For my 11th Birthday, dearest Mama sent me a pair of sarcastic socks. Inside was a Snoopy card in which she had written:
There’s no need to be so upset. Other people have to put up with far worse.
We will see you in a couple of months,
Your ever-absent Mother.
p.s. Your father is furious with you
For my 12th Birthday, I received an irate face from Matron, interrupting my rubbery toast birthday breakfast. Your mother phoned and is very angry. She wants to know why you haven’t sent her a thank you letter yet. Before I’d had a chance to ask for further clarification – thanking her for what, etc. – I was given 100 lines: I must write thank you letters to my parents. I did write 100 lines but can’t say what the line was for fear of offending the sensitive reader, but it might have been something along the lines of Matron is a paedophile enabling cunt. Fortunately, Matron did not ask for the lines as she was very forgetful, a serendipitous side-effect of her raging and impressive alcoholism.
For my 13th Birthday, I was in hospital after a freak accident severed two of the fingers on my right-hand. 23 stitches, two weeks, and no visits later I was sent back to school, where I was given a letter from my mother.
Still no thank you letter. There’s nothing wrong with your left hand, though, is there?
For my 14th Birthday, I received a parcel wrapped in crumpled festive paper. A message was written on it: To Evelyn, Happy Christmas! Lots of love from ..... and........... x
You don’t mind second-hand wrapping paper, do you? said M when I saw her a couple of months later. She then commanded me to kneel down while she asked me why I hadn’t written a thank you letter to her brother. The next bit’s somewhat pretentious, so if you skip ahead to my 15th Birthday I won’t be offended. A flower blossomed behind my eyes. It was a weird little flower: small and clear and weird. Very much like a teardrop. Teardrops weren’t allowed, though, so it must have been a flower. See what I mean? Pretentious.
For my 15th birthday, I forget her name, but she sent me a broken tape-recorder. In a cardboard box. The card read:
Things don’t always have to be perfect, you know, and some of us are too busy buying houses to wrap things up.
We will see you in two months.
Your ever-absent Mother.
p.s. Your father is very upset with you
For my 16th Birthday, I received a telephone call from my father, which I took in Fr Paedophile’s unventilated study, cosy with the smell of old vests and stale paedophile farts. Welcome to the capitalist society, he said. I have opened a Lloyds Bank account for you. I told him to fuck off, and left the telephone dangling.
It was unnecessarily rude of you to be so ungrateful he said when I saw him a couple of months later.
I don’t know where he gets it from chipped in the other one.
It’s always the way with adopted children, isn’t it? they said. We should have realised.