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Writing Workshop: On the Top Step

I was very upset last night. Not really ready to go into why, but there it was. Curled up in the cocoon of my duvet and sobbing my silly heart out. And as I often do in moments of pain like that I began to wish for home. My childhood home. All three-bedroom-detached-corner-plot-with-a-bay-window-that-leaked of it.

Much like I am now, okay, exactly like I am now, I was a dreamer-child. A feeler of feelings, most of which I didn’t always understand or know what to do with. And much like my little boy now, I often struggled to sleep. My head was always just too FULL, spinning me off into worlds and adventures and ideas and wonderings.

On the nights when my head won and sleep was far away, I would sneak out of my little bedroom, with the high cupboard behind the door that I would often climb into and in which I hid biscuits and would pretend was deep underground. Actually, I used to pretend it was underneath the Faraway Tree. I’ve just remembered that. Yes, I would sneak out, taking my duvet if it was cold, and I would sit on the top step on the landing in the dark and I would listen to the murmur of my parents in the living room downstairs. The orange glow of the front room would make a line under the door in the downstairs hall way. I would listen to the vague hum of the television, or the sound of my mum or dad boiling the kettle, the sound of cupboards opening and closing, or the metallic clunk of the iron on the ironing board rest as mum ironed shirts. It was always easier to hear my dear Dad’s voice, deep and loud. My mum’s quieter voice acting as punctuation to his dialogue.  Knees hunched, bare feet on the carpet of the first step, I sat. The glow of the street lamp outside the  long window to my left dressed everything in half shadow, familiar shapes and lines. I could have walked round that house blindfolded and never missed my footing.

I sat and I listened and I thought my thoughts and all of it, every sound and sense and sight, it all came together to say one thing – ‘everything will be okay’. And I’d drink it in like hot milk until I felt sleepy and would tiptoe back to my bed.

Last night I ached for it. To be back there and that child again. So I took my silly panda eyes and put on a jumper and I went and sat on the top step of the steep stairs in my own two-bedroom-terrace-with-the-damp-in-the-kitchen-and-the-rubbish-shower and I closed my eyes and I let myself go back for a while.

My hunched knees felt no bigger, my head no less full. But there were no voices downstairs and no hum or click of the boiler in the airing cupboard and no sudden rattle from the 72 bus as it made it’s scheduled stop. And when I opened my eyes there was just dark and I was just alone and very small.

And then Kai coughed and I heard him stir and mumble and turn in his bed on the other side of the wall. And I remembered. I’m still the kid sat on the top step. I think I always will be, but I am not the same kid. Still a dreamer. Still a feeler of feelings I don’t always understand or know what to do with, but older and taller and fuller and more scarred and more whole and more hurt and more healed and wiser in some things and stupider in others. And as much as I wish sometimes, I can’t go back. I am here, now and that’s that.

And I drank in the new sounds and lines and shapes in the half-light and touched the wall, on the other side of which my precious blond-mopped boy lay, off on some adventure, no doubt, and it didn’t say ‘everything will be okay’, it said ‘WE will be okay’. And I knew it was true.


Now it’s your turn. What bit of your childhood have you been recreating?

Leave your name and the URL to your post in the Linky below (the URL should be to your post not just to your blog) – it’ll be open til Sunday night so if you haven’t had chance to respond yet, then you’ve got plenty of time to join in. Don’t forget that anyone can take part! New prompts will be up this time next week, so I hope to see you back soon.


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  1. Littleeggcups

    This made me cry. I have felt the same way, many times. This is beautiful writing. You are so talented.

  2. me too- with the crying. Ah dear – I had a top step too and all…this is so so beautifully written hon. I have that feeling way too often. xxx

  3. I have never felt that way, but this made me want to hug you and say: “Yes, you and your little boy will be okay”. Thank you for sharing your memories and feelings with us.

  4. Ah Josie. Wish I could give you a hug. I will do soon. xxx

  5. That is beautiful. A step back in time, to your childhood when everything would be ok. You are an amazing writer and huge big hugs for you x

  6. Man, I remember that house SO vividly. I can still smell it (in a good way, am not implying you lived in a cess pit!). Gorgeous writing. Enormous hugs from me my lovely. You WILL be okay xxx

  7. Just gorgeous as always. Thank you clever talented lady x

  8. actuallymummy

    I really like this. I never felt this way until I had children, and then any time I was ill I had this overwhelming feeling of wanting my mum, even though we don’t get on well, and never really have. I had some counselling for PND, and learned that it is quite normal for feelings from our childhoods to surface when we have our own children – it is such a confusing time emotionally. I felt so liberated to be able to examine my childish desires rather than discounting them as silly, and I still take care of myself better because of that experience. It sounds like you are doing exactly the right thing exploring your inner child (if that doesn’t sound corny), and it will get better. Being a parent when you feel like a child is scary, but it sounds like you’re doing just fine. (Still working on my post, hope to have it up here soon) x

  9. You write so beautifully Josie. I hope one day very soon, you’ll pick up a blank notebook and write a book. Just think. You could do it. It is within your reach.

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