I remember playing with dolls. Changing their clothes and deciding who lived where. Rarely did my characters talk to one another. Not the people, but the animals, they chatted and interacted. Looking back on it I guess I ought to blame my mum, as she was reading Black Beauty to me. And yes, I laughed, sobbed and cried through the whole book; as Ginger died and when Beauty was found… I experienced them all. Even now, if I watch or read anything with animals in, particularly horses I am there with them. So, back when I was tiny and still working out the world, it was my horses and dogs, cows, sheep and chickens that would talk and have adventures. Thinking about it the first book I ever read was 101 Dalmatians. I was 11.
But here, sat on my Nan’s strange green carpet, I must have been no more than 4. My four year old self was quiet. Mum says that she doesn’t remember me as a child really, instead I was always a small adult.
So, I’m playing with my toys. The people near me are nothing more than Peanut adults making vague WA-WA noises, but I’m listening to my Nan talking to her friend, and my mind focuses on their conversation. She is complaining that she has me. That I’m here to be looked after. I can’t remember where my brother was, but he would have been under a year old, so I’m guessing that Mum had taken him to an appointment and left me in the hands of her mother.
Nan’s friend is making sentimental noises, I guess I’m not really wanted. I stop with my toys and let my full concentration flip to my Nan’s words. According to her, I may be slow. I move my hand as fast as possible in front of my face and frown. I’m fast. Just as fast as her.
“Slow with some things,” my Nan says and she laughs. It sounds funny, sharp and hard. I frown but the little-me doesn’t understand.
“Watch this,” she says.
She opens a door. I know what that is. It’s where the sweets are kept. The ones that Nan gives me that I can’t tell Mum about. I jump up and scatter the toys. At a staggering run I go from the green covered hallway into the kitchen.
“And there she is,” my Nan says. “You are a fat little monster.”
She holds the sweet above my head.
“This one will run for a sweet. Fat,” she says, bending down. I always thought she smelt funny, wrong somehow. I talk a small step back. “That is what you are, fat.”
As she says this she gives me the sweet. I smile and look up. She frowns and turns her back on me. I don’t know what was said, but the slight was there. It took me a while to work out what fat was. Then I knew what my Nan saw, a fat slow grandchild.
It was a hell of a lesson. And one I’m still trying to shrug off.
I should mention that I am overweight, although my partner insists it is curvy. And the slowness?
Well, at the time. That four year old me, was neither fat nor slow, but if you are told enough times you do get to believe it. Not that I do anymore, but for a long long time I did. It was definitely a trick, despite the sweet treat.