Saturday, January 26, 2013

Her name was Anna...

I was a difficult child. There really is not two ways about it. There are many reasons why I was difficult child, many reasons which went undetected or unrecognised for many years, but this doesn't change the fact that when I was a child, I was difficult.

When I was eight, I once had an argument with my teacher and threw all my school books on the floor in a tantrum.

Another time, the school was doing a teeth brushing experiment after lunch for week and I hated brushing my teeth - hated the taste of toothpaste and the feel of the brush on my gums - so I stormed out of the toilet block and out of the school yard and headed for home.

I was moved to another school.

At the next school I spent many, many lunch breaks sitting under the stairs of the portables writing out lines - 'I will not talk in class'.

It was suggested to my parents that I go to a specialist boarding school in Adelaide for children with vision impairment. Vision impairment wasn't the cause of my difficult behaviour, but it was a good reason to send me away to a different school.

After a year at the specialist school, my family moved to Iceland and I continued to be difficult. I spent 9 months learning Icelandic at a small village school. I don't remember arguing with teachers or storming out of classes or any such behaviour, but after a year and a half, I was again sent away to boarding school.

This time I lived with a family. The mother in the family was the sister of the teacher who ran the special department for vision impaired students which was semi-intergrated with the regular primary school I attended in Reykjavik.

I hated that teacher, she was mean and harsh and didn't understand what it was like to be a twelve year old living away from home with a family I'd never met before. She pinched me for not putting a double line under my maths totals.

I didn't particularly like the mother either. She had rough hands from constantly cleaning, she was obsessive about cleanliness. She ran an in-home daycare, which was the main reason she was obsessive about cleanliness.

She tried to be kind to me, but I knew I was an outsider, not part of the family. I desperately wanted to be part of a family. I asked to call her mother and she let me. I wanted her to adopt me, so I could be part of the family, but not because I liked her, just because I wanted to belong somewhere.

Her husband was nice, but absent. He seemed to be forever at work. When he was home he was polite and quiet. I always thought he felt his house was constantly invaded by strangers but there was nothing he could do about it. If it wasn't other people's babies then it was children from his sister-in-law's special school department. He didn't seem to have a voice in his house.

I wasn't the first vision impaired girl they had taken in. Before me, there had been another girl - Agusta - she had been wonderful, gentle, quiet, I could tell they missed her. I was not her, and nothing like her. I had a boyfriend at the school - he was my source of comfort and belonging. Agusta had also been his girlfriend before me, but he liked me better, I could tell. I met Agusta once, I was prettier than her. I had pretty eyes, she wore dark glasses, and I had long blonde hair, her hair was a short brown mullet. It pleased me that I was prettier and he liked me more than her, even if the family liked her better.

I had Agusta's old room. Because she had been fully blind, they had never really decorated the room. It was only for sleeping in. The used it to store the unused piano and the daycare equipment - I was sleeping in the storeroom. It had a convertible bed-sofa which was covered in a scratchy brown material that I could feel through the sheets. I never slept well on that sofa and often wondered if Agusta wasn't driven to distraction by the rough material; blind people have a heightened sense of touch.

The couple I lived with had two children. A boy named Peter who was fifteen and nasty and had red hair. I didn't like him; his room was messy and smelled musty. He did his best to avoid me.

They also had a ten year old daughter named Anna. I loved Anna. It was because of her that I wanted this family to adopt me. I wanted Anna to be my real sister. She was pretty and had long light brown hair. I thought we looked the same, though we looked completely different. She played the flute and smiled a lot. Her bedroom was decorated in all white furniture, it was the brightest room in the entire house. She still slept in her parents bed - I don't think her father liked that arrangement at all.


When Anna was home, I wanted to spent all my time with her, talk to her, be like her. She seemed perfect to me, and she seemed to live an enchanted life in a beautiful house where she'd lived since they brought her home from hospital. Her school was across the road, and all her friends she had had since kindergarten. It was obvious she was her parents precious jewel - anything she wanted they gave her. She seemed kind and happy; without a care in the world, and I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be her.

I didn't realise it at the time - no one explained it to me - but I used to smother her. I think, in the end, that was the reason I only spent one school year at that school and in that house. I think things came to a head when one day when Anna had all her beautiful long hair cut of. For months she and I had been having a game of comparing who had the longest hair - I thought it was game, in hindsight I think everyone else thought I was obsessed with this competition, and maybe I was.

On this day, I came home from school, and Anna and her family were on the back deck sunbathing. I noticed straight away that she had cut her hair. She said, 'Now you have the longest hair.' For a moment I was pleased at that thought, but then I realised we were not longer similar. Now she had this cool new 80s hair cut and I just had boring long hair.

I asked if I could get my hair cut as well.

The mother said no.

I pleaded and was roughly ushered into my room, 'You stay there until I call you for dinner.'

I didn't understand why she was mad.

Two days later I did get to have my hair cut - much to my own parents disappointment.

A short while later I packed up to go home for the summer holidays. I had an inkling I wasn't coming back but I don't remember ever being told so specifically. I didn't really care, the only person I would miss was Anna and she hadn't really been talking to me for the last few weeks anyway. I was going home to my parents and my family.

Anna is now a dim memory in the back of my mind. The memory of her still has long light brown hair and wears jeans with a denim coat which has a lambswool fur collar. She smiles at me and is friendly.

At the age of 32 I changed my name by deed poll. My middle name is Anna.

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