I love Shakespeare. Really, I love him, I love his works too! But I love him! It’s so wrong because he’s dead. I love Thomas Hardy too and he’s dead! That’s wrong too! You see, it’s wrong because I love them in a fancy them kind of way. But they’re dead. My daughter forever reminds me that it’s wrong! But bitchily ( Is there such a word?) , I list her past boyfriends and argue that they were sooo wrong! Then she does the same to me, and she’s right! So we reluctantly submit, it’s ok for me to fancy Will and Tom!
A Midsummer’s Night Dream has always been my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays and I’ve always been haunted by the enchanting oration of the king of the fairies himself:
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk roses and with eglantine.
But I know a place where such beauty also exists. I have seen this place, I teach in this place. I created such a place when I held my baby girl for the very first time. This is a place where there are no judgements. This is the place where you are loved. This is the place where you are taught. Yes, this is your school.
Whatever judgements others may make there are the Oberons and Titanias who endeavour to make your experiences magical. There are happy endings, but you have to make them.
Who are we then? We are your teachers. We are your mentors. We are your parents. We are your people. Some centuries ago we’d be your tribe but funnily enough also, your parents, your teachers, your mentors! Little changes really except technology and perceptions.
“My dad is in prison Miss”. “I don’t know my dad Miss, I’ve never met him”. “My dad’s a bastard Miss, my mum said so”. “I haven’t got dad Miss”. “My dad is dead Miss”. This is what I hear on a daily basis. It breaks my heart. I crumble to nothing inside because in every town and county I’ve ever lived and taught in I know a place; ‘Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows’, and sometimes, in fact many times, that place is seen in the very eyes of those fatherless children. That’s where I see the magic.
I have seen this exact magic in my own daughter’s eyes when I used to take her to the local woods and we bowed to the sun and curtseyed to the moon because we didn’t just believe fairies live there, we knew they did. I saw that magical place when she first asked me, the dreaded question; “Why haven’t I got a dad?”.
I pathetically replied, albeit logically; “We haven’t got enough room for one”.
It was magical she accepted that for some time. But we knew a bank; ‘Where the wild thyme blows’, so we didn’t care! But then time and age carries out its cruel destiny and sullies us all. I had to give ‘real’ answers. I had to tell her basically she was fatherless! A bastard? When in actual fact the bastard was the man who ‘did one’ when I was seven months pregnant.
Did it harm her? Did it affect her life? Of course it did. But it’s her life. It was our life and it was our normality. We travelled around Europe. She’s covered quite a few countries in her young life. She’s lived in poverty with me! She’s seen things a child shouldn’t see. But she’s loved and she knows that!
Twenty one years hence, to all the fatherless children, we don’t care loves, it doesn’t have to rule your life. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have been brought up without a father. But I brought a girl a up without one, and you know what, it’s ok. To all you mothers without the fathers, so what, tell your children the truth according to what they can understand at whatever stage they are at. It’s not ideal but it’s ours and their life and we have nothing to be ashamed of.
To all the fatherless children, in whatever circumstances that have made you fatherless, love what you have, accept what you have and be good for your mum! We didn’t plan it this way! But you know, ‘With sweet musk roses and with eglantine’, there is a magical place for us all where if we choose to go there we can recite the words of Thomas Hardy and remember;
‘I am the family face;
Flesh perishes, I live on,
Projecting trait and trace
Through time to times anon,
And leaping from place to place
Not having a father does not mean you do not have a family and a whole support system out there.