Monday, 20 January 2014

Truth Be Told.

There he was. I could see his blonde head. He was just as cute as I remembered him. Gorgeous, in fact. Would he see me? Would he notice I was there? Never before had I so wanted a boy to turn around and look at me in church. 

At this point, I should probably point out that the boy in question, Jonno, is eight. He was a personal favourite of mine from school last year. Not that I ever had favourites, of course. But he was a favourite. Scrawny as a sparrow, full of life and wonder at the world; eyes wide open, shoelaces undone. I was forever scraping him up off the playground at break-time, wiping away blood and tears, patching him up and sending him off to play again, only to watch him immediately tumble headfirst down some steps.

Recently, several people have asked me why I don’t write much in my blog any more. The truth is that I started writing to ensure that I recorded all the wonderful things the children said and did during my time as a matron. In the cold light of day, however, it’s simply not as endearing or amusing when an adult tells me I look tired, asks me when I’m going to get a proper job or why I’m not married yet. I became acutely aware of this at the carol service where I saw Jonno again. As I walked into the service with my trusty partner in crime, Miss Harris of school librarian fame, I was greeted by another member of staff who still works at the school. She gave me a hug and congratulated me on my beautiful wedding. This baffled me somewhat. I’ve attended six weddings this year, none of which have been my own. Eventually I realised that she’d confused me with Miss Elliott, the chaplaincy assistant at the school, who had recently got married. We look somewhat alike, making it an understandable confusion. 

After the carol service, Miss Harris and I went over to say hello to Jonno and his family. Jonno asked me very excitedly if I’d got married. I explained that no, I hadn’t got married, but Miss Elliott had. He looked at me quizzically and asked, ‘So if you're not Miss Elliott, which one are you then?’
‘I’m Matron Ellie,’ I explained, ‘but as I don’t work at the school anymore you can just call me Ellie now.’
‘Oh marvellous,’ he replied, eyes lit up in excitement as he turned to Miss Harris, ‘does that mean can I call you Harris then?’

When children forget your name or confuse you with another person it feels far less like a personal affront than when an adult does the same. In Jonno’s defence, there is a reason why he might find it so hard to differentiate between Miss Elliott and me. As we look so similar, the children asked fairly early on whether we were sisters. I’m not sure now who it was that winked conspiratorially at the other, but as one we both nodded and said yes. 
‘So Matron Ellie, does that mean your full name is Ellie Elliott?’ piped up one quick thinker.
What could we say? 
‘Yes, yes it does. Goodness only knows what our parents were thinking.’

Although shortly afterwards we explained that we’d just been teasing and we weren’t really sisters, for some reason the idea had embedded into the collective playground psyche. For the following year I answered to a range of monikers including Matron Elliott, Miss Ellie or sometimes even just Miss Elliott. I’m pretty sure that some of the children thought we were one and the same person and that we just liked to change outfits several times a day. No matter how many times we explained that we weren’t sisters and that there was more than one of us, the children simply couldn’t tell us apart. 

Now, I don’t have a biological sister. I always wanted one but had to make do with just my younger brother (whom I do love dearly despite his Y chromosome). Yet I’ve been happy enough to make a number of wonderful female friends in life, whom I would count as close to me as any sister - Miss Elliott included. Whilst the facts of the matter would state that she is not my sister, truthfully she is. 

It is one of the most beautiful paradoxes of this life that fact and truth are not necessarily synonymous. As I’ve got older, the disparity between these two ideas is one that I’ve become increasingly aware of. That which can’t be proven doesn’t necessarily equate to that which is not truthful. Science says that Miss Elliott is not my sister. My feelings for her say she is. Pondering this has led me to believe that whilst facts are empirical, truth is relational. The facts of thoughtless behaviour or an indiscretion can break a relationship. The truth behind this failing can heal it. Facts are unyielding and rigid; they can hold you captive, unable to move forward. The truth sets you free. 

The other moral of the story is: don’t tell lies to children.  They don’t get it.