Sylvie was unhappily married and already had four children. Her eldest had been born when Sylvie was twenty years old and she had been a single mother, something considered a disgrace and met with total disapproval in the 1950’s. Very little was ever spoken about the father of this first child and Sylvie avoided any conversation about him. Now and again there were whispers about him having been a actor although there was never a suggestion of him having been anyone famous. It was also rumoured that Sylvie was besotted with him, but when she told him of her pregnancy he made it abundantly clear that he had no interest in the baby. The relationship ended there and then and, by all accounts, he was never to be seen again. Pregnancy outside of marriage in the 1950’s was seen as shameful, terminations were not available and so for many, giving up their child for adoption was the only option. Despite all the shame and disapproval at the prospect of being a single mother, Sylvie stubbornly and defiantly decided that she would keep her child.
There was no family support for Sylvie, her father was enraged by the shame of an illegitimate grandchild. Sylvie would often tell us of the time, during a heated argument, when he once kicked her heavily pregnant belly when she was kneeling down to scrub a floor.
Sylvie’s own mother had died from TB when Sylvie was fourteen years old, leaving also a younger sister and brother. Her mother had previously nursed her father back to health some years before when he, himself has suffered TB, but Sylvie always maintained that when her mother became ill herself, there was nobody to care for her in return. Continuing to care for her family for as long as she could, Sylvie’s mother gave up eating and neglected herself. Sylvie was always adamant that whilst her mother lay dying her father was having an affair with the women who was supposed to be there to help the family. He did, indeed, go on to marry this women shortly after Sylvie’s mother died. There was a difficult and resentful relationship between Sylvie, her father and step-mother and I can only recall seeing them on few occasions. My older siblings have clearer memories and knowledge of them so I assume that they were more present in their lives when they were younger, before the changes that came about and shifted all our lives.