Unconditional love is what a child should expect from a parent even though it rarely works out that way. I didn`t have that, and I was a very nervous watchful child. I was a little thug too because nobody was going to beat me up or see me cry. I couldn’t relax at home, couldn`t disappear into a humming space where I could be alone in the presence of the other. With the Depressed Dead wandering around the kitchen, and mice masquerading as ectoplasm, and sudden fits of piano playing, and the sometime revolver, and relentless brooding mountain range of my mother, and the scary bedtimes – if Dad was on nights and she came to bed it meant all night with the light on reading about the End Time – and the Apocalypse itself was never far away, well, home wasn`t really a place where you could relax… Ask for reassurance and it would never come. I never asked her if she loved me. She loved me on those days when she was able to love. I really believe that is the best she could do.
When love is unreliable and you are a child you assume that it is the nature of love – its quality – to be unreliable. Children do not find fault with their parents until later. In the beginning the love you get is the love that sets.
I did not know that love could have continuity. I did not know that human love could be depended upon. Mrs Winterson’s god was the God of the Old Testament and it may be that modelling yourself on a deity who demands absolute love from all of his children but thinks nothing of drowning them (Noah’s Ark), attempting to kill the ones who madden him (Moses), and letting Satan ruin the life of the most blameless of them all (Job), is bad love.
True, God reforms himself and improves thanks to his relationship with human beings, but Mrs Winterson was not an interactive type; she didn’t like human beings and she never did reform or improve (or repair????) She was always striking me down, and then making a cake to put things right, and very often after a lockout we`d walk down to the fish and chip shop the next night and sit outside on the bench eating from newspaper and watching people come and go.
For most of my life I have behaved in much the same way because that is what I learned about love.
Add to that my own wildness and intensity and love becomes pretty dangerous. I never did drugs, I did love – the crazy, reckless kind, more damage than healing, more heartbreak than health. And I fought and hit out and tried to put it right the next day. And I went away without a word and didn’t care.
Love is vivid. I never wanted the pale version. Love is full strength. I never wanted the diluted version. I never shied away from love`s hugeness but I had no idea that love could be as reliable as the sun. The daily rising of love…
It was never too late to learn love.
But it is frightening.
Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal