It is hard to tell you that I have six children. Not hard for me, I am used to it. But it’s hard for you.
I could lie to you. Not lie, so much as not tell the truth, there is a difference. I could tell you I have four children and we will laugh and say that’s a lot and you don’t see big families so much anymore. I could ask you about your family and we will share stories and news. Look at us, proud parents, and me a Grandma, another on the way. I could tell you about the lives of my children. How bright and fabulous they are. What lights they are in my sky, even though they are scattered under stars far away.
Or I could tell you I have six children and we could follow the same path and simply not mention the missing two. Awkward silence. Not for me, I am used to it. But its hard for you. I know what will come.
For many years the lie burnt my tongue, the words hot ashes in my mouth, searing my breath, making a liar of me, a betrayal of all that was. But I did not have the words. I got lost. I had no means to hold my own pain let alone yours. The scars sat raw, close to the surface. Threatening to burn through my skin, to engulf me in a fireball with no care for the niceties of chatting at the shops.
Now I will tell you that I have six children.
Now I will tell you that they are brightest stars, fabulous and brilliant and finding their way in the world. Now I will tell you that two of my children died. One at 16 one at 23. This is hard for you, I know. You do not know what to say. Or what to do. The horror of it undoes you and you want to be kind and you want to know how but, you want to protect you and yours and hold your babies close and not tempt fate or think that such things can happen in the world. You know that people die. That everyone dies. But it’s not manners to say it out loud. To see it in public. To hear it spoken of at the shops.
It’s ok. It’s not so bad to live with. See, that’s another lie. To make it palatable. Not for me, I am used to it.
You will be sorry, unsure what to do next, where to look, what to say. You look away. I will be beside you, holding the space, reassuring you that it’s ok. That I am fine. That it was hard. That it was a while ago now and I will let us move on.
This is not for me. I am used to it. But it’s hard for you.
For me, I would tell you about my beautiful naughty funny boy who scared me half to death until his broken, worn-out body became too tired to go on. For me, I would fill you with stories of his sister, my young lady, and her stubbornness and laugh and love of nail polish. Of how we came to share our worlds and how they made mine better. How, for a while, I was a mum of six. That I remain a mum of six.
This is me.
I am used to it.
But it’s hard.
Originally published in https://www.theclassworkproject.com/product-page/issue-7-lumpen-a-journal-for-poor-and-working-class-writers