A couple of days ago I posted my worse Christmas Eve – K Mart 1972. Today I’m going to relate my worse Christmas ever, it took place in the tiny village of Brightstone on the Isle of Wight. I was twelve years old and just three weeks away from my 13th birthday. However before I tell my story I need to fill in some background history.
My mother died on 26th December 1939 I was eleven months old and we were at war with Germany. I had three sisters and two brothers, to my eldest sister Lily, fell the responsibility of running the house for my father and of looking after me. In 1942 Lily married an English sailor, Ben Cook, and moved to Scotland to be near his home port. She made an agreement with my father to take me with her, there was no one else to look after me. In Scotland she ran into problems getting monthly ration books for me. A lengthy explanation was always required at the Government ration book agent offices. She was Lily Cook and I Frederick Rodgers, also her husband could not claim an allowance for me through the naval pay office. In early 1943 they adopted me at the Dumfermline Sheriff’s office and I became Frederick Cook. For me, life continued as normal as could be expected in a time of war. I looked upon Lily and Ben as my parents and was quite content and happy. In late 1944 Lily became pregnant and her husband had been posted to the Far east. In January 1945 we returned home to Belfast. Lily to have her baby and for me total confusion. I meet my father, brothers and sisters, I learn that Lily is my sister too, Ben Cook my brother-in-law, I was six years old.
Lily gave birth to a son in June 1945 and we moved back to England to Ben’s parents home in Gasper, Wiltshire. I started school in the local village, I was a very upset and confused little boy. My first day at school I confided my misery and history to my teacher. Lily was enraged when she found out and I received a thrashing, she told me never again to tell anyone she was my sister. She was my mother and that was the end of it. Easy for her to say and do, she held the power to hurt and scare me, For the next six years I’m forced to live a lie. Over the years my resentment grew and I longed to return home to my father in Belfast. Lily was very cruel, she abused me mentally and physically. A widening gap grew between how I was treated and how her son Roy was treated. On the Isle of Wight she sent Roy to a posh school in Newport whereas the Brightstone Primary had been good enough for me. By the time I was twelve my resentment and indeed my resistance was at an all time high. When Lily hit me I refused to cry, often when she told me to do something I’d do the opposite. It was not a happy childhood. This brings me to Christmas Eve 1951 where my worse Christmas story begins.
On Christmas Eve the mood in our house was good, the tree was up and the living room decorated. Just before Roy and I went to bed we hung our socks by the fireplace and left milk and cookies for Santa. For a special treat Ben lit the candles on the tree and turned off the lights. It was a marvelous sight but he didn’t leave them lit very long, a very risky fire hazard.
On Christmas morning we arose eager and excited to open our gifts. I spent the morning laying on the carpet in front of the fire reading my “Boys Own Annuals” and stuffing chocolates in my mouth. At noon we had Christmas dinner of roast chicken and all the trimmings. We ate Christmas pudding and pulled Christmas crackers and wore the paper hats found inside. We all helped clean and put away the dishes while Lily made tea. Ben carried the Christmas cake into the living room and Lily the tea pot and cups. I was back on the carpet reading while eating my slice of cake and sipping my tea. I wasn’t really aware but was picking the marzipan of my piece of cake, I didn’t like Marzipan. Unknown to me Lily was watching and suddenly flew into a rage yelling at me to eat the marzipan. I said I don’t like marzipan, eat it or you will go to bed for the rest of the day. My mouth went dry and I knew I wasn’t going to do what she told me. I said no, and she said get to your room, I got up and picked up my book. Put that down you are taking nothing with you and I don’t want to see your face again until tomorrow. You can imagine how I felt, anger, rage and resentment all rolled into one. I went to my room, it was freezing the only heat in the house was from the living room fire place. I had to get into bed just to keep warm. I lay there thinking about running away, I started to form plans to return home to Belfast. I must have dozed off because the next thing I hear is Roy shaking me, Mum says you can come down stairs. It was dark out side so must have been around six pm. When I arrived in the living room I instantly knew why I had been reprieved. Two of Ben’s relatives had arrived for a visit and had brought Roy and I each a gift. Lily obviously didn’t want them to know she had sent me to bed on Christmas day. That terrible Christmas passed into history, but it had been the last straw for me, Lily was losing control and finally she realized it. After the school term ended in June 1952 at 13 years of age I returned home to my family. I finished my schooling in Belfast as Frederick Rodgers.
I don’t dwell on this memory these days but it remains something I can never forget.
I hope everyone reading my blog have a wonderful Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.
God Bless and keep reading