The previous two Christmases had been sad, but that Christmas in Jersey ruined the magic of Christmas for me, right up to this Christmas, when unexpectedly and so soon after the nine months of hell from the Diocese, I have just had one of the best Christmases of my life.
Christmas in Jersey.
It could have been so different, it is very sad. I could have been on the mainland and had a good Christmas.
This is so hard to write.
The Korris report mentions the sexual abuse but never the emotional abuse.
A memory that frequently comes back to me is walking through St. Helier with the Church Warden, who called himself my ‘Daddy’, we were Christmas shopping.
Daddy was holding my hand as we walked, he often held my hand, and this was entirely his idea, he would hold out his hand for my hand, and he would walk with me, he called himself my ‘Daddy’ and called me his ‘little daughter’, regressing me to childhood.
Anyway, as we walked, he held my hand, but he kept snatching his hand away when he thought people ‘were looking’, which is what he did throughout our time together.
It hurt, it wounded me, because I fell for the innocent Daddy/Daughter thing, and a daddy does not hold his daughter’s hand and then snatch his hand away and go on about ‘people looking’, even if no-one is looking, it was psychologically harmful.
I know that may not make sense to many people, you have to live through it to really understand it, and few people have been ‘adopted’ and then regressed to childhood and suffered such confusing wounding.
Anyway, it is eternally sad to remember how that Christmas could have been different.
JM, my friend, the Vicar who betrayed me in supporting both her abusive husband and the churchwarden in Jersey against me, and making me out to be a lying nymphomaniac, was still my friend at the time, despite having denied her husband’s abuse of me, and blaming me, which left a permenant rift between us, but we were still good friends, and Juliet invited me over to spend Christmas with them that year, while all my friends were asking if I would come over (those friends who have been taken from me as a result of the Diocese), but the churchwarden, ‘Daddy’, wanted me to stay on the Island with him and his wife for Christmas.
I was concerned that ‘Mummy’, as he made me call her, was agreeing with him but did not seem enthusiastic, I kept asking if it was really alright? And in the end, I agreed to spend Christmas with ‘Mummy and Daddy’ in Jersey.
So, in order to even things out, I went to Hampshire for a pre-Christmas visit, to see everyone and give them Christmas gifts and cards.
Looking back on that makes me sad, because the Diocese have wiped out all those friendships by giving their side of things to everyone and parading me as mad and bad.
Anyway, I had a lovely pre-Christmas visit, and was just sad to miss the Christmas eve party at my friends’ and the Christmas I could have had with JM, having had a lovely Christmas with her and her family some years earlier.
So I returned to Jersey for Christmas.
And it was one of the most soul-destroying Christmases.
I will never forget that Christmas eve, I was lied to.
The Churchwarden’s wife told me that they were going to ‘run a few errands’, it was Christmas eve evening, they went out to a party that I was not invited to, and were out until very late night, running errands and going to a party and lying about it is not the same thing, and I was devastated. Already it was a very sad and upsetting Christmas. Because I knew I had been lied to, I knew where they were, I went to check. And I went down to the beach and cried.
Because the churchwarden always said I was their adoptive daughter, and yet, I was not part of their family publicly, they avoided telling anyone about that, including the people who’s party they went to with their son.
By the time they got back, very late, I had spent Christmas eve alone and had been lied to, and it was very sad, and I told them I knew, and didn’t get a very coherent response. As was always the case, the churchwarden’s wife was always happy to slate me, but never to take responsibility. She really was put in a bad situation by her husband, as she did not want me, and she was made to be my ‘mummy’ by him, I never liked her either, and I should have know how to see it was not a health situation, especially after she called me a burden. But the churchwarden seemed to like the tension and he deliberately stirred it up and caused conflict between her and me.
Anyway. So, it was a miserable Christmas eve spent on my own, and then midnight mass at that awful church with the churchwarden.
But the Christmas Day took the magic out of Christmas, because even up to then I saw Christmas as a magical time, and then I saw Christmas through the eyes of people who only saw it as a nuisance because they already had everything, and I was rejected in front of everyone by the churchwarden’s wife that day.
So Christmas Day was another dreary morning at that church, this time with the churchwarden’s wife and son, who hadn’t come to midnight mass with us.
Afterwards we went to the Churchwarden’s brother’s house, there was no present opening either before or after church or at the churchwarden’s brother’s house, it appeared that that had been forgotten in their version of Christmas, it was so sad.
But when we got to the Churchwarden’s brother’s house, I got the impression that Christmas was a nuisance to such people, who’s wealth meant it was Christmas every day, and there was no joy, no happiness, it was kind of funeral like in a way.
It was decorated for Christmas, as far as I remember, decorations on those sweeping staircases up to the landing. Very grand.
But it wasn’t Christmas there.
The Churchwarden’s brother had a teenage son from his second marriage, who was a Victoria college student, of course, because all the males in the family were. The Son was obviously not keen on it being Christmas, or joining the family for the polite and awkward social chat, he wanted to play his computer games, it was just another day.
The churchwarden’s brother, who’s name was John, had a daughter from his first marriage, who was over from London, and she was a lawyer. I remember the churchwarden’s son introducing her to me as his cousin, it reminded me sharply of how I was not really part of the family.
The churchwarden had said to me over and over again in the run up to Christmas, and that day, that I would be there as part of the family, but I obviously wasn’t.
The Churchwarden stayed close to me all the time, he didn’t seem to be enjoying himself, he was very quiet indeed, which was unusual for him, and even at the time, I was puzzled and did not know what was wrong with him, it remains a puzzle, he was not his loud and laughing self, he did not seem to like being there, he sat quietly, holding my hand when no-one was looking and keeping me with him, and it remains that I never knew him to visit his brother and family or phone them or speak of them in all the time I knew him, his wife did visit them, but he did not, and they never phoned. It is a sharp and spooky memory of his silence that Christmas Day that remains with me.
There was no real Christmas in that Christmas, we did have a big Christmas meal, and the Churchwarden continued to stay close to me.
After that we kind of sat somewhere, it seemed crowded and it was not a normal lounge, it seemed crowded when there was so much space in the other rooms.
It was awful, the Churchwarden’s wife made it quite clear in front of everyone that I was not family but someone they took pity on, after the Churchwarden had said I was part of the family and would be on Christmas Day.
Someone came to join the ‘Party’, us sitting there like lemons, and the churchwarden’s wife told the newcomer that I was someone from church that they had taken pity on.
(ie I was not the adoptive daughter that her husband said I was, and her tone said I was an unwelcome ‘burden’ as she had referred to me before).
I had had enough of being cramped and squashed and ‘taken pity on’, so I escaped this cramped pointless huddle in this room where were just kind of sitting, and I went outside, it was getting dark now, and my car, which I had driven up in as requested, was blocked in.
So I decided to go for a walk.
I walked in the dark, and I cried, because being family/not family was so very very painful, the churchwarden always told me I was family and that he was ‘Daddy’ and his wife was ‘Mummy’, his wife did not like being Mummy and was always carefully trying to cut me out and get rid of me, but Daddy was dominant and he said I was his daughter, and he regressed me to childhood and sat me on his knees, but the outside world and their own family did not know I was ‘daughter’ and they omitted it from their ‘Christmas Newsletter’, although, without my permission, they did put me and a photo of me with him in the newsletter, as a new friend or something, I always think that people who do Christmas Newsletters are very arrogant anyway.
Anyway, I kept walking, and crying, because it had been a dreadful day, not Christmas at all, no presents, no happiness and joy, no goodies, nothing apart from the meal, not even a decent church service – I was already looking for a new church anyway.
It was a Christmas with a family who simply endured Christmas rather than enjoying it, they had everything, and I was a burden. I walked up to the North Coast, looked at the stars and cried because I could have enjoyed Christmas on the mainland with my old friends.
I fell as I walked, my weak leg gave way and I went over, which made it all worse.
I went back, my car was no longer blocked in, and I drove back down the hill and to the churchwarden’s house, where I was staying at the time, he had told me not to lock myself in my room but I did, and I went to bed.
My phone rang and I was sleepy so I didn’t answer it, I slept, and I woke the next morning.
The next morning the churchwarden was knocking on my door and demanding that I came out so he could hug me, yes, that is what he was like, I told him it would be rude for him to hug me because I was still in my pyjamas.
But he persuaded me out and hugged me and hugged me and kissed me and told me he had come after me and tried to find me and had phoned me to ask me to come back for tea.
I didn’t belong with his family, an object of pity, and I could never have gone back and endured more, it had been an awful day.
Anyway, it never got any better, that Christmas took some of my innocent joy away, I did not know that people saw Christmas as a nuisance and an endurance, even in all my Christmases as a young adult, my friends and I enjoyed Christmas and the run up to it. I guess it was like finding out Santa Clus isn’t real, only I don’t remember that.
I think it was boxing day that we actually started unwrapping presents, I had plenty of presents from those (now gone) friends in Hampshire, I don’t remember much except a bone china mug with a £20 note in it from my friend who always did me a ‘teapot’ when I went to see her.
But I do remember how sad it all was, ‘Daddy’ wasn’t even in the room while we did presents, he spent most of his life alone in his office, but would call me to him if I walked past, and would sit me on his knees.
Anyway, Daddy was not there, and I was happily opening my presents and making a fuss, because that is what you do at Christmas, even if it is a day late, but then it was bad again, because this is when ‘Mummy’ decided to present her son with some family heirloom because he decided to marry the woman he was sleeping with at long last.
I felt that I was kind of in the way of a private moment, so I stopped making a fuss over my presents and went into the kitchen for a cup of tea, because I don’t know the rules but that was a private moment and I didn’t belong.
But then Daddy came in and asked my why I had left my presents? And I told him I was intruding, so he sat with me in the kitchen.
Oh, what an awful Christmas.
The Churchwarden, to his credit, did try to make it a happy Christmas for me,while I was away in Hampshire, he even put decorations and presents in my room, labelled ‘Daughter’, but his wife was quite clear long before Christmas, that I was a burden, which broke my heart, and she made Christmas awfully sad for me. And that Christmas haunted me for many years, even until this year, when I had such a healing and lovely Christmas.
In the days after Christmas, ‘Daddy’ and I sat doing a puzzle in the ‘dining room’, he was very loving and affectionate and close, sitting me on his knees, stroking and kissing and being very close, like a lover, even though his wife was often only in the kitchen.
And actually one of the reasons I thought it was ok was that she was nearby through that.
I believe he was trying to make up for Christmas, but he was too close to the boundaries.
After Christmas I crashed into severe depression, which the Doctor diagnosed as a virus, and despite saying it was a virus, he put me on antibiotics.
I didn’t really recover in my time in Jersey, and it looked like a return of the M.E. I had had a few years previously that I had overcome.
I remember ‘Mummy’ coming home and seeing me sitting there and saying ‘don’t beat yourself up’, which, even when I translated that into neurotypical, I never understood.
She refused to let anyone discuss Christmas ever again, but was quite happy to discuss my faults.
She did, for some reason, take me back to the brother’s house just after Christmas, and left me alone with the brother and his wife, I can only guess, but I think I was supposed to apologize for walking out.
The reality of how Money can’t buy happiness is all there in this account of that Christmas, joy and innocence cannot easily be bought but can be taken away very easily.