There are two definitions of the word precocious and as a young child I was neither, although if you knew me when I was aged two you might have wondered about that. I was born chubby, in fact I was known as the Michelin baby, but I levelled out by the time I was two. Thank your lucky stars I can’t find that baby photograph … those rolls of fat would have you die laughing.
I was born with a mole in an embarrassing place, at the top of the inner thigh. Of course as a toddler I wasn’t embarrassed, simply fascinated. I showed it to everyone I met; I can almost hear me saying ‘I’m two in May and I’ve got a mole’ before lifting the skirts to show it off. I guess it was their smiles and laughter that made me do it all the more. Such encouragement was rare in those days!
The more my parents told me not to expose myself in such a fashion the more I did it. As soon as I met a new person I would lift the frock and adopt the particular stance that showed the mole to good advantage, then wait for the laughter-filled praise. It went on until I got to school age although not as frequently.
Before leaving the house on my first day at school I was given a lecture. Even to this day I remember walking up the road and worrying about what might happen if I showed off my mole. I think I cried a bit and wished I had someone to comfort me. Young kids were on their own in those days, parents didn’t escort them to school like they do now. Mother had said the teacher would cane my bare bum if I did it in class … and after one look at the teacher I believed it.
Her name was Miss Pinches, a woman with the sternest face I ever saw. Her name was appropriate for someone who thought nothing of pinching school kids or using a heavy ruler as a weapon. She haunted my early schooldays, she moved up with me, and wherever I went she followed … the wooden ruler always within easy reach. One time she smashed it on my hand while I was writing, breaking the nib of a brand new fountain pen. That got me in trouble at home. ‘You shouldn’t have misbehaved,’ said Mother, giving me another slap for deserving it in the first place. Nowadays parents rush to the school to complain about such a thing. Not in my time, we were punished for no reason… twice. That’s when I learned not to tell Mother anything.
Remember fountain pens? Mine always leaked. Oh the hours I spent scrubbing ink from my fingers … and woe betide me if I got it on the dress. It’s a good job Mother never found out about the tar in the road! That happened during war years when I was evacuated to grandmother’s house. On my way to school I joined with others in a new game of bursting freshly laid tar bubbles. It was great fun seeing them burst and hear the squelching noise with each pop. I didn’t even realise the newly released tar landed on the white frock!
For such a quiet child, I got into all sorts of trouble, both at home and school, yet I was placid by nature, wouldn’t say boo to a goose, and never, ever answered back or cheeked an adult. Even now I am careful what I say to people, usually weighing up in my mind the best way to approach things.
I’ve wandered a bit from the subject of the mole, haven’t I? As I grew so the mole reduced in size and by teenage years was no more than a pinhead. By that time I was reluctant to show a leg let alone the mole, yet deep in the archives I found pictures that would make you believe otherwise. It seemed to me I did nothing else.