My journey begins. I am 12 years old, I’m moving on from the north-west coast of Tasmania. I am on a train; my last port of call before my last stop, to my new home, hopefully my very last placement. I stand on the platform, waiting to go to my new home.
It is a cold bitter winter’s night, the wind howls around my thin shoulders, I pull my coat tighter and bite my bottom lip; a habit I have had since I was a little girl. My one promise to myself – I won’t cry. My long hair blows around my pretty face and I see in the distance someone coming briskly towards me with long strides. She tells me, “Hallo my name is Margaret Maddock, I am your new Deputy Matron.” I am thinking, who? “I am sorry,” she said, “you had to wait for a while, it’s good you didn’t leave.” I’m thinking; where am I going to go? I have no idea where I am. As a shy girl, I feel so very lost and I try not to cry, I feel I have done too much crying all the way through my infant life.
I look, and feel, very unhappy. I’m all alone still trying to feel safe; my family are all gone now. My mother has died, my father has been taken out of my life, or I have been taken out of his, my two brothers are living in a different part of the Tasmanian state. My younger sister Lynette has been adopted, I have no one to love anymore, and it’s just me now. The lady tells me, “Hope you had a good trip and it was enjoyable.” I shrug and look down at my shoes. My last foster mother, Ma, had given me a new warm coat and a new pair of boots. She told me she loved me so, “Beverley Myra, you’re a beautiful young girl; I will miss you, as I wish I was better and the welfare would let you stay with us. As you know, the rules are all they care about, your welfare lady just wants you gone.” Yes I very well know at 12 years old, how she always felt about me. “Young Bev, you will always stay here till you have done your time. We must meet your needs.” As she leans to hug, me I shrink back, into my own abyss of darkness so she can’t touch me anymore. She can’t threaten me, my silent voice says to me she is gone out of my life. From six years old she terrorised me every time she saw me, and now six years later I am ditching her for good.
I remember Grandmother whispering into my ear, as she leaned down to kiss me goodbye, she whispers, “Watch them all the time don’t turn your back on anyone.” I shiver remembering Grandmother saying this to me twice, once when I was nearly six, when I left their warm home, that was always my home, and again when Grandmother, and my auntie came over to bring us back home. I still see Grandmother’s saddened face, her tears as they ran down her face as she hugged me, they ran down my small little face and I tried so hard not sob with her. Grandmother has gone now, I remember her saying “use your gift to see”, I only realised later she remembered me saying, when we left her home, at nearly six years old, “I have a bad feeling Grandmother, it hurts me here in my heart.” That’s your spirit telling you beware danger is coming; watch everyone, and believe me I did. I became a child that didn’t speak often unless I had to talk, I saw everything. I knew I was smart; Grandmother always said, “You are a bright little girl and have beautiful heart, your mother gave you this gift as I gave to her, use it”. I always remembered what Grandmother told me, even today telling you my story.
I want everyone to know I am the storyteller in my family. As wards of the state we had to sleep in many beds, or sleep in any place we could find to protect us, every day. We would tiptoe like tiny mice through our wisps of time living in a world of madness. The hardest part for all of us as children belonging to the state was sleeping in many different beds. I call them second hand; many children before us, and after us, slept in these beds. I could still feel the essence of each small soul before me.
When I met Auntie Margaret she was tough, interesting, I liked her, she gave me the chance to ground myself. The words she spoke were of fairness, quietness. I open a door to her car and we store my meagre belongings in the back seat. Every time I have moved my belongings went on the back seat, this makes me question if I will ever be more than a young orphan where I feel I am beneath everyone. Our conversation will never leave my mind, as a 12 year old girl I look back into my infant world, and see how very intelligent I was. From the very day I disembarked the big ship with Daddy and my brothers, and small sister, in Tasmania, I felt my heart break in half. One part there with Daddy, the other part home with my loving grandparents, I would never mend these two halves till the very day I went home by ship. Aunt Margaret, this is what she told me to call her, talked so very much. I was so tired, my bones ached and my head was spinning. I wished so many times to go to sleep at night and never wake up, my dream was to leave this time where I couldn’t stay within my heart, and I couldn’t leave because I didn’t know how.
”We are nearly there” Aunt Margaret says. I look around and can only see very dark images whizzing past and blue bright lights shining out, it’s unbelievable. Auntie Margaret is chatting away, but I am not really listening till she says, “We live near the sea.” Oh wow, my heart jumps with excitement.Do they have ships near the water? She looks at me as if she knows what I am thinking, I will come to learn that Auntie Margaret will be the very person to shape me, and make me who I am today. She will give me the clarity to see that she sees what I do – that I am very aware of how life is. She will silently give me hints about when to speak up and when not to. I will see myself change from a shy, insecure young girl to a beautiful young gifted girl. I will learn empathy, dignity and courage. She will keep me fit by regularly walking deep into the forests in Tasmania, all us girls will walk all day, her motto was healthy bodies, healthy minds. I believe even now I will look at a big piece of chocolate cake and she will be in my mind saying, “Do you really need that?” I saw her as my dragon angel. ”Yes” she replies to me, “we live next the sea, yet you will never be allowed to go down the big driveway to the road below and walk alone. You can never leave the grounds of this big home, you are not surrounded by big wire fences, but you are put in to a real trust that you will never do this.” I thought, awesome, someone finally trusts me now. Although she says, and I knew this was coming, “We never walk on the beach below; you will never be able to leave these grounds alone. You will always be courteous to all.” I’m thinking – I’m living in 1800’s. “You understand?”
As she talks we drive up a very long driveway. There is a full moon in the sky shining out; I take this as a great omen. Our grandmother once said to me; “The full moon makes Grandfather silly”, I giggled at her, I was very young. Grandfather would get in a mood and go out to his beloved garden. I would sit with him and chat away, not once did Grandfather curse at me. Like Grandmother said, I believe he was so in love with us, his little granddaughters, he would never scold us. Oh! How I missed Grandfather. He told me great stories before I could hardly walk, of knights and dragons. He saw our brothers as ratbags. I would giggle at his sayings, I was his first granddaughter, and my sister Lynette was his little magpie. Oh Grandfather, I think, what am I going to do? Where are you? Why don’t you come and get me? My sadness was that I knew I belonged to my grandfather John Hinkley and Myra Emma Hinkley Smith, I was their granddaughter. My mother was their oldest daughter. Destiny has thrown me to the wolves.
I cannot see home. I ask, “Can we see the boats?” “Yes” she replies to me, “they are very far out to sea,” Of course they would be, I think to myself. We talk about me seeing my grandmother, she tells me children rarely see their families after they are placed. Well I wanted to, every day I curse this world, and I had heard Grandmother use this word once. I listen to Auntie Margaret who tells me she is the deputy matron. I wouldn’t have a clue at this stage what that means. I will form a great friendship with the woman where the other children in the home call her the stone maiden. I see her as a different personality; she tells me the truth. Where many strangers have been in my infant life, their lies are laced within deceit, leaving me to find out too late that I’m in a bad place, and I’m telling you; there is nothing I can do can change my destiny at 12 years old. I so want to not be here, in this time, as a young girl.
I start chewing my bottom lip, and for some unknown reason become nervous again. Auntie Margaret has stopped the car. She jumps out with energy I have not seen before; I too will gain this energy as she will, on weekends, walk us all day into the forest. I will become so healthy and fit that even today I look younger, and healthier, and my spirit will become so much stronger. There is only one lifetime I am living, is there more to life for me? Happiness would be good, I think… I will talk to this man God the most I have ever in my life. My sense of wonder in God will never leave me empty handed and I will feel as free as I can be just looking at the sea. I am now walking in the giant doors of an Anglian Church of England home where I am told 26 girls live. I will feel for the very first time I have come home. From this day I will have an unusual, great relationship with God. He will give me the spiritual want to find a place I can call home. The home is huge its two story and it’s called ‘Clarendon’ it’s so enchanting, it’s making me cry just looking at it and writing about it. This will be my home a place where I will see how really beautiful I am, I will also learn my heart is golden as I walk into a place I called heaven. If I can’t be with my mother and my siblings back to my grandparent’s home, that I will learn was my home, I will live inside this huge home.
It’s scary but wonderful. I feel like I am walking into another world, away from horror. People that I had lived with in their homes were deceitful; give me your money though I don’t necessarily want this child that doesn’t want to be here. Well hell, I didn’t see much, or any, affection from six years old. I know the difference between living a half-life to what I believed I deserved as a family member back home. My own mother had an incredibly different love; life was always seeing, learning and loving. She taught me to breathe. I found later through my childhood I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t cry. I wasn’t allowed to express my excitement, my joy or laugh. Every day in my life was just heartache and pain. I have travelled so far; I want to know what love is. I want to feel where love is; it was always at Grandmother’s house. I wanted to go where love was; I wanted to feel love again like my mother showed me. Walking into Clarendon substituted this for me. Not once would I be hugged, touched or told I was loved anymore. Yet I would feel safe. The most important moment is knowing that you don’t have to look behind a wooden door or under the bed before you go to sleep. I remember in my terrifying doomed days I would validate by sleeping very lightly with one eye on the door wondering what this new placement would be like. Each placement robbed me of feeling safe.
Before going into the big home, I ask can I have a moment; I want to stand and look at the full moon and the few scattered clouds. I see a star, I’m sure it looks like the brightest I have seen for a very long time. Grandmother told me, back home, that falling stars were people falling out of heaven. With a big smile on her face, she said don’t make a wish, when you see a falling star wish deep within your heart for the very best thing you want. I always dreamed I would see my mother just up in the sky floating on the clouds, my minster at this home would look at me and say; “You’re so much different to the other girls, I think you are so much deeper, you see life so much different from the other girls in this home.” I nodded and agreed. I see so much sadness in this infant world. I can’t comprehend, why are all of us children living this kind of life? There is no one I can find to tell what I can see as a young child.
I take one more look at the moon then walk up the steps, I bite my bottom lip, and a shiver runs up my spine, and then the big doors open and out runs a big dog. It jumps at me and I end up on my back, a lady laughs as I am helped up by Auntie Margaret “Looks like he likes you my dear. Our dog doesn’t go to many people, you have won him over, and he will be your friend for life”. I hope so, I think, at the moment I will take anybody to be my friend. I hug the dog and a lady tells me; “Welcome, my dear, to your new home; Clarendon”. Wow, I think, I get to live here in this big home and I have a new friend whom is a dog, what more do I want? The lady smiles and says, “Welcome dear, my name is Auntie Elizabeth, I am the Matron of the home, all the girls are waiting impatiently to meet you, all 25 girls.” I think oh my God I am in for a weird treat now. How am I going to get on with all these girls? Auntie Margaret frowns and says, “I think I will take Beverley up to her room and let her have a rest.” Auntie Elizabeth frowns, “Oh of course, you just follow Auntie Margaret and have a rest; the dinner bell will go off in about half an hour.” I am so tired I feel like I have been run over by a truck, Auntie Margaret takes me through the big home where the ceilings are so high I hurt my neck looking up. “You have plenty of time to look around dear, come I will take you up to the dormitory.”
Potential; a word I will discover will never be in our lives. We will find we were never entitled to this; to see our future, our true worth. I always remember Grandmother and Mother saying I was a very clever little girl. Yet, my encouragement will never be seen from six years old till I leave the system; my education will never be sought, or fought for. I will be classed as second hand child of a system that never worked or was recognised, as any state ward child entitled to be allocated a real education or worth. Yet, I will know I have full potential to become whomever I wanted to be if I could only receive that chance. If they say all over my care; “We must meet your needs”, trouble is inevitable. The welfare department of this time didn’t want us all to have a future. Looking back now I am told I am a scholar, I am clever, I have gifts; I have brilliance. Where were these people when I was a child? They labelled me in the same basket as others. Now I know I am adventurous, smart, intelligent and funny. I have a great personality. I had to wait half a lifetime to find this out, or believe it. The Bawn Educational programme brighter future opened up doors for me to see the real me. I haven’t looked back. Now I tell people I am brilliant. I find others tell me too, it’s my greatest compliment because my mother brought me up to four years of age with brilliance. She saw me, and taught me to show the world who I was at this age. I was her little genius. After six years of age I was nobody’s child anymore. I was called dumb; an insult that took my potential away every minute of every day. I found I wanted a place to call home. Clarendon became my part time home, I was never really the same, but I found I was safe every day.
In the dormitory I look at Auntie Margaret, she smiles at me. I will eventually become her favourite as she tells me later I am not like some of the girls. I haven’t got an empty head. She speaks of my intelligent mind; I have talent, and wisdom. How does she know me? I think. I will find she knows me very well. She looks at my raven black hair, and sighs. I whisper to her, “Please don’t cut my hair I don’t like the way they cut my hair with a bowl around it.” “No” she whispers back, “I won’t cut your hair, promise me you will tie it up so Auntie Elizabeth doesn’t order you to have it done.” I whisper to her, “Why we are whispering?” She says, “This is a quiet home of God.” I’m thinking, is He here? Auntie Margaret says, “He’s all around us.” I giggle, and say “Everywhere.” She nods her head and smiles. I have a thought, “I think I’m going like this home” I say, “I have a lot to talk to God about.” “I’m sure you have, and will he listen, my word he will, sure we have chapel in the morning and night if you choose.” “You bet”, I say. My mother taught me always to be grateful. Even though I was very little I remember all her words. Auntie Margaret smiles; this was the moment the door opened for our friendship; she will create a learning experience that will last me a lifetime. I still now at times hear her saying to me, “Do you think that’s the right choice you’re making?” Oh yes Auntie Margaret. Every day I will appreciate how she taught me to be the very best person for myself.
Going through another door we come to a long row of beds with very thin white covers on each one. Truly I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. She looks at me. I say, “Perfect. I don’t have to sleep alone anymore.” Aunt Margaret looks at me and I feel as though she looks right through to my shattered soul. I bite my bottom lip and say, “I think I am home now.” I have a secret inside of me and it takes my breath away. I feel like it is time to tell someone. She looks at me and says, “Tell me.” I know what people think of me, it breaks my heart. I never knew where my love has gone. “I see angels up above; my mother is near me.” “Of course” she says, “so you should.” Sorrow has followed along beside me. From this moment in life I very well see these things myself. Day one she says, “Changes are coming my dear; you now are one of 26 girls, welcome home. You now are able to dream, and grow. No strangers live in this big home. Have a rest, here is a bed.” A shabby bed in front of me seems to me like my bed back home, I sit on the end of the bed and cry, not from sadness as much as happiness. One moment in time I found shelter. I look at my wrists and can still see a chain around them. I am a 12 year old girl so far away from home; I am separated from my family. Come and sit with me for a little while and I whisper to each one of you out there that reads my story, this mansion might just be my home for a little way, I would love you to stay and keep me company till I find my way home.
I stand up and look out the window. I am on the second story of a mansion that I will learn has many ghosts. I will learn that I have a fantastic memory, and will record everything in my mind as I now and sit and tell you. I can see the moon brightly shining. If I look closer I think maybe my beautiful mother’s there, sometimes I can feel her near me. I will learn many life lessons in this home. I must tell you in my life has been heartache and pain, I travelled so far and have felt so much pain. I will take time to stay and look around. I don’t know if I could face another rejection. I have to find love, wherever it is. I had it once with my beautiful mother, absent father and my own two brothers, tiny sister and grandparents you would die for. I really want love back in my life forever in my heart, deep within my young soul. I wish I could go to sleep sometimes, and not wake up again. Grandfather would say to me as a little girl; “Strength is the most important sword you can carry, courage comes next, pride after that, always get up and keep going like a dragon slayer.” So I say to you out there shall I keep going? I’m dying to wander around every room in this old mansion, and see if there is treasure, or dragons. Auntie Margaret says, “Treasure in this home, and plenty of ghosts” with a twinkle in her eyes. “Come down the back stairs to the dining room for some supper.” I feel like I am in an old movie here.
Beverley Myra Smith.
Please come back and join me, as I can tell you my story where I have been lost broken, tossed away in the dust. Picked up again dusted off and ready for another moment of life experience, painted picture, to either bury or tell someone one day. I am living in a place a long way from home. I can’t go home as there is a big stretch of water between me and my home, where my grandparents live, along with my family; aunties and uncles, the stretch of water is called Bass Strait, do you know of it? I only know what I have been told myself many times. My Story: Beverley Myra Smith. xxxx
Read Beverley’s story from the beginning in TAT Tangent Magazine.
Image Attribution – Pixabay: smengelsrud
About Beverley Smith
Who are you? A caring and passionate woman - I like to help others. Ive been on an incredible journey in life, particularly my past and that is why I am writing; so maybe others will come share their memories. Why do you contribute to Tangent and what does it mean to you? I think its good to share life stories with people, as they can relate and understand parts of their own life. They may have been there themselves. 3 Words that describe you? Love life, self-aware and gifted. What is your disability? PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) How has it affected your life? It has probably affected my life in every way. It doesnt affect me as much now, as Ive learnt to live with it and cope with it. What is your goal? To finally be myself. I am myself now, but its taken me a long time to accept who I am and acknowledge this is who I am.
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