Mother and son

For years I saw him walk past our house with his mother.  He was older than me but I never saw him by himself or go to school.  Sometimes his siblings would walk along with him but his mother would always be there too.

Back then, the term used was ‘mongoloid’, a word that puzzled me.  We knew nothing about the disorder, why it had that name or what the symptoms were.  It wasn’t until I was in secondary school that I learned about the condition and its proper name.

photo credit: baldyczeks via photopin cc

We lived in a village on the outskirts of a small rural town.  It was a place where religion and superstition lived hand in hand; where transgressions and gossip were as significant in people’s lives as their daily bread.

It was unusual then, for a disabled child to live at home rather than in an institution but his mother was determined to keep him with her despite the criticism and pressure from family and neighbours.  She got on with her life, raising several children and doing the hard work that women in villages had to do.  She learned to live with the stares, the whispers and the hurtful remarks. Eventually as the years passed, mother and son became a common sight and they were left alone.

In time his brothers and sisters left home and his father died.  But still, as late as his forties, he and his mother would go for their walks.  They always walked at the same pace; she dressed in black, old and hunched, slightly ahead; him close by, always at the same distance, always looking just ahead.  I never saw them talk to each other but whenever they passed someone he would always say the same words “what time is it?’

I used to wonder what would happen to him if his mother died first but I learned some time ago that he was the first to go.


Why I don’t like writing (I think)

Today I may have figured why I don’t like writing.

A couple of days ago I saw on Plinky the prompt “What is your earliest memory?”.  That got me trying to figure out how far back I can remember events in my life. I concluded that I cannot recollect anything before I was five years old (I know of things that happened but I don’t remember experiencing them).

As I was recalling memories one particular scene came up vividly – my mother, my sister and I, in winter, sitting cozily under the bed covers, while my mother and I were doing my school homework!

I should point out that when I went to primary school, in Portugal, four decades ago, the schooling system was very different from what it is now.  For a start there were lots more children, especially in the countryside and we had no sports or any extra curricular activities.

My school consisted of two classrooms and the only way all children could be accommodated was by having two ‘shifts’ – some of us went to school in the mornings and others in the afternoon.


My primary school
(image from school site)

Less time in class meant more homework and the reason my mother would help me was that in the first couple of years I made lots of spelling mistakes.  As homework, my teacher would get me to write each wrongly spelled word 100-200 times!  So, when I say my mother was doing my homework with me, that’s exactly what I mean.  While I was doing my math or other work she was painstakingly writing some of my words over and over!

I had the same strict teacher, for the 4 years of primary school.  By the end of it my spelling was as close to perfect as it could be and the Teacher was very proud of me.

As I was thinking about this it suddenly occurred to me that this experience is probably the reason why I don’t like writing and why I am a stickler for proper spelling and grammar.  As it turns out, this has been a big handicap as the fear of making mistakes and the constant struggle for perfection stops me from writing spontaneously or even just writing.

I say in my About page that “it is hard for me to convert my thoughts into writing but I want to push myself out of my comfort zone.” It had not occurred to me until today that this learning experience may have been the source of my uncomfortable relationship with writing.

Now the question is, will knowing this make any difference? I don’t know, but what I do know is that it makes me want to practice writing even more.  It also makes me realize that I don’t need to be so hard on myself – so what if my writing isn’t beautiful and fluid, so what if I make grammatical mistakes?  I am just going to keep going, in the hope that one day I’ll feel nearly as comfortable with writing as I do with speaking.