A few days since I’ve written here and if I’m honest it’s been a few up and down days. I had a need to move some things in my bedroom in preparation for a new carpet to be laid. I have a box in my wardrobe which is full of things from the time that Luke died – so things like the newspaper articles, a magazine article, cards, things he had in Thailand.
But I also have another couple of smaller boxes that have keepsakes from all of the children; I knew what was in one of them but actually hadn’t looked in detail. I opened the lid and found Luke’s 1st pair of shoes – a grey pair of Startright shoes – bought by Grandma as I recall – only the best for her 1st Grandchlld.
Next out was the tie he wore when I got married a 2nd time as well as at the little trousers he wore as a Page Boy at his Uncle Ian’s wedding. As I’m writing this looking at those trousers I can just see Luke at the evening reception. At that time he was one of the only children – Alex was about one I think and my sister-in-law Zoe’s niece the same age – the 2 girls slept the evening away in a travel cot. But Luke? He was the star of the show on the dance floor – he was about 5 I think, and spent the whole evening dancing – in time – to the band. A really lovely memory!
There are cards galore from all 3 children, mostly hand made, they are far and away my favourite! As I look through again now I can see how the 3 evolved – it’s clear that to start Luke wrote all 3 names, then Alex added in hers, in a bit of a wobbly way, then Jake joined in all wobbly to start. I’m looking through again as I type and I’ve found a postcard from Alex – with some very lovely words.
“Mum is the greatest Mum in the world
When she kisses me my tummy curls”
I don’t think I’ve ever thrown anything away my kids have given me, no matter how small, and it’s such a pleasure to look through all the cards, albeit a pleasure tinged with sadness. Another precious memory is in the form of a cardboard book – Owl Babies – I read that book to Alexandra and Jake time after time – it’s wonderful!
Amazingly in one of the boxes are some of my old school reports – reading through them is making me smile – Isn’t it amazing how some of our preferences are set at such a young age – reading a line from a report when I was 10 years old –
- Art & Craft – Tries hard despite disliking the subject
- Physical Education – Enjoys all aspects
- Music – Keen and interested in all branches of music
I am laughing a little as I read the report of 3 years later – a teenage Deborah Hogg – aged 13 years and 4 months.
- Geography – Deborah’s examination results were rather superficial
- Biology – Deborah’s work needs much more care. Her project was disappointing
- Physical Education – Deborah always works hard and has been a reliable rounders captain
Something of a theme building there – I went to an all girls’ Grammar School – and didn’t really enjoy the experience being something of a tom boy. I left school at 16 having had enough of the environment, 6th form wasn’t for me, yet I studied an Accountancy qualification a few years later.
Back to the boxes and their contents; the main things I was looking for were the letters Luke had written to me from his two spells in the Young Offenders Institute, otherwise known as prison really. A lot of judgements are made about how easy it is for those locked up, but from what Luke told me at the time and from what I’ve read all over again it really is like a form of torture.
The biggest punishment is the loss of your liberty, to be shut in a cell for hours on end with only silence for company really is inhumane no matter what the crime – for a 16-18 year old lad I can only begin to imagine what that must have felt like. The lads talked through their doors at times – here’s an extract from one of Luke’s letters:
‘Whilst writing this letter the others are talking about the guns they’ve seen and had, what a joke! One’s talking about a boy that he stabbed. I hate this place, I really miss you, the power shower and my big bed, oh yeah and not being hungry all the time, but most of all you, just knowing your (sic) sleeping 10 feet away it’s really comforting”
To take a lad who was it has to be said being a nuisance and put him into an environment where others were talking about guns and stabbing people is a crazy situation – It must have been frightening to say the least. On of his letters mentions a lad who got a 7 year sentence – that will have been for something a bit more than being anti-social.
The 2nd time Luke was sent away he was in the place with a lad who’d set a homeless man on fire, killing him, so, a murderer. Another had been caught in possession of a gun. Luke did gain a few qualifications while he was locked up which was a small positive to take from the whole thing.
I have gone on a few tangents this evening – but to give my thoughts on prison, in whatever form that takes. I fully accept that punishments must be meted out – but I can’t see that being locked up is ever an easy thing to endure for anyone.
Oh, and keep your mementos from your children – imagine the look on their children’s faces when you share them.