Memories Made and Lost – July 1986
I am told by my Nanny Sheila (my Dads Mum) that I wake up and ask her “Nanny why are you here?” to which she replies “oh Daddy had to go out with Mummy early so I came over to look after you” All the while maintaining her composure because Daddy is actually at the hospital with Mummy. She tells me to this day it made her sick to the stomach having to lie to me at such a young age but she had no other choice.
My mums best friends daughter a 15 year old tall slim fair haired girl named Sarah who was babysitting for me last night hasn’t woken up yet and I am chatting away to my nanny – no doubt asking a million questions; I have always been a chatterbox, I think my mum said I was delivered talking and haven’t stopped since. It must have been difficult for my nanny to entertain my 4 year old curiosity at such a tense and emotional time for the whole family. She wouldn’t have wanted to venture out with my sister and I either – living in such a small town meant that everyone knew about the car accident as soon as the sun came up on the 7th July. It was on the news and the jungle telegraph would have been hot all around the town and surrounding villages.
I can’t remember much about that fateful morning – I have learnt that children react to trauma by blocking out memories and moments in time that are considered to be disturbing to their delicate and fragile sponge like little minds. In my case this process seems to have stripped me of a lot of other memories prior to that day and perhaps up to 4 years afterwards, there was just one memory I have from that day which seems as clear in my 34 year old mind as it did to the little 5 year old who was there at the time.
Sarah and I are playing bat and ball – the small car park with the big apple tree in it is literally the other side of my concrete front garden and it was regularly my playground, I would play and dance in there practice the high jump on the chain that covered the entrance. There was only ever 1 or 2 cars parked there generally people visiting the masons on the other side of the car park or the conservatives club attached to the back of our house. We lived in the old police house.
It’s a sunny day and we are gently batting the ball between us no doubt inspired by Wimbledon. I do remember my mum loved watching the tennis. I could not tell you what I was wearing or how long we were out there no doubt pretending to be Stephi Graph and Martina Navratalova but just that we were playing with 2 yellow bats that were made from thick hard yellow plastic with like a honeycomb lattice in the middle of them, my fingers fit through the holes in the bat and we played with a yellow dirty and dusty foam/sponge ball.
I didn’t see the police car pull up. If I did my 5 year old mind has blocked that out too and I don’t remember my Nanny Sheila calling us into the house. I was called into the room to be with my nanny and I’m sure I would have been super curious as to why Sarah had stayed in the kitchen with a police lady and that curiosity is what forced me to pop my head around the kitchen door. They say curiosity killed the cat – I don’t know where nanny was at this point or why she didn’t stop me snooping or “earwigging” as my Mum used to call it.
I popped my head around the heavy pine door which swung freely (so freely it once took the tail off one of our kittens). It was then that I saw Sarah collapse her knees giving way to her tall slim body as she fell to the floor and made a haunting, ear piercing, wailing, screaming sound which seemed to continue for a very long time and at 4 years old I could associate with another person in total distress, I stood and watched as the police lady was trying to pick her up off the floor.
That’s the first and last of my memories for a little while.
Sarah had just been told that her mummy was dead. Her little brother and her little sister no longer had a mummy.
I now know that not only was Sarah’s Mum dead but so was James a handsome 24 year old who was driving the car. Also dead at the scene the drunk driver of the vehicle that was stolen and hit them all head on while they drove home on that fateful Saturday night he was just 17. Later in my life I unknowingly dated they guy whose parents owned that truck which hit my Mum and her friends stolen from his driveway that Saturday night.
My Mum was in a critical state in hospital having had 3 firemen take 4 hours to cut her out of the wreckage of the mini and having “died” twice at the scene. Kate had left behind her 3 children, James the life of a young handsome single man and my mum will go on to live a life traumatized and affected by the decision to go out dancing with her friends on a Saturday night
The last memory I have associated with that time is sitting with my younger sister who was approximately 3 years old each of us on one of my Dad’s knees in a single armchair laid against his chest and saying “I just want Mummy to come home” and my Dad saying “so do I darling, so do I”
As an adult I have listened and heard many opinions and thoughts about that fateful night. Incredulously not from my Mum, I think the pain is still too much for her to bear. To live every day of a life she feels she perhaps doesn’t deserve to have because her friends didn’t get to keep theirs. What would have happened has they not gone out, I have heard people say she shouldn’t have gone out – she had 2 young children at home, I’m not sure I agree with that, she was in a relationship with my Father from being 15 and married at 19 then like most people in the 70s/80s was a house wife with babies fairly soon afterwards. She wanted to go out dancing is there anything so wrong with that? I get my love to want to dance from her, I get that my Dad was working we had a sitter – was it really such a bad idea…. Only on this occasion it clearly turned into one. 4 lives changed forever in less than a minute 3 finished, terminated, stopped one broken and scarred for the rest of her life.
I read somewhere recently, make the most of every day, it is a sad and morbid thought but true that someone out there is getting up and getting dressed today not knowing that it will be the last day of their life, see that’s the tragedy of sudden and fatal accidents, there is no time to prepare or accept what is about to happen no Crystal Ball accidents just happen and then it’s too late.