As a child winter was a wonderful time. For my brothers and myself it was time to get the sledges out, but on this particular winter’s day our sledges were locked up in the shed. Father had absentmindedly taken the key to work with him. We did try to break in, but alas to no avail.
The reason that the shed was locked wasn’t due to the threat of burglary, but because a few months earlier I’d left the door open and a stray moggie had made her way in there. Mother had just got me ready to go out to visit relatives. I was dressed as usual like a little fairy princess — white lace dress edged with silver and matching cardigan, white socks, white sandals and a gigantic white bow in my hair. Once dressed I’d asked if I could go out to play. Mother reluctantly said that I could if I stayed in the back yard and didn’t get my new outfit grubby. I have no idea why I went into the shed, but once in there I found the cat. The poor creature looked up at me with green eyes as big as saucers. For me it was love at first sight, albeit a short-lived love affair. I lunged at the beautiful jet black puss and held the now squirming cat tightly to my chest. It showed its displeasure by emptying the contents of its bowels all down my white lace dress, socks, legs and shoes. I threw the cat to the floor and ran screaming into the house; the look of shock and bewilderment on my mother’s face was a picture as she tried to make out what the brown liquid running down my beautiful dress was. Then the unbelievable smell hit her nostrils, leaving her in no doubt as to the nature of the steaming substance. Screaming, she stripped me naked and chucked everything, even my blemish free undies, in the dustbin; then dunked me in the bath. I have to say that there were times as she ripped my clothes off that I thought that she was going to add to the cat shit with her own vomit, she wrenched so violently at the smell. Mother very rarely got cross with me, but this most definitely was one of those occasions; and for the life of me I couldn’t understand why I was in trouble when it was all the cat’s fault!
Anyway back to sledging. Saddened and sledge-less, we walked back to where the other kids were playing and my brothers tried to cadge a lift off one of them. The streets around our house were all cobbled and very steep, leading down to the valley below. The street that the neighbourhood kids had chosen to slide down that day was one of the steepest. Plus, if you didn’t manage to bring your sledge to a halt when you hit the dirt track at the bottom, you would be catapulted down a 12ft drop into the allotments below — a lethal combination, and considerably more so when you are a little girl trying to keep up with the big boys.
I stood for what seemed like an age watching the kids slide down the cobbled hill. Once they reached the bottom they would walk back up dragging their homemade sledges, staying close to the edge trying to avoid the kids hurtling down at what seemed to me to be breakneck speed. The more the kids slid down the hill, the slippier it became and eventually the compact snow became sheet ice.
I was glad that daddy had taken the shed key. It meant that I was sledge-less and therefore unable to make the treacherous journey.
One of my brothers noticed that someone had left an old enamel washer top by the bin.
“Go get that lid!” he ordered me.
Ever obedient, (a gift that I definitely lost in adolescence, and I’m pretty sure that D.H would say I never regained), I walked into the neighbour’s garden and grabbed it. The enamel was chipped and there was a large jagged rusty hole at one edge and several small rust holes dotted around the rim.
“This will go like stink!” one brother said, grabbing hold of the lid with one hand and me with the other. “You sit on it, we’ll give you a push.”
Reluctant, but powerless to say no, I sat on the tin lid. One brother placed his hands in the middle of my back and gave me a hard push, the other grabbed me by the shoulders and spun me. The world was spinning round and round, as I travelled at tremendous speed down the street. One of my wellies flew off in one direction and I lost the other trying to slow down my descent. I tried to abandon ship, but my underpants had got caught on the jagged metal, and along with my bottom were being shredded. I was glued to the enamel missile by nothing more than a few shreds of underwear. Now completely out of control, (not that there had been a time when I’d been in control) and heading for the 12ft drop down to the allotments, my now blood curdling screams brought the neighbours out in all directions. Then I hit the dirt track; the lid dug into the softened ground, flipped and sent me flying into the air. The majority of my now shredded undies stayed with the lid. I came to a halt inches away from the drop, crying, blooded and once again knickerless. Both brothers ran down the hill as best they could to survey the damage.
“Stop crying and don’t be so soft, you big baby,” was all they had to say.
There’s been other times in my life that I have found myself spinning out of control, not because I’d sat on an enamel lid and slid down a snow covered slope, but because I’d listened to the wrong voice. I remember someone (it doesn’t matter who) used to call me fatty. A size 8 and weighing in at 7 stones wet through, rationality should have told me that the words were nonsense, but instead I took hold of them and called them my own.
I started by cutting out one meal a day and exercising obsessively, and although the numbers were dropping, they weren’t dropping fast enough. So a little voice in my head said that I could drop another meal a day. Replacing it with a cup of coffee, an apple and one dry Ryvita. It didn’t take long, a matter of weeks, and that one black coffee, apple and Ryvita were all I would eat in a day. I was well and truly in the grip of anorexia; being one thing, but seeing something completely different. Eventually I was hospitalised, and with help I started to see things more clearly.
I’ve spent quite a lot of my life spinning out of control, covered in poop, (metaphorically speaking) and to my shame, knickerless. But then I gave my heart to Jesus and asked Him to take control. Before I met Him, my life was like looking into that mirror and seeing a fat girl, when the reality was skin and bone, always blaming others and never taking responsibility for my actions. God flipped that on its head and showed me how He saw me, the real me, the me that had the power in Him to move mountains, (Mark 11: 23). I didn’t change overnight, thankfully God allowed me to see that I was a work in progress. Two of the most valuable lessons that God has taught me over the years is: One, that my past is behind me and: Two, that forgiveness is the only way forward, my future and healing are in Him. Amen and Amen.