Here are things I would tell a 15 year old Marjorie ...
The day you turned 15 you’d been motherless for nearly 6 weeks and the whirlwind of grief never slowed down for a moment in all that time. Your family, like you, are still trying to come to terms with the sudden loss of your mother – even after all these years. They are also managing their pain in the best way they know how.
It’s a shame that you all didn’t know how to talk about what you were feeling at the time, but that wasn’t the done thing way back then; it was all ‘stiff upper lip and carry on’ mentality despite the gnawing pain in your heart.
On that first birthday without her the last sentence that you wrote in your diary that day was “I wish Mummy was here.” I’m sure the rest of the family felt the same as well, that’s why they all tried to make the day happy with a surprise birthday cake, cards and gifts of money. It was good to see people smiling: we should do that for each other more nowadays too.
It’s nice to be nice – even to your family.
The fact that you’ve kept writing all these years is wonderful. At the time you didn’t seem to know why you wanted to write, but you did it anyway. The only thing you remember – and that shows up in your diaries – is that writing was your best way of expressing yourself in a house of uproar. Taking the time to release your thoughts and views in the secret pages of your diary were your way of staying afloat. You’ve done well. Keep it up, it works for you.
For the whole of my 15th year of life school and education saved me. It saved me from the reality of living in a family where the centre had been torn out and it gave me something to bury myself in. I remember particular teachers, like Mrs Kirkby, who taught English, being especially caring and encouraging. She knew I had the potential I am just remembering and she gently steered me towards my passions. I’d say to Marjorie at that time, listen to your heart and ignore the careers teachers who had limited visions for ‘someone like you’. In my effort to prove them wrong I spent years in careers I didn’t like just because they said I would never be able to enter them at all. I did prove them wrong with my success, but I missed out on spending more time doing what I really love.
I knew the theory about love, but the reality seemed eternally unreachable for me then. I would now tell my 15 year of self that I should hold on and not be corralled into believing that there is only one way to love and be loved. God, who created so many different species and experiences, had obviously made a way for me to express my love beautifully. The images of relationships that I’d seen were – like most families of the era – ‘making do’ because they had to. The pure, true passion always seemed to be missing.
Some things I was exposed to frightened me so much that I wanted to isolate myself from all intimate contact altogether. For a while I thought that love meant pain and suffering. I now know that it’s not so.
I would tell 15 year old Marjorie to keep going to the library and reading all those books that explained the feelings you’ve had from before you went to Junior School. Trust yourself, young Marjorie, you are not wrong to look for the love you deserve. And if you hold on, and hold true, the best love ever will find you when you find it.
There are people I would tell a younger Marjorie to avoid because they were never destined to be friends despite the fact that you were always open and friendly with them. You’ll suffer heartache when people reject you for all you are, but never mind, when they leave your life they make way for the right people to enter. And without them, you’d never fully appreciate the joys of true friendship.
In a way, I’d like to tell 15 year old Marjorie not to be naïve with people because they will invariably disappoint her, but then you’d not have the simple open nature that you possess now if you did that. So, keep believing in the good in people and even when those particular people fail you don’t give up on friendship. You will find some spectacular gems that will remain in your heart for life.
Losing the pattern for what I saw as perfect parenthood so early in life I’d have to tell my young self not to despair because there are other ways of learning to be a good parent other than learning it from your own family. I’d suggest that 15 year old Marjorie did not hold on to the resentment that she had for her father for decades because it would block her ability to complete that initial part of the grieving process. Although at the time it may have seemed like a lifeline to kick against the apparent cause of her loss (in the form of her father), I’d tell my younger self that it would be years of wasted energy and angst. I would tell her that even parents have dreams that shatter, so try to find some way of accepting the mosaic that is your family set-up.
My message to my 15 year old self is that it’s OK to be angry at God and to refuse to pray - even when your father gets angry at you and threatens you in sacred worship time. God will wait for you to understand. He’ll always be there, in the high times and the low times. Luckily, Marjorie at 14 had already built up some of her own faith and, although at 15 it waivered, it never completely died. My message to my young self is do what you need to do, say it how you need to say it, but never forget God has got your back! Through it all, He will still be there for you. Trust me.