It’s Friday and time for my Guest Writer Spot. This week, I’m delighted to welcome Suzanne Lambert. Before you read her thoroughly interesting and inspirational non-fiction piece, here’s a little bit about her in her own words:
Can you achieve anything you want to do even when everyone tells you its impossible? Let’s see shall we?
So many years ago now and yet I still remember it like it was yesterday. The seed of doubt that was implanted in my mind when I was only 4 years old. I was starting school, terrified to leave Mum who was standing waving from the window, as I walked to school with some of the big girls from the orphanage junior department. I can see her clearly now with that smile plastered on her face, the one that said I am looking brave but I’m frightened. It would be wonderful she told me. There would be lots of new books to read and I would learn to read and write properly. I was very excited indeed and couldn’t wait to see all the new books in the reading corner that Mum had told me about. Mum (Nancy) had watched many children walk up the driveway on their way to school. As a nanny in the nursery she looked after the children until they were four and were transferred downstairs to the junior department. So many of you already know my story so I won’t repeat it here but for those of you who don’t know, I was brought to the door of the orphanage only a few weeks old before they took babies and Nancy said she would look after me. I was supposed to call her Aunty Nancy the same as the other children but, of course, I never did. She was always Mummy to me.
Many years later she told me how she stood looking out of the window long after I had gone. In four years I had never spent one single day without my mother at my side. ‘I was always frightened someone would come and try to adopt you.’ she told me as she shuddered at the thought. I had been sheltered from the world outside up until now, only knowing what it was like to be surrounded by my mother’s love. I also had many friends as there were up to 30 children in the orphanage nursery at any one time. Mum had a way of making each and every one of us feel loved and cared for.
I remember the day she heard someone say laughingly to their child, ‘Be good now, or I will send you to the orphanage.’
Oh my heavens, she went absolutely mad. I had never seen her so angry, her face was red and she was shouting and wagging her finger. Totally lost her cool. Wow, I watched fascinated. ‘Do not ever make it sound like a punishment,’ she said angrily. ‘These children are not, and never have been, here due to any punishment. They are good girls and boys who are here to be taken care of because they have no parents to love them. Imagine for one moment that you were no longer here and your child was sent to the orphanage. How would you like them to be thought of? As a bad child here for punishment? No I think not. I love my children,’ she said to the woman. I can’t remember the reply I only remember the woman looking shameful and mumbling an apology. ‘Now I am sure you didn’t mean it like that,’ Mum said eventually calming down. ‘Now we will have a cup of tea (always the answer to everything in Mum’s world) and forget all about it.’ I never knew who the woman was but it still makes me smile. I have heard many children brought up in homes saying they were looked after, cared for but never loved. Mum did everything she could to not only love her children but weave a magic into their lives which made them smile and feel as though this world that could be so cruel could also bring a little comfort to them.
As I read and hear stories of the horror some children suffered in various homes growing up, my heart hurts so much and their stories never fail to bring a tear to my eye. However, I wrote my first book to show that there are also many good people in the world. Those with a great capacity to give love and care for other people’s children with a kind and open heart. Without taking anything away from those darling children who were hurt in any way I wanted to dedicate my book to the good people I had known. My mother being one of them. The good people in this world should never have to pay for the sins of the bad.
So back to my first day at school. There she was standing at the nursery window with tears in her eyes and fiddling with the corner of her apron. Mum told me the thing that frightened her most was that I would grow up quickly now, children always did when they started school. ‘The thoughts running through my head that day, were really quite ridiculous,’ she said.
‘Like what?’ I asked her.
‘Will she still need me?’
‘Will they be kind to her?’
‘Will she still love me the same way, now we are not together every day?’
‘Will the children she meets be friendly?’
‘Will she be happy?’
‘Will she start asking questions about her birth mother?’
It wasn’t a good first day as some of the older children had tried to frighten me on the way to school. On arrival I was already feeling very tearful and scared as I sat on the floor cross legged, arms folded, ready to be a good girl and work hard like Mummy told me to. It was then I heard the words that were to stay with me for the rest of my life. I am now 61 years old and I can still hear them, remember them and feel the pain of the 4-year-old child. ‘Oh that’s her from the home.’ These words were not from any of the children but from one teacher to another. The children around me looked and stared. I felt the pain in my throat first then tears stinging my eyes. I didn’t really understand why but I knew it wasn’t good. That day I learned that children from the home were expected to amount to nothing and my world was shattered. I believed them, of course, they were teachers and therefore what they said was true. I was no longer Nancy’s child, I was ‘her from the home’.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last time I heard those words. Only a few years later I was invited to my friend Julia’s birthday party and I was beyond excited. There were scones with three penny bits inside them and flags in the sandwiches. Oh my, I thought, these people must be so rich. Mum had managed to get me a lovely present for Julia all wrapped up in pretty blue paper with a bow on the top. All went well until it was time to go home and I opened my little vanity case where Mum had stuck a postcard with my address to the mirror. There was a stony silence. Something was badly wrong and I had no idea what, until Julia’s father said to his wife, ‘I wasn’t aware this girl was from the orphanage.’ The children looked at me embarrassed and I wanted the floor to swallow me up. I was driven home in silence and as I got out of the car I heard him say, well at least she was well behaved I suppose. Prejudice and ignorance alive and well.
I realised that day I never really belonged anywhere. I wasn’t really one of the children at the orphanage because I had Mum, but I wasn’t one of the children at school who lived with their families at home either because I lived at the orphanage. I simply didn’t belong. I was loved so very much, protected and cared for and I never told my mum about the things people were saying. Even as a young child I knew it would hurt her.
Growing up a sense of belonging was the thing I craved most. I wanted to be like everyone else just a girl with a normal family. I thank God every day I never actually said this to my mother. I dreamed of being famous because that would make me successful and people would like me! However, I always carried with me the thought that no matter what I did I would never be quite good enough. People like me didn’t succeed. My dreams of going to RADA and being a famous actress or dancer were ridiculous. I joined a dance school but was only ever average as much as I loved it. I spent my childhood reading and writing stories and my little red desk that stood in the corner of my room at home was crammed full of my stories and books. What would I like to be when I grew up people asked? Oh I’m going to be famous I would tell them and make lots of money and buy Mummy and me a house to live in with a garden. Mum’s shoulders would sag and she would sigh. ‘She lives with her head in the clouds,’ she would say, shaking her head. Mum had never lived in a world where you were taught to follow your dreams, reach for the impossible and believe with all your heart. So you see it wasn’t that my dreams didn’t come true, I was just taught never to dream in the first place. It was ideas above your station.
Growing up I never ever felt poor although looking back Mum and I had so little money, yet I remember a feeling of contentment and happiness. I had an incredible friend called Elaine. We had met at school when I was 11 years old. I was still unaccepted and stood out from the crowd until the day she said, ‘Leave her alone, she’s OK.’ They say people may forget what you say but they will never forget how they made you feel. Well, that was a turning point in my life and I will never forget the words spoken or my emotions at the time. Now fifty years later she is still one of my greatest friend and I love her to bits. I left school when I was 16 having got ‘A’ grades in Religious Instruction and Singing. Right that’s my life sorted. I will be a singing nun.
Naturally I was being ridiculous. Work hard, leave school and get a job was what we were told. Any job as long as it was a job. I could continue to write for fun and so I did. I got a job as an administrator and found my audience. Ooooh this was fun. These people didn’t care where I came from, who I was or where I had lived as long as I did the job I was paid to do. I made new friends and became the ‘class clown’ as my mother would call it. I wrote humorous poems for leaving do’s and celebrations. I could always be relied upon to make people laugh which I continued to do for many more years. The only problem was, sometimes I felt as though I was screaming to be taken seriously.
I spent every moment of my spare time reading. I always had my head in a book during lunch breaks, on the bus travelling to and from work and at home on the sofa in the evening. ‘Can you imagine being able to write a book I said one day? Oh whatever next said mum smiling?’ There was no internet in those days so I asked around. You had to go to University and I hadn’t a penny to my name. Oh well it was a good idea while it lasted.
In 1987 I was blessed with a beautiful daughter and felt as though my world was complete. Then I was further blessed in 2011 and 2013 with my precious grandchildren. Naturally, the first things I rushed out to buy were books to read and then I rummaged through all the cases to find my daughter’s childhood books. I remember the night I told her if she closed her eyes she could step into the story and that all the toys came alive when she slept. Big mistake, absolutely massive. She never slept for weeks. Mum just looked at me and once more shook her head. ‘Honestly, what is life without a little imagination?’ I said?
When Gemah was 18 years old Mum went home to the God that had loaned her to us and we were beyond devastated. We talked about her constantly and remembered the many stories she had told us about her children. It took a long time to accept that she was no longer with us and there wasn’t a day went by that I didn’t think of her.
By the time I turned 58 I was quite a happy bunny. Lovely husband, wonderful daughter and son-in-law and two precious grandsons. If I am honest, I still struggled to have belief in myself and I would say to people, I know my limitations. I am a good person and I try to be kind, empathic, loving and a good listener. My family love me. It is enough.
Until that day, that unbelievable incredible day. My daughter saw a competition to write your life story. Tell them the story of the rag dolls she said. That would be ridiculous, I couldn’t write like proper writers. I had never gone to University or gained any writing degrees. ‘Do it anyway she said, go on Mum, do it for Grandma.’ So I did.
I am now 61 years old and for the first time in my life I realise, I did it. I didn’t dare to dream, of course, I just did it anyway. I write every day now and my second book is due to be published in November.
That is not however why I have written this blog. This is the reason.
To you. All you writers out there who do not believe in the power of their words, their stories or themselves. I want to say first of all that, of course, if I had more money I would go to every single writing group, retreat, college and university course that was out there because there is so much to learn from them. I know from others what a wonderful experience it can be. It would also be incredible to be surrounded by like-minded people with a shared interest. To be able to gain qualifications and more knowledge would be amazing. I know I would learn so much instead of struggling trying to find out the things I need to know on my own. How I wish I could still do this. Thank goodness for the internet where I talk to some amazing people who are happy to share their knowledge.
Well I couldn’t do that but I wrote the story anyway and I STILL SUCCEEDED.
My first books has been written and published and my second is due out soon. I often close my eyes and have to pinch myself to believe it’s true and oh how much I would love to have those people from my childhood standing in front of me now and say, ‘You were wrong.’ In fairness to many of the teachers out there, some of who I know well, most of you are wonderful souls and our children are nurtured, listened to and encouraged in your care. Thank you for that.
My mother, how I wish she was here to see her stories told. People often say to me I wonder what she would say. I imagine her standing in front of me right now and I know exactly what she would say to me…’Now don’t you be getting above yourself do you hear!!’ She would definitely be smiling though.
How many people like me have a story inside them screaming to be written but do nothing, believing they are not good enough or clever enough to write it?
The subconscious mind, we are told, is where we go to when we dream, it is where our imagination lies.
So go on…..
Close your eyes
- Listen to emotive music to stir the imagination
- Dare to Dream
- Step into your story
- Believe in yourself
AND GO FOR IT
With love and encouragement…I look forward to reading your story.