was, even though we were verging on fourteen years old. There was something so clinical/rigid about the ‘teacher’ from Galway. I found out that she hailed from there as an adult, as we were not privy to our own backgrounds – let alone that of ‘teachers.’ She was never physically cruel, so that was a bonus. It was obviously a sad state of affairs when only Lor… and myself were left to the mercy of a worker at Goldenbridge to take us out. We never had visitors. I recall an American doctor wanting to take Lor… to America when she was younger, but like most of us, she was afraid of most strangers and the devil she knew was better than the one she didn’t. If only she knew what she would have missed down the road. They probably would have given her education, as – from what I remember she was quick and alert and hungry for knowledge as a child.

When I worked for a temp office agency in London, I was sent for three months as a clerk to the chamberlains office, and what do you know – who should I see there only Lor…. I got dreadful flashbacks and pretended I didn’t know her. I’d completely blocked out my past and didn’t know how to handle the situation. I think I may have hung on for a week to get my wages and luncheon vouchers and then fled the scene. That sort of thing happened all the time with most of those who were incarcerated in institutions. They still to this day get so many reminders of times they don’t want to revisit and can be tortured by the very presence of survivors. I’ve witnessed this so much and it is very unnerving and emotional and very painful, as you feel as if they’re rejecting you, but it’s not that, it’s the memories they don’t want haunting them. I asked Christine Buckley if she’d apologise to Lor…on my behalf. I never did find out if she knew it was me pretending not to know her.

This is also a lovely flower. I think immediately of pink corn-flour desert that we had once a week in Goldenbridge. I did like it. I was surprised to learn as an adult that white corn-flour was used in making fish-sauce for dinner. Well, the same can be said for rice.

This shade of pink also reminds me of a gorgeous mohair hat and gloves that the Boyne family bought for me as a wee child. I can still see myself with Alfie and Irene as they both took me into town on a Christmas shopping spree. Alfie was the boyfriend. He was the epitome of kindness and I knew then that he genuinely liked me. He was so handsome and looked like Elvis. They went on to adopt a whole heap of children. Gosh, I would have loved to have stayed with them, as they were very stable and caring.

Irene had hair down to her shoulders in photographs that I saw in the house. Her hair would have stood out, as Goldenbridge inmates were never allowed to have long hair in my day. It was the done thing in olden days in families that children’s long hair was plaited in sheets every Saturday night, so that they would have a crop of ringlets to show off at mass the next day. The ringlets were so beautiful. I always wished that I could have had them. It was so wrong of the religious to cut our hair off whenever the mood took them, as it did Sr. Fabian, who wouldn’t think twice about calling a child up in the middle of a so-called class to either check her hair for nits, or else, use a barber electric men’s shaver to shorn off the hair at back of the head. Think Mohicans. I was the recipient of this act on innumerable occasions. She had a thing about my hair. I can still smell the wool-sweat from the long black-garb that she sweltered underneath, as she pressed me up so closely to her to get at the distorted painful angle she had already forced my head into. I abhorred it altogether and used to wrench, as did the other children who were unfortunate enough to be called to the rostrum. The nuns had to get their heads shaved, but that was not right of them to shave the heads of children in turn.

I remember going up to a young person who came to Goldenbridge to help out at a Christmas party. She had such beautiful long hair. She gave me some of her personal ponds cream and showed me how to use it on my face. I asked her if she would be my aunty. I was taken out once by her to her family. I was beaten badly by the nun for having approached the young lady to ask her to take me out. I remembered what an aunty was, as that was what I was told to call Mrs. Boyne, who could in reality have been a grandmother.


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