I was born in 1822, the same year the Great Game commenced with Russia. My father was Alexander Nicholson, a Quaker of all things, a Quaker in the middle of Lisburn Ireland in the middle of the ‘Troubles’. My mother was Clara Hogg. No one could quite square why my father married my mother. They seemed antipodes apart. When my mother erupted with one of her fiery tempers my father would just blandly say he had to go to work and leave the house to her icy fury. Father was a doctor. That gave him lots of reasons to leave the house. Later Uncle Hogg told me Father got Mother pregnant and had to marry her. Perhaps that explained my Mother’s later fanatic kirk and damnation religion. I don’t know.
Uncle Hogg tried to explain Mother to me. He said Mother did not start out as the woman she ended up being. Uncle Hogg said fear feeds fanaticism until it swells into something monestrous. I nodded unconvinced because I was too young to remember Mother as being anything other than — well — we are suppose to love our Mothers so I must love Mother —but that does not mean I have to like her. She certainly never liked me though I believe she believed she loved me. There is a saying Fathers and Daughters —- Mothers and Sons. If Father had lived then maybe Mary would have had the chance for a happier life. I never will because while there is this iron clad bond between Mother and myself it is not —- how can I describe it? Admit it? Map it out and analyze it?
Mother birthed my sister Mary more than a tad premature, then me, then my little brothers Alexander, William, and Charles plus some odds and sods who died. Father’s income bought us a fine townhouse, cookie cutter identical, in a row that lined a street, outside impressive, inside shoddy, looks being the operative issue rather than comfort, especially for us kids who lived upstairs with the servants. It was located in a good part of town. That was what mattered. Father’s job at the hospital gave Mother good credit at all of the stores on the high street, and a fine pew in Mother’s brimstone and damnation church. She was so proud of that damn pew. How she loved to strut into the kirk and march us children down the aisle to that boxy private pew. Everyone would watch us file in and sit down on the private seats as Mother sat down as if on a throne as she fussed with her bonnet and mittens. But then Father went and ruined everything by dying.
Father died of a fever he caught at hospital when I was nine. He was rarely around. The only time I ever really saw him was when he took us fishing. Father did love to fish in the local pond. He would seat us all down on the grass and arrange our little poles and hook the worms as Mary made a lemon face. Then at the count of three we would all cast our baited hooks into the smooth water and sit on the warm grass in the warm sunshine and fish. We rarely caught anything but sometimes Father did. But mostly I think Father like to fish because he got him out of the hospital and away from Mother. I always rather pitied Father. He seemed the type who just like things to be plain and tranquil. He always had little paper bags of sweets in his jacket pocket to share with everyone. He never hit us. He was the hugging type. He just wanted to be happy. What is the evil of that? But he died and left Mother financially devastated. Apparently she had overspent to keep up with the McCoys and Father had not really made as much as everyone thought. And so my little fell apart.