Wednesday, 14 November 2018


10:41:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , 6 comments

My first born was a little bundle of soft, pink joy.  She had a mass of curly blonde hair, a rather serious face and eyes that refused to close at bedtime despite my frequent efforts to lull her into that deep sleep I knew she needed.  She had two changes of clothes which was hardly adequate but I had plans to deal with that.  Grandma would come into play with her sewing and knitting skills. 

I was three and Suzy was my pride and joy.  

From the day that Suzy arrived in my Christmas stocking my life changed.  I was the mum I hadn’t realised I wanted to be. I had the baby I hadn’t realised I needed. 

Don’t get me wrong, Suzy wasn’t always the perfect child. She had her moments. The eyes were a prime example. Whilst my friends had babies whose eyelids drooped and quivered and finally closed as they were laid in their cots, Suzy stared at me, wide eyed and serious, some might say defiant.  She stayed like that as I covered her with the quilt my mum had made, stroked her Brillo pad hair and sung a little lullaby.  

When I had done my morning chores, which usually consisted of frying plastic sausages and making numerous cups of tea for my mum, I would return to the cot and find Suzy in the same catatonic state.  I’m not sure what happened with her finger but I’m guessing that one day the lack of sleep became too much for me and I bit into the squishy digit and spat out the tiny end.  Either that or the feeling of soft plastic between my teeth was impossible to resist - a bit like when you have a chewy sweet and try desperately not to bite into it.  

Suzy took the surprise amputation in her stride and continued to stare blankly at me as I sat miserably wondering how to explain away the missing finger to her grandma (who I guessed might not be too happy about it: ‘You bit her finger off?? What do you mean you bit her finger off??) I predicted a telling off unless I could dress Suzy in gloves for the rest of her life. 

I think I must have got away with the finger because sometime later Suzy suffered the loss of a couple of toes in a similar incident.  I told her it was frostbite, which my dad had recently explained to me, and she accepted it with her usual sangfroid. I did wonder much later, after one graphic RE lesson, whether I should have blamed leprosy. 

I think having Suzy must have sparked my interest in sewing and knitting, which remains with me to this day  As predicted, my mum made Suzy a few basic outfits - dresses, skirts, knickers and, strangely, an apron.  I’m guessing the apron was to prepare Suzy for a life of housewifery, and in the meantime to assist me with the cups of tea and plastic sausages.  Before long I was sitting with pieces of old fabric, scissors and a needle and thread, and cobbling together a rather bizarre wardrobe for Suzy.  Which, thinking about it, is probably how my love of weird clothing for myself developed.  

The best times with Suzy were undoubtedly when we visited our cousins in Margate.  Sue, a year older than I, had her own baby, Lindy, who was slightly smaller than Suzy.   I remember comparing the two babies and, just like a real mother, I felt quite smug that Suzy was obviously so much chubbier and prettier than poor Lindy.  Sue had a great Auntie Rosa, who was a whizz with a pair of knitting needles or a crochet hook, and was obviously at such a loose end that she had fashioned a huge wardrobe of outfits for the lucky Lindy.  I don’t know how I did it but I managed to persuade Sue that some of Suzy’s rather strange and ill-fitting outfits would be lovely on Lindy, and vice versa.  Soon Suzy was being squeezed into beautifully knitted jumpers and cardigans, and poor Lindy was looking like an orphan in huge hand me downs, falling apart at the seams.  I’m not sure what Suzy thought of the knitted knickers but she wore them without complaint for much longer than I’m sure was hygienic. 

As I got older, I have to admit I had less contact with Suzy. Life took over - art college, boyfriends, marriage and (more) children. Suzy ended up unceremoniously dumped head first, woolly knickers in the air, in a box in a cupboard at my parents’ house.  She might have been out of sight but my first born was never really out of mind for too long.  Grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews were all treated to the sight of Suzy’s poker face, as the toy box was brought out over the years. I must say, Suzy was usually discarded in favour of something far more exciting.  It looked like she’d had her day. Nobody loved Suzy like I loved Suzy. 

Just recently, knowing I was going to write this post I asked my son to take a picture of Suzy whilst he was visiting his grandparents. In an attempt to get Dan to find the right doll, I described her in as much detail as possible: she’s ugly, quite dirty and yellow, with missing fingers and hair like a Brillo pad. He sent the picture. 

Suzy, My Baby, With Her Missing Fingers

You might be 63 now Suzy - your fingers and toes have healed, your hair is still too stiff to brush and those eyes will never close, but you know what, Suzy, you’ll always be my baby. 

Another Day with Mother by Jill Reidy

At night
In the nursery
The baby dolls stir
Peep over their quilts 
And call to each other
Suzy never sleeps
Her eyes all seeing
She’s the leader 
Keeps the secrets

They help each other
Out of cots
Play games they’ve never 
Had a chance to play
They giggle
Drink the juice left on the side
Hold hands, dance round
And wait 
For the early signs of dawn

As the light 
Seeps through the curtains
And the room begins to warm
Suzy picks up toys 
Pulls back covers
Does a roll call 
Prodding and poking 
Sends the babies
Back to bed

I find her in the morning
Suzy, my first born
Eyes wide
Hair wild
I lift her up
Inhale the familiar rubbery smell
Gently touch the broken fingers
She stares right back at me
And resigns herself to another day with mother

Thanks for reading,    Jill



Lady Curt said...

I did enjoy this...reminded me of my doll Marilyn, but she was baked hard and not soft or cuddly, making a "MWAAAA" sound when tilted. She lost her golden curls , which was replaced by a dark brown curly nylon wig, glued into place....

Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography said...

Oh I love it, thanks for commenting, Kathleen xxx

Adele said...

That's a terrific blog and a wonderful poem.

Steve Rowland said...

Jill, what a fabulous blog, beautifully written with so many deft and telling touches - and a great poem to cap it off. Thank you.

Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography said...

Thanks so much Steve :-) xx

Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography said...

Thanks Adele, your comments are much appreciated xx