After Skye we lived for two years in Milngavie on the north side of Glasgow. I remember nothing about the house other than there being an alcove bed in the kitchen and frames upon which laundry was hung to dry before being hauled up out of the way near the high ceiling.
Eve was in hospital for a spell when we lived in Milngavie and I remember going with Jim to visit her. We travelled through the countryside on the bottom floor of a double-decker bus. At one point, a woman was coming down the twisting stairs at the back of the bus when she slipped and fell onto the platform at the bottom. Everyone turned to look and I asked Jim in a loud voice, “Is she dead?” She wasn’t and everybody laughed. I couldn’t understand why. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable question.
|The fortress that may or may not have terrified me.|
She did and when when she returned with a certain trepidation that afternoon, I was happy and cheerfully skipped along the road beside her.
“So we won’t have any nonsense like that again tomorrow morning,” she said.
I stopped dead in my tracks. Tomorrow morning? It wasn’t just one day. I hadn’t survived this hideous experience. It was to go on another day, another year, forever? The first of life’s disillusionments.
|Eelin telling me a story.|
So my memory of my first day of school is false, in fact, the opposite happened. The false memory grew up through misconceptions, misinterpretations, confusions with later bad days at school, a conflation in family lore of my and Fiona’s first days at school, and just plain exaggeration by Eelin to improve a story. And yet I believed for most of my life that it had happened exactly that way. As such, it influenced and helped shape my perspectives as I grew up. In a small way, the fiction became a part of who I am. The story is not verifiable, definitive truth, but it is my truth.
|Me, almost 5, scrubbed up and missing teeth |
with my three sisters at Eelin's wedding
Eelin came back from university occasionally and after she married Frank, they moved down to Newcastle, but when she came home or I went to visit her and Frank, she told me stories that broadened my horizons beyond the dark deeds of the Macdonald clan. Before I was allowed to go to the movies, I knew the exciting tales of Shane and 3:10 to Yuma. Before I could read the originals, I knew the terrifying narratives of Dracula and Frankenstein. My internal life was getting richer.
Also in Milngavie, I began to make friends. There are four other small boys with me in a snapshot of my fifth birthday party. We all have cups of juice in front of us and a large chocolate cake that is obviously the focus of attention. But the Milngavie experience was brief, by age six we had moved once more.