Like so many promised lands, not all was as it first appeared in her new, shiny, sparkly home. The first clue: one newish man of Minnie’s acquaintance refused to confirm his eligibility for dating. “Of course I’m not married, you’re so suspicious…” He smiled a confident, easy grin as if it was all a big joke. They had known each other a few weeks.
Several weeks later, after more strange inconsistencies, he revealed he had been lying to her since they met. “Does it make a difference?” He asked innocently. Minnie was taken aback. “Yes, actually it makes ALL the difference”. The man looked surprised. “If you want a child I’ll give you one”. Minnie thought about the man’s wife. She thought about how she might feel if she were married and her life partner casually impregnated another woman in such a lackadaisical manner. Similar offers followed. “How strange this place is…”thought Minnie. Pretty on the outside, not so dazzling on the inside. She thought of the little boy in the story who travelled to another land. He had a lovely time but still yearned for the familiar at the end of the story.
In Minnie’s new home, the barter system appeared to be a baby in exchange for a visa to the original land. Minnie, like the child in the story, wanted to go where people knew her best, not this place with its upside down values. At times, when her wanting to be a mother was strongest, she lay awake trying to imagine changing her beliefs but her thoughts always led to unhappiness around the child. If a man was so eager to reproduce with her, despite being in a supposedly committed union, then how many others was he saying the same glittery script to? She needed trust to make a little person. Her clock ticked…
Maybe Minnie was destined to be barren? She was certainly unconventional. At a time when other little girls talked about princes and princesses, Minnie told her mother she thought she would be married three times and it might work the third time.
In other respects, Minnie was highly conventional and responsible: she did a lot of babysitting and child-minding in her teens. She was startled by hanging pheasants at one stone cottage. At another gentrified address, she struggled to fulfil the parents’ timetable which included daily violin practise for a 6 year old. Only ten years older than the child at the time, Minnie could not see the merit in imposing such a punishing schedule on a child who wanted to play. She had to phone her mother for advice from another babysitting gig. The toddler kept peeling off her nappy. She was screaming; Minnie was sobbing with exhaustion. The toddler’s parents could not be reached on any of the numbers they had left. Minnie’s Mum talked her through it over the phone. Turned out the child had an ear infection. The parents had decided not to inform their babysitter so they could enjoy a night off. Minnie had felt powerless as the child repeatedly stepped out of her nappy and bustled away screaming. It was her first experience of the power of a toddler. Of not being able to reason with another person.
One trio of little girls Minnie looked after she imagined as her own brood. The sisters were very different to each other. The youngest was a fairytale princess, the eldest an imaginative writer, the middle one…a tearaway in training.
Minnie was gentle, kind and responsible. She attended Junior Red Cross and Girl Guides. She was was a popular child-minder. There is a photo of her, lean and fair-haired, gazing as if mesmerised at a small child next to her. She looks curious and astounded by the little person in the making by her side.