the brat pack

my mum
born in the crackling veins of the shipyards in newcastle where men muttered marx under their breath while they built boats for her majesty. it was 1964 and, due on the ides of march, they called her julia (but good old mum, she got there early). working class wonder, intelligentsia of the mob, she took on the toffs at grammar school. too poor to pay her way, she aced the entrance exam instead. she versed herself in latin and french. she says “carpe diem” every single day. I’ll never know why she laughs when she tells me how, at 11, her appendix burst at a birthday party and she didn’t feel anything until she was almost dead. she says she saw heaven. no angelic choirs or golden thrones. it’s like she’s reading from revelations.
her name is apt.
she is like
caesar.

1980s. the decade of hair metal and brat packs. and my mum, a riot grrrl before you all, fell in love. 10 years she held his hand, long enough to warrant a ring (the biggest diamond she’d ever seen). but whilst her father, my thoughtless granddad, soaked their money in cheap whisky, she, one night on the cold streets of durham, almost had the spirit shaken out of her by a man with bitter breath. and her love, he shrugged it all off. i always laugh when she tells me how northern men protect their girls. fists made of iron and thor’s anvil. turns out she wasn’t his only girl. he came back grovelling. she says she laughed in his face. she keeps the ring. 
she says she
doesn’t trust men as far as she could throw them.

i was born when she was 32. a bastard baby in every sense of the word. i almost killed her (2 whole days) but she says no one could hate those big dark eyes of mine. she tells me how her parents, disapproving and prodding at illegitimacy and indecency, lost their nerve when i was in their arms. she says that makes me special.
she sung me geordie ditties as lullabies. oh, those geordie ditties. “an’ we jigged it up se hearty, o; wi’ monny a shiver, an’ lowp se clivvor,
can newcassel turn oot sic a party, o? oh zoons. haway.” the dialect of industrial kings who weld their own crowns. 18th century pit princes. she’s the reason my heart blisters for the north. she says our ancestors were poor but they were proud. brick-shit-house vikings in bonnets.
she’s the reason i cry when 
i hear sting
on the radio

 she says that every day i remind her more and more of her grandmother. the ‘30s heartbreaker and one-time toast of blaydon races, don’t you know? i don’t see it but she says it’s in the way i think and the sulk of my lip. the other night, she found me, still awake and all cried out, and she said, in her fading northern tones, 'you’re the bonniest bit of a lass i kna. you’re too good for this, bairn’ and she tells me she’d die if it would make my hurting go away. she’d die for me. she'd DIE FOR ME. i know it’s real. she’s usually loving but not affectionate. i’m always shocked when she tells me she loves me but it’s just the northern core in her i so adore. she talks about death a lot these days. it scares me because she’s getting older. i hate to hear her talk of how i’ll still be her bairn when she’s six feet under. she half-kills herself to keep us happy and she's 
always
sick.

she still looks at me as if i’m in the throes of innocence and once, she saw tolstoy in my hands and said 'pet, who’s he when he’s at home?’ but i remember when i first found blood between my thighs, how she whispered 'you’re a woman now’ no. no. not yet. i’d break bones to keep us from ageing. to go back to the days when people didn’t fuck me with glazed eyes and you laughed until you cried. my heart wasn’t cracked and you were not tired. no. not yet.
we still have
years left together

—  for mum.
8

Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us. In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

The Breakfast Club (1985)