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Friday Loose Blogging Consortium - My Childhood.

I was born in 1963, a few months before President John F. Kennedy visited Dublin.  Apparently, when he arrived,  my mother was waiting in the crowd to try and get a look at the U.S. President, then Ireland's favourite emigrant son, with her tiny daughter (me!) along with her.

My parents, Eddie and Carmel, were a couple from the north side of Dublin city.  Eddie was a lorry driver and Carmel was a biscuit packer in Jacob's Biscuit Factory, which was a rather good job as factory jobs went, if you must know.  They'd both completed their primary school education, but they had ambitions that their children would complete secondary school at least.  They met at a dance in Dublin's Ierne ballroom in 1962.  Eddie was smitten by Carmel's beauty and persuaded her to allow him to drop her home.  He then made a regular habit of calling to see her.  My maternal grandmother Mary looked Eddie up and down as only as only an Irish mother can and decided that he would do very well as a son-in-law.  She encouraged him to visit often and fed him ham sandwiches and tea, truly an honour, as this was considered something of a delicacy back then over there.  The couple were married within a year.

Eddie seems to have been a sharp young fellow.  He looked like an Elvis clone, with a touch of Humphrey Bogart about him.  He was tall, black haired and blue eyed.  Carmel was a classic Irish beauty, with brown eyes and red hair.  Eddie always had a car, even if it was a small, secondhand model.  They were simple, religious people.  I was their first child and they adored me, although, apparently, Eddie ever so slightly resented my intrusion on his wife's attention.  Well, he was only 27 after all!  I was soon joined by three sisters, whom for blogging purposes I call Geraldine, Pamela and Connie.

I was a bookworm and would have lived in the library.  Not for me, playing out on the streets.  Thankfully, my mother had some sense and pushed me out to play every so often so I could pursue the same activities of other kids my age, like swinging on lamp posts and joining in skipping games.  I loved books by E. Nesbit and Enid Blyton, although their very British world of jolly hockey sticks and boarding schools was light years away from mine.  I wouldn't say I was snobbish, but I was a bit of a misfit in my own community.  That was ironic because now I crave the air of  Dublin and the sharp edge of Dublin conversation.  I recently read a current novel set in the heart of Dublin ("Faithful Place" by Tana French, read it, it's great!) and alternately laughed and cried my way though it.  It brought me right back to my younger days.  Living as I do among people who are foreign and who speak a different language and follow a different religion, I now live a life of permanent exile.  Incidentally, I love my life, but I have this craving to return to my roots every so often.  I think that probably it's always been my destiny to be a bit of an outsider and maybe even an observer wherever I've been.

Both my mother and father's families are large Irish familes.  I have a huge amount of cousins and many of the cousins I played with in my childhood are my lifelong friends.  A look at my Facebook page would confirm this.  My cousins, two sisters called Sharon and Pamela are old, dear friends.  Then there was cousin Veronica who wrote to me from Scotland for years.  I've now befriended even cousins with whom I didn't exactly grow up, but the bond is there  My father really believed in the importance of family and made sure we met our relatives regularly.

It was a happy childhood by and large.  Our parents tried to give us the best.  But, yes, there were shadows on my childhood.  By the time I was seven years old, the cancer was already raging through my father's body.  He put up a brave fight for his life, but ultimately succumbed at the age of forty one, when I was almost fourteen.  I remember him ranting bitterly one evening when my mother was gone out.  I realize that he knew he didn't have long to live and that he was leaving his beloved wife a young widow with four young daughters.  He had a few issues with his medication. I've since discovered that  he didn't wish to become addicted to painkillers and very often skipped him.  He was often very tense and mad with pain.  Woe betide the child who disturbed him.  I remember being the subject of  bitter verbal abuse and even, occasionally, beatings, when I was around ten years of age.  This would have been uncharacteristic of him, but one has to understand the circumstances.  The experiences of my childhood left me with nervousness and low self esteem for many years, but I feel, with God's help, I've come through.  Forgiveness isn't difficult when one understands where he was coming from.

When a child comes from a troubled home, they can be preyed on by unscrupulous individuals.  I was no exception.  Finding things tense on the home front, I got involved in some of the Church activities like the Mass readings and choir.  There was a priest, a certain Father R. who showed a huge interest in me.  I enjoyed the attention, naturally.  He encouraged me to visit him at home and borrow books from him.  The trouble was, as he won my trust, he began confiding his personal problems to me.  One of the problems was the problem of being unable to cope with celibate life.  I realize that at eleven years of age, which I was at that time, I was way too young to be a party to confidences of that sort.  I have an eleven year old daughter now and if I knew of any man in his forties discussing such issues with her, I'd have issues with him!  I remember him discussing which of my friends he fancied for example.  He didn't go near me sexually, unless hugs and kisses on the forehead are sexual, which they aren't necessarily, but he messed around with my brain at an age where I really wasn't able for it.

Father R. has since been exposed as a paedophile who abused over a hundred children.  How did I escape?  I'm not sure.  When he used to confide in me about his sexual problems, I frowned and told him that I found it very surprising that a priest like him didn't pray to God for help.  He looked confused, but he didn't pursue the issue.  I also made it very clear to him that I had no secrets from my mother and that every conversation I had with anyone was always reported back to Mammy.  Eventually he drifted off and found someone else to talk to.  I have read Father R. being described in the media as a 'beast' but I never found him that way.  He was rather timid and subtle.  He is now dead. I feel that the man was out of his depth in the priesthood and deplore the lack of a way out for him.   There was another priest, a Father W. who worked in our Church around the same time, who has also been described that way.  In his case, it's probably true.  Everyone remembers him as always grabbing the opportunity to touch kids inappropriately in the name of having a bit of fun.  The first time he grabbed a hold of me on a seemingly innocent pretext, I made certain it would never happen again by keeping my distance.  Father W. is now in prison for the rape of several boys.

It is tragic that the good and sincere priests and religious who faithfully served the people of God are getting a backlash of hatred for the wicked ones who raped and abused children under the cover of Church protection.  The Catholic Church, which is supposed to stand for goodness and righteousness, has practically led to its own downfall through ineffectual dealing with the problem of clerical sexual abuse.

But there was no awareness of this back then.  It was a more innocent age in some ways.  After my father's death my mother worked very hard to maintain our standard of living.  I never understood all she was doing for us at the time, I just took her for granted as children do.  We didn't have our car any more.  However, we still had our house and new clothes every time we needed them.

I'm middle aged now, the mother of two boys and two girls, the wife of a university professor. I have dreams of being a writer.   I live in India, far from my roots.  One of my sisters became a nurse and eventually, a university lecturer.  Another is a manager and another is an air hostess.  All in all, my mother did very well with us, I think.

It wasn't a bad childhood, overall.

This is my weekly post for the Loose Blogger Consortium. We are a group of bloggers from different parts of the world with diverse views and styles of writing, and we post simultaneously (well, we try to) on a weekly basis on a given topic.  Our members  are, in no particular order,  Anu,  Maria,   Magpie, Will Knott,   Nema, Noor, JoePaulAkankshaDelirious, Padmini, AshokConrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, and Rummuser.  This topic 'My Childhood' was chosen by Anu.


  1. So sad that you were exposed to such depravity at such a young age. But thankfully they didn't carry out their desires. I love that you told the one Priest to pray to God for help! That should have shaken him up a little!
    It is a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit, and also to God's help that you were able to move past the trials of your youth to become a well adjusted adult.

  2. I have anger, too when it comes to the pedophiles that reined so freely through the church for so many years. I am even angrier at the Bishops that helped to hide the problem. I know how this has shaken the people's faith in the Church.

    It is wonderful that you have come to grips with what caused your father's personality change. He must have suffered something awful for all those years.

    Delirious is right about your story being a testimony to the resilence of the human spirit.

    And before I forget, Happy 48th Birthday.

  3. I remember going to the Swords Road in 1963 to see Princess Grace and and Prince Rainier arrive in Dublin and then again some weeks later to see President John F. Kennedy & Jackie arrive along the same route. Dublin has changed very much since then. Sometimes it is hard to find a Dublin accent on the streets. People of every nation, colour and creed are part of the mix nowadays. Good luck with the writing dream.

  4. Yes, on balance, you have had a good childhood and what is most important is that because of your naivete you were able to escape trauma and later year problems with your experience with the priest. Definite plus point in character.

  5. My dear gaelikaa, I too remember my childhood so very fondly. Warts and all. The good and the bad. Stinging nettles and sunflowers.

    And like you, and to this day, I cherish what a book (any written word, though NOT the back of a box of cornflakes)can give us. Which is maybe where your desire to write comes from: To give comfort. Not in a sentimental way. Just human to human. It's humbling when you think about it: We READ a book in so many days flat; yet to WRITE a book: A labour of love.

    As to your occasional hankering for the place you originate from: It happens. Bitter sweet. But then as you say: Some of us live our lives looking from the outside IN. Or should that be: From the inside OUT? I don't know. Let's both be happy that we were thrown the chance to expand horizons beyond the edge of the next field.

    Most affectionately,

  6. Hi Maria,
    Just dropped in to say I've given your blog an award. Please pop over to my blog to find out all about it!

  7. "I think that probably it's always been my destiny to be a bit of an outsider and maybe even an observer wherever I've been"

    It perhaps is the destiny of so many of us these days. We are indeed outsiders of sorts..our places of origin and current locations are far too down the list of things that determine this. Anyhow, I feel sorry for some of your unfortunate experiences. I can imagine how things are as I have had my own little brushing experience of this kind when I was about 6 or so...

    One thing I would like to appreciate more than anything though is the simple flowing way you write. Also I like the way you built a picture of everything from your childhood and I was actually able to visualise those events as happening now..brilliant! :)

    I shall be looking forward to explore your blog more when I get the time and also your future posts..

  8. Oof - good post.
    Chilling end to it.
    I've been away and have shamefully missed joining in this one. Looking forward to the next.

    Ta for the comment too - hard life being a newsreader!

  9. wow.... I can well imagine..your life must have been a roller coaster amazes me evry time i read it...

    i know i have been quite aloof to this bloging .. but you see i have my mba entrance examz comin..up in oct. n my colg classes are also going on.. thus im just way too loaded with lotz of thingzz... but i will try to resume blogging sooner...

  10. Hello Gaelikaa!
    Thanks for commenting on my blog. I've msised you, and been meaning to look you up, so I'm thrilled to now be your newest follower!
    You were lucky that priest didn't do worse to you, even though I think that what he did was very inappropriate, and abusive of your trust.
    I don't think much of the good and sincere priests and religious either- they've stayed part of that dysfunctional entity that is the Church. When I see how immigrant workers at a nursing home risked their jobs and visas to expose abuse of patients, I think "yeah, this is the right thing to do", not like the Catholic crowd who colluded and condoned abuse by their inaction.

    You may think this judgemental of me, and maybe it is, but I have a family member who was abused by a brother, and his life was ruined.

  11. An intriguing post, life's mixture of sorrows and joys making us what we are all these years later. I too knew the bliss of many relatives, also the sting of parental discord; my natural mother was a violent alcoholic. God stood with us Gaelikaa, providing His care. but those travails allowed us to flourish with warm, giving hearts, and what we write is borne of those encounters, lovely and mystifying. So good to hear from you. How goes the writing?

  12. @Delirous & Maria - Thank you, your kind words mean a lot to me.
    @Grannymar - You and I share a lot of similar memories, it seems.
    @Rummuser - yes!
    @Ursula - The expat experience is unique.
    @Annalisa Crawford - Thank you - I'm coming to collect it soon!
    @Rohit - Welcome, great to see you over here
    @Blackwatertown - Next week we'll do it.
    @Anki - I'm lookiing forward to your starting to post again.
    @Mimi - great to see you. It's been a looong time!
    @Anna - lots of catching up to do. Are you gearing up for NaNoWriMo again this year? I'll mail you!


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