Monday, 11 July 2011

Meet The Lancasters...

I would like you to meet The Lancasters. From left to right: Agnes born 10th March 1886, Cyril born 16th November 1897, Jack born 13th January 1894 and Dorothy born 22nd March 1891.

They were the four surviving children of the eight born to Stephen and Maria Lancaster.
Dorothy was my great grandmother and this weekend I had my first introduction. It came as part of the painful task of emptying sixty years worth of my grandparent’s belongings from their home. My grandfather died in 1987 when I was only fifteen and as a result of him working in London most of the week I never really got to know him. My grandmother passed away two years ago aged 86.
I thought I knew her well, having seen her virtually every day of my life but I was wrong. Despite her friendly, wise exterior she was a lady hiding from her past. From what, I'm not yet sure of. I really hope it wasn't anything too sinister. The people in the photos weren’t her family, they were my grandfathers. There are no photographs of my grandmother before she married my grandfather, neither were there any of her family.

There were hundreds of photographs of the Lancaster’s hidden away in boxes. They looked to be a fairly close family. Not particularly wealthy but happy none the less. 

While looking at the photos, one thing struck me, just how different my own family are. Whilst looking at the next particular photograph, myself and my mother were commenting on the family likeness of some more recent generations whereas my aunt, known for her foot in mouth approach said “Wouldn’t you’ve thought they’d have shifted the muck from the lane?”

There are also letters, cards, family Bibles and other documents relating to this part of my family and I look forward to getting to know them better.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The bigger the mirror...

Twenty five years ago today my family should have been celebrating my brother’s eighteenth birthday with a party. Instead, just as we did twenty five years ago we will make the mile and a half trip to our local churchyard, lay flowers and tell stories of happier times. I have learned to accept that I wasn’t to blame for his death after years of holding myself responsible.

His name was Jason Stephen Spooner and on the evening of 30th May 1986 we had our last argument, about hair of all things. Our mother had an old dressing table which housed a long mirror. I had taken the mirror off the dressing table and leant it against my bedroom door to blow dry my hair. Being the youngest child, I was given the smallest bedroom and the rear of the door was the only place it had room to stand.

Jason was meeting friends and asked me to do something with his hair, of which he had a lot. I refused, telling him that brothers do not ask their sisters to style their hair! It was just way too weird. He called me something ridiculous at which I wasn’t offended because that’s just what we did. We didn’t mean anything by it really.

I finished drying my hair and could hear him still banging around in his bedroom so feeling guilty I shouted to him that if he waited a few minutes I’d help him with his hair. He, not hearing what I’d said pushed open my bedroom door and with it our mother’s full length mirror. It shattered showering the room with tiny crystals. I didn’t know it then but that was to be the beginning of something much bigger.

As is common with many siblings we lived by the ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ theory. He went and collected the dustpan and brush from the kitchen and I stood guard on the landing in case one of our parents queried the noise. The mess was cleaned up; we said our goodbyes, left the house and went our separate ways.

About an hour later while I was sitting with friends at a local hangout a group of boys of which one was Jason went past and we exchanged knowing grins at what we had got away with at home, undetected. That was the last time I looked into my brothers eyes.

Later that evening after I had returned home I sat watching my mother busying herself in the kitchen. There was a knock at the door which was so loud and full of urgency that we both instantly panicked. I knew what it meant. The police car raced my parents to our local hospital leaving me in the care of a neighbour.

All I could think about was the full length mirror. Broken mirrors meant bad luck. Was there anything that said the bigger the mirror, the worse the luck was? If that was the case, it had been a pretty big mirror we’d broken. Then, I couldn’t answer another question, which of us had broken the mirror? Was it my fault for calling him and making him open the door or was it his own fault for unknowingly breaking it when he opened the door. Either way it changed everything for both of us. He lost his life and I lost something I didn’t even know I had, a fantastic friend and role model.

He clung onto life until early morning on 1st June 1986.

I miss him more this year than any other since his death. I miss the life we never lived, where he found a wife, had children of his own. The weekends we should have spent having family barbeques, our children’s birthday parties, Christmases. They say time heals but I feel it only gets worse. I grieve for each chapter our lives have never opened.