Heat Freak (Cold Phobic)

Heat Freak
(Cold Phobic)

I was born into a cold climate, to a young mother who was ordered by child care experts not to pick me up when I cried — a ruling for all babies then. (Much later, much too late, she told me she cried too. She longed to take me in her arms but didn’t dare. Much too much later, I realised it damaged her too.) My mind doesn't remember the horror of crying for help and no help coming – but my body does.

No wonder I was always cold, needing the simulated hug of a woollen cardigan, a thick coat, the comfort of a hot bath, the embrace of summer sun. Finally encountering the tropics was bliss.

Choice and circumstance, mixed, brought me to live in the sub-tropics. Even here, in the brief, mild winter, I need my doona and fluffy blankets, I need the heater on all night. Unless I’m warm, I can’t sleep. 

I wake in the cold dark, utterly demoralised: crying, shivering, incoherent, believing I’ll never get warm again. I stumble out of bed disoriented, blindly seeking rescue: groping around, confused, lost, helpless, a terrified child. 

There have been men who held me in those moments, warmed me in their arms, found me extra blankets, murmured to me as if I was a child, calmed me, brought me back to my adult self. The essential is warmth.

Now there is no-one. I must keep me warm. I make very certain of it. An extra blanket folded across the foot of the bed in case the temperature drops. Three shawls kept in my car — one black, one white, one mauve, to match whatever I’m wearing. 

My best friend, conversely, can’t sleep unless she’s cool. My firstborn prefers winter to summer. Incomprehensible! Two of the people I’m closest to, yet so different from me in that respect. Evidently love doesn’t depend on being alike in every way.

Mum and I had a strained relationship, yearning for more but unable to reach each other. She did love me, I eventually realised. Too late, I eventually realised I loved her too. But we never really bonded. She was never a cuddly mother. 

I always hugged my kids — a lot.


Short prose of exactly 369 words, excluding title and sub-title.

I read this on Poets Out Loud via Zoom tonight (21 May 2020) as we were allowed to include stories – and was beyond delighted when someone described it in chat as 'beautiful poetic prose'.

Comments

  1. This is heartwrenchingly beautiful, Rosemary!💘 I cried at the thought of a mother not allowed to pick up her crying child and more still upon the aftermath. I believe the audience at Poets Out Loud must have been incredibly moved, as am I, upon hearing you read this. Your words put me in the mind of flowers blooming despite adversity, of the shoreline that embraces the ocean no matter its temperament. 💘

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    1. A lovely comment, Sanaa, which I am moved to read.

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  2. That came straight from the heart. I agree that whatever form of love you are denied in childhood, you look for it all through your life. And nothing is ever enough to fill that void.

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  3. How sad that so many babies and mothers were discouraged this way. I am amazed you could write this so beautifully Rosemary if indeed it happened to you.

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    1. Yes, this was all autobiography, not a skerrick of fiction. It's taken me 80 years to be able to write it!

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  4. A relatable piece. I identified most with the part where you said you do not have to like people with only the same likes. My husband likes it super cold, I like it an inbetween temperature and my dad likes it really warm.

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    1. One of my favourite poems, which I always attributed to Ogden Nash, but have just discovered it is by one Richard Armour:

      Some like it cold, some like it hot,
      Some freeze while others smother.
      And by some fiendish, fatal plot,
      They marry one another.

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  5. I agree, it is poetic prose, Rosemary. And you know how much I enjoy autobiographical pieces. The opening paragraph touched me deeply, to think of how many mothers were told that by so-called experts, who were seemingly unaware of the damage they caused. I wonder how many mothers defied them. I wonder too how many women seek the warmth of a man because of the lack of warmth in their infancy and childhood. Although I need the bedroom to be cool - I get overly hot and can't cope with a hot climate - I do believe in hugging!

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  6. Oh so good tell-it-like-it-was true prose story!! I don't remember ever hugging with Mom until she was very old.
    What is very old? I have seen it crop up in stages, I think I've arrived.
    The most hurtful one was with my students. I used to sit on the room desk for interface, questions and cuddos mostly. Then all of a sudden the 'girls' started patting me, mostly on my extended knees resting on the desktop.
    Shucks, I had felt to be one of them until that. And it didn't stop until I retired.
    ..

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    1. I'm trying to picture this. Surely an unusual thing to befall a teacher? Demoralising as it must have felt, at least it suggests that they thought of you affectionately as a dear old thing!

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  7. My mom and I are very different people too, though age has given me a perspective on her hopes and fears that helped me better understand her. It's interesting to me when I find unexpected parallels of her behavior in me, but for sure there are decisions I made as a parent to make sure my kids would have things a little better than I did.

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    1. I too made some decisions to be different from my Mum in various ways. Yet, 'what you resist, you become'. I too have some of her habits and mannerisms now – but in the big, important ways, I like to think I did a bit better.

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  8. Touch is essential if we are to become fully human. Deprived of touch, we are...what are we? Shivering beings who can never seem to get warm, no matter how many layers of clothing or blankets we have.

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  9. wow, i do agree that this is a piece of "'beautiful poetic prose'".
    perhaps childhood events do impact to some extent an adult person's character and phobia. i live in the tropics and so i wish the days are much cooler, but on an overseas trip last year, i found that i really cannot stand prolonged cold. :)

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    1. What's interesting is that I can't stand the cold either, whereas my whole body thrives in the tropics – yet I was brought up for my first 15 years in Tasmania, which is very much on the colder end of temperate. You'd think I'd be able to cope with it. That's why I believe the emotional climate was so formative in my case.

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  10. So touching and relatable. I was left for a month without family on two occasions before the age of one. I know it is where my security issues began. Needing to be warm is such a metaphor for so much more than temperature.

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    1. Knowing where/how something originated helps to a degree, but when it started that early we can't entirely eradicate the reaction.

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  11. So much in this--it was a moving piece that echoed with all the things that aren't remembered so much as laid down in our bones.

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  12. Our beginnings--the good and the not so great--seem to stick to our skin and bones. I wonder how many souls those so-called expert mangled with their advice. Sigh. I can feel all the remembered pain. It makes me want to reach through space and time... and offer hugs.

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  13. I do agree this is heartwrenching. What will the pandemic babies reap. I do hope they do not grow up starved of caresses

    Happy Sunday Rosemary

    Much💒love

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  14. I am overwhelmed by this piece of prose ... honest to the core.

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  15. I left Nebraska cold and came to Texas. My job had me leave once, to New Hampshire. It wasn't as cold as Nebraska on the plains though. I did leave snow shovels at both places, it might snow here once every ten years. The last two we have not even had a winter freeze.
    ..

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    1. Tasmania, where I grew up, snowed in the south. I lived in the north of the island, where that happened more seldom (except on the mountains) – but we had very heavy frosts that didn't melt until well into the day. As a child, I once fainted from the cold.

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  16. Oh, I am sure when you read this hearts and souls were moved. It sounds much like my mother and I. When my sisters and I were young she would tell introduce my sisters as oldest and youngest and never make any reference to me. I remember saying, "Mama, you didn't tell them who I was." It makes me cry to write it. Stay warm my friend and thank you for your poetry and stories. They are such blessings.

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    1. Yeeeowch! A telling omission! My late second husband, Bill Nissen, was the middle one of three brothers. His mother loved him, but his father always talked about the older and younger brothers; if father's friends ever met Bill, they were surprised to learn there was another son. He spent a lifetime trying vainly to win his father's approval.

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  17. I agree with the comment that this is "beautiful poetic prose." This line is laudable: "Evidently love doesn’t depend on being alike in every way."

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    1. Thanks, Jenna. I'm glad I left that line in, then! (At one point I was thinking of pruning it.)

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  18. Opening up like this always takes courage. You forged your own way to choose the path of motherhood you thought best. Through the sadness, you found your resolution of sorts, although late as it was. I have the idea of warmth being essential but as a enveloping wrapping comfort.

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    1. Yes, that is exactly the kind of warmth I mean.

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