(by Victoria Davison)
When I think of how a mother and daughter should be, I think of happy time together, learning skills like how to cook, and shopping for clothes, but my life is very different. From childhood, I remember the words drilled into me: "You must be seen and not heard." If I spoke or did anything out of my mother’s orders, I would be hit with a shoe or anything close at hand. I spent most of my early life crying and watching my mother and father physically fighting, my mother throwing plates at my father and my dad hitting her. The way I was raised, violence was normalized.
My mother spent the majority of time having her "special tea," which consisted of coffee and the drug speed to keep her going. I had to be quiet all of the time—she couldn’t even stand my brother and me playing together. Night time, my brother and I would be locked in our bedrooms, no handle on the inside, so we couldn't get out. My brother, who is two years older, was fortunate as my dad had punched a hole in the door, so he could see my mother or father coming and try to hide from punishment. My father was an alcoholic, drinking all the time and abusive to my mother and us. I still remember like it was yesterday when he couldn't get money for drink and threw a brick through the window because my mother wouldn't fund his habit that night.
School was one safe place, and I tried to spend as much time as possible with friends, staying over at their homes to get away from my life. My house had no carpets or really anything that made a house a home. Drugs came before gas and electricity. We were always cold.
My brother and I went to neighbors’ doors asking for food as my mother barely fed us. She kept in the cupboard tins that were easy to make. She would try and feed me ravioli out of one of these tins, making me sit at the table until I ate it, as if I was rejecting the best homemade food, or her. When I had the chance, I went to my paternal grandmother’s on a Sunday and would get a traditional English roast or minced beef with dumplings and vegetables. She lived close enough that I could walk over. I think she knew we were being abused, but my grandfather didn't want her to get involved, so nothing was said. I was so skinny, very underweight. I remember walking to school one day, and the wind was so strong that it picked me up and I hit a fence. A doctor had to be called.
At the age of seven, I was sexually abused by an old man whose house my brother and I visited often for food. It went on for a long time until I had the courage to tell my parents, but my mother said that I must have wanted it because I hadn't told anyone. I couldn't believe it. Instead of supporting me, she told me that I was a disgrace and shouldn't have been born.
Even though doctors, teachers, neighbors, and relatives like my grandmother saw me, nobody reported their suspicions, and there was no help from children’s services. I was failed by everyone.
When I was ten, my mother finally got sick of my dad hitting her nearly every day, and we went into a refuge for battered women and their children—my mother, my brother, and me. She left my father (they had never married), and there were rough years ahead. But when I was 18, I got out on my own, with my own flat and a job in a factory packing nappies (diapers).
I only just started talking to my mother again about a year ago. I still talk to my brother, but he's abusing drugs and alcohol now himself. My father got married, but still drinks, so I cut all contact.
I’m using my experience to educate kids that are in the English care system, and I work for the National Health Service free medical helpline. I still have nightmares about my childhood, but I am headstrong—that’s probably how I survived. I now have a child myself, a boy who is six, and I want to give him everything I never had, to shield him from harm.
Minced Beef and Dumplings
(I make it myself now, as my son loves it.)
1 T. vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 lb. ground beef
salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. self-rising flour 5 T. beef suet or vegetable shortening 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed 1 turnip, peeled and cubed
butter, as desired Preheat oven to 400 F.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, and sauté onion until golden.
Add beef and cook until it starts to brown.
Add salt and pepper, to taste. In a bowl, mix flour and suet or shortening together, rubbing with your fingers to form crumbs.
Add 1 1/2 c. water until a soft dough is formed.
Place small spoonfuls of the dough onto the beef mixture. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until dumplings have browned. Boil potatoes and turnip in water until they can be pierced with a knife. Drain and mash potatoes and turnip with butter, salt and pepper. Serve vegetables along with minced beef and dumplings.