Here I am in warrior guise, with my spear and shield off to battle the forces of evil in Airlie Gardens.
As I have told you already, inside the safe container of Airlie Gardens, Diana and I lived like wild things.
Back in the home though, we lived in a very structured space - the Nursery.
My parents believed that children should be neither seen or heard. Diana and I lived therefore in a separate part of the house - far away from our parents. We were looked after entirely by a series of nannies - many of whom were definitely not Mary Poppins but more like Drill instructors at the Marine Corps. As at Boot Camp, our day was highly structured. Meals were at fixed times and you had to eat everything. One nanny would hold my nose and force feed me like a bird, ramming food down my throat with a spoon if I balked at something. After lunch - a Rest! One hour in our room in silence. This is when I started to read. Bed by 6pm. None of this waiting to see our parents. Our mother would have lunch with us in Thursdays, Nanny's day off. We never saw our father.
When we were not playing in the garden - like Marines, we wore very formal clothes. Oh I hated those button shoes. I could never get the button hooked up. We had to use a little hook to do it and manual dexterity was nver my strength. Diana learned how to tie laces before me too. How humiliating.
Sounds pretty grim. But it wasn't. The tight structure felt very safe and when we went into the garden we were on our own with all the other children in this wonderland of our imagination. Here is Diana as an Indian.
This emotionally cold environment also meant that Diana and I became exceptionally close. She was and is so much more than a sister. We became and remain soulmates. We could even visit each other in our dreams.
So we were happy. We had each other. We had a safe structure. We had paradoxically much more freedom than many children ever have. And then, one day - we had it all. One day, love entered our lives.
Until the age of 6, all our nannies had been the Drill Instructor, starchy types. They gave good care but it was a job. There is a lot to be said for structure. I know a lot of very unhappy kids who have lots of affection but no security because they have no structure.
Then "Fluffy" arrived on the scene and we discovered that we had been missing something all along. We had been missing love. By love I mean, we had been missing someone who cared for us deep in her heart. Being so young, a teenager, she could play with us but she was also quite firm. She expected a lot from us and because, we knew that she cared, we usually gave it to her.
Here we are again in the magic garden on a summer's day.
Fluffy was to come with us to Ghana - imagine that in 1958! - Would you leave home and go out to Africa to look after kids? Ghana was a pivotal experience for all of us as a family as I will expand on later. It was also for Fluffy where she met her future husband Bill and where she lived until 1980.
Why so much emphasis on our nursery and then Fluffy? We are surely shaped as adults by what we experience as children. Our view of reality is created by the kinds of relationships that we have when we are young. I am trying to find out more about who I am now by looking back at this formative period. I hope that you may also think of your own as you look at mine - sort of group therapy!
Many of us in later life do go into therapy because there are things about our parents that bubble up. I think that it helps to look more broadly than our parents as the sole shapers of this early experience. Surely this was the great value of tribal life - that we then all could draw on a wide range of adults as reality shapers.
We all get the parents that we get. Some are better than others. Some are pretty awful. No matter what parents we have, the most fortunate of us find someone like Fluffy who can give us the experience of a loving relationship that endures as the foundation for all our future relationships. She was the centre of our lives for 3 precious years from when I was 6-9. I think that if she had not come into hour lives at that important time, Diana and I would have never been able to break free from the institutional world and I don't think I would have been able to open my heart to another. What a gift!
This is how I felt about her. My heart sings when I think of her even now.
Thank you Fluffy