Welcome to another installment of The Beautiful Books, hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In and this edition is about Childhood. However, before I begin, there are a couple of things I need to clarify, I’ve had to change the names of a few of my characters, one of them being my main character from Olivia to Beth (short for Elizabeth), mostly because my sister decided to name her new-born daughter Olivia, and while I don’t want to give my niece a complex, I also don’t want my sister thinking I think she’s a terrible mother, in fact sister is a great mother (so far), and while it still weirds me out a little to realise my younger sister has a tiny human in her custody, I am looking forward to teaching my niece the ways of Feminism and the ways of the Nerd (Mwuahahahah).
What are their first childhood memory?
James: James’s earliest childhood memory is sitting/standing in the living room of his Seanmhair (grandmother) and Màthair’s (mother) small house in Glasgow, he had a set of large Lego blocks and he would build a large tower (as high as his blocks would allow) and then when he finished, he would push the tower over. James would do this over and over. It’s not that he didn’t have other toys to play with (his mother would try to encourage him to play with the other toys), he just loved the blocks best.
Beth: Beth’s earliest memories are building a pillow fort in the living room with her sister Mary, waiting for parents to come home (though mostly her father), while her Aunt Charlotte looked after them at night when her mother was doing shift work and her father was working late hours. Beth and Mary both share a great love of Disney and Pixar movies, something they both still enjoy but for different reasons. Mary enjoys Disney movies in a way to help calm her down and soothe her, where as Beth enjoys them in a more job-orientated way (like “would this be good class material?), so I suppose it’s harder for Beth to enjoy kids movies now than previously because of her job.
What were their best and worst childhood experiences?
James: The worst moment for James would be when he was sent away for psychiatric testing at a special needs school (which was like a boarding school), he hated it because it was away from his Seanmhair (grandmother) and Màthair (mother). However, when he was five and his mother told his biological father he’d been diagnosed with Autism stands out for him, mostly because his biological father ceased all contact afterwards. Best moment for James would be when he came back from special needs school and Robert took him to his first karate lesson (Robert stayed the whole time to watch him and make sure there wasn’t any problems), this is where James met Justine (he’s two years older than her), Justine’s always been direct and a little aggressive, which was something James didn’t have a problem with and Justine liked the fact that James wasn’t afraid of her and happy to give as much as he received, so they’ve been best friends ever since.
Beth: The worst moment for Beth would be when she had just finished year 11 in secondary school and her mother wanted her to repeat year 11 so that Beth would be in the same class as her sister Mary and Beth would be able help Mary with the school-work, her mother harassed her about it for weeks until Beth finally snapped and Claire and Beth had a massive fight about it, which resulted in Claire hitting Beth, and as this had happened previously, Beth wasn’t eager to stick around for it keep happening. As a result, Beth run away from home and move around from homeless shelters, youth shelters and camping sites. She didn’t go to her Aunt Charlotte’s place because she didn’t think Aunt Charlotte would believe her and would force her to go back home. While Beth was homeless, she was staying at a youth center and she was helping a social worker set up an early breakfast thing for homeless people when the social worker was attacked by an ice-addict, Beth was there and managed to beat the guy unconscious with a fold-up chair. Beth sort of blames herself, she thinks if she’d realised sooner, she could have prevented the attack from occurring. Her best moment was when Aunt Charlotte stood up for her against her mother and Aunt Charlotte went over to her mother’s place and collected the rest of Beth’s things so she could move in with Aunt Charlotte instead
What was their childhood home like?
James: James, his Seanmhair (grandmother) and Màthair (mother) all lived in a two bedroom flat in Glasgow, which was surrounded by other two bedroom flats but it was located in a rough neighborhood, however it was close to the local hospital which was good for James’s Màthair (who is a nurse). However, he moved to Kirkby Stephen with his Seanmhair (grandmother) and Màthair (mother) when he was 12 and his mother met Robert. Robert and his mother moved into Robert’s place and while James did try living with them, after a couple of days James insisted on living with Rosemary (grandmother), which ended up being better for him anyway.
Beth: Beth’s parent’s home was a three bedroom home in Taylor’s Lake, one bedroom was for Beth’s dad to use as an office, so Beth and Mary ended up sharing a room (and bed) most of the time. Aunt Charlotte lives in the same area, however her house is a little bigger (four bedroom).
What’s something that scared them as child?
James: Hair cuts, which is why he’s always had his hair long (though as an adult it’s more he doesn’t want to waste time at the hair-dressers), social interactions (he’s quite a high level of anxiety about general stuff but social anxiety is high on the list). As a child, James was often afraid of his biological father and didn’t like leaving his mother alone with him.
Beth: As a child, Beth was always scared her dad wouldn’t come home, Mary could pick up on stressful energy from her mother (while they waited for him to come home) but Mary couldn’t always figure out why Beth and her mother were stressed or worried. Beth was always scared of getting into a relationship with a police officer, this isn’t just because of the dangers involved in the job, but that occasionally the wives of police officers who were dealing with domestic violence issues would come around the house because Beth’s mother was a nurse, they would come over to the house if they needed a patch up or someone to talk to. Beth’s dad doesn’t drink and has never hit her mother, but Beth is aware that her father is an exception, so instead of it teaching her to trust the police, she learned from an early age that she couldn’t necessarily trust all police officers and that cops often get away with a lot.
Who did they look up to most?
James: James has a great respect for Tsubaki-sensei and her son Hiro (who is about the same age as James), however when it comes to approval I suppose James would be more leaning towards Robert and his mother, he wants them to value him just as much as they value Mac (both James and Mac think of the other as the prodigal son)
Beth: Beth is most likely to look up to her Aunt Charlotte, she’s a fully qualified councilor, doctor of psychology and translator. Aunt Charlotte is also the first person to take Beth’s side in an argument against her mother and to call her mother out on her narcissistic bullshit attitude.
Favourite and least favourite childhood foods?
James: James’s favourite childhood food is minestrone soup with a cheese toasty (cut into quarters). James’s least favourite food is meat (especially lamb) and is a vegetarian and has been so since he was five.
Beth: Beth’s favourite meal as a child wasn’t so much a specific meal but more eating in a particular place. Beth’s best friend Jack and her family run a Korean/Chinese restaurant, which was open until late, so Beth’s dad would often take Beth and Mary there when he had to work late on a case but Aunt Charlotte was unable to look after them and Claire was working shift-work/late hours. As a result, Beth knows a lot about Chinese an Korean food and can be rather picky about it. Beth’s Least favourite food would be Brussels sprouts
If they had their childhood again, would they change anything?
James: James would focus better on controlling his temper and possibly trying to get along with other kids at karate better, try to tell himself socializing isn’t as scary as he thinks it is
Beth: Beth would be more assertive, she’d fight harder for what she wanted rather than just going along with everything.
What kind of child were they? Curious? Wild? Quiet? Devious?
James: quiet but devious (definitely one of those kids you would apply the phrase “it’s quiet, too quiet…”), he liked to play pranks on his mother when he was little, like waiting for her to come home from school or work and jumping out and scaring her, which was later replaced with shooting his mother with his Nerf gun. But also the type of child who would ask lots of questions. However, James was also the type of kid who liked to watch documentaries (wasn’t a big Disney fan) and would watch them repeatedly.
Beth: Beth was quiet, especially in comparison to Mary (who was noisy and hyperactive, despite being non-verbal) but she got into the habit of watching people and noticing things. Beth and Mary enjoy Disney and Pixar movies but also enjoyed books.
What was their relationship to their parents and siblings like?
James: James’s relationship with his mother is strained and complicated, because his mother had him at fifteen-sixteen, James was more raised by his grandmother, which has caused his mother to feel insecure in his relationship with James. However James in turn feels insecure and resentful in his relationship with his mother because he sort of feels as though as soon as she married Robert and had Mac, she didn’t want him around (she had her “real” son to take care of). it caused problems with Robert’s family later on (though Robert doesn’t care about that kind of thing). I suppose this resentment does affect his relationship with Mac in a way (though James and Mac did get along well when Mac was very young, Mac would follow him around constantly). However, as James is the eldest, he does see it as his responsibility to keep tabs on his younger siblings (he can definitely be overprotective).
James does get along well with his younger sisters and, up until recent events, James and Callum used to get along really well (especially since they have a lot in common). Callum is currently dating a guy whose a lot older than him and James doesn’t approve of the situation (he thinks Callum is being taken advantage of and is worried Callum will get into an abusive relationship and won’t be able to get out of it). James doesn’t want to admit that maybe the situation with Callum is a little triggering for him as he was abused while he was forced to stay at the special needs school for psychiatric evaluation. James was also in an emotionally abusive relationship recently, Justine helped him get out of it, so he understands what it’s like to fall into a similar trap and not realise it.
Beth: Beth and her dad are very similar, where as her sister Mary and her mother Claire are very similar, Beth tends to get along with her dad better than her mum, whom she no longer speaks to and has no contact with at all. Previously, before the big fall-out with her mother, Beth would help Mary with social interactions, help translate for her and sometimes that meant that Beth got shunted to the side or wasn’t a priority (currently in Australia, siblings of kids diagnosed with Autism are granted access to counselling as well but counselling and access to therapy can have limitations). When Beth finally snapped under the pressure and stress of the situation, she decided she’d rather be homeless than go back. Her dad is in a weird position of trying to keep the peace between the different factions and trying to help Mary with her Autism, which puts Olivia in a weird/resentful position as well, Beth feels like her parents were perfectly capable of handling Mary, they just didn’t do it until Beth was no longer in the picture.
This situation did put Beth and Mary’s relationship in a strained position, they have recovered from this with counselling and Beth enforcing personally boundaries (though this is something she does occasionally struggle with). Mary, in a way, knew the situation between her and Beth was at times unbalanced (while Beth resented the situation because it seemed like Mary had all the power, Mary thought that Beth was the one with the ultimate power, as most of the time Beth was often verbally translating for her and sometimes speaking on her behalf). With the help of counselling, Mary and Beth were able to find a better social balance and they were able to repair their relationship. This is the major difference between Mary and her mother Claire, Claire was not willing to acknowledge there was something wrong with the situation and Claire wasn’t willing to compromise at all.
What did they want to be when they grew up, and what did they actually become?
James: For the first twelve years of James’s life, he was pretty much an only child and due to the social stigma of being a child on an underage mother and having autism, he didn’t have many play-mates. However, he did develop a fondness for role-playing games and as his mother was fifteen-sixteen, she still had things like dolls so he and Rosemary would occasionally do crime show reenactments (Midsomer Murders is one his major guilty pleasure). So James really enjoyed the idea of being an actor, but due to his autism (lack of facial features and monotone voice), he felt he’d never be good enough.
Beth: Beth and Mary would often play cops and robbers type pretend game (Beth being the copper and Mary being the robber), but she never wanted to become a police officer or a nurse, Beth was tempted to become a social worker or a translator but was put off by the working conditions. For a long time, Beth didn’t know what she wanted as most of time she was focusing her energies on Mary. But when she got a job as an Auslan interpreter, she realised that she wanted to get more involved in the education sector.
Wow, I’ve just realised just how depressing Beth and James’s childhoods are, I need to get back to writing so they get the H.E.A they deserve