I think I figured out what happened to my parents. In metaphorical terms anyway, but this imagery of reflection is mirrored elsewhere, in others.
I grew up in the second hand smoke of their war experience. The shrapnel did not reveal itself to me until my teen years when it burst through their taut, white, stiff-upper-lipped British skin and shattered the smooth surface of my daily life. She left, he stayed, and I thought I was okay with it all.
My beautiful dark-haired, olive-skinned mother carried inner land mines of her own which exploded periodically whenever I stepped near her wounded parts. She was evacuated to Wales as a child, suffered a perforated ulcer at eighteen, and lived anxiously unaware, even to herself, when the next blasted ulcer of the mind would explode from the inside and make itself known to the outside. Yet, she was, and is still, a warrior, a feminist, and unwaveringly committed to social justice.
My handsome blonde and freckled father joined the Royal Navy at eighteen. He was stationed on a minesweeper, and sprayed down with DDT which resulted in a protracted battle against the landmine of skin cancer. He has spent much of his life avoiding disruption, floating through life, always avoiding, infrequently docking, never really resting comfortably against the shore of another. His hull was reliable and predictable, and mostly impenetrable; his exterior, mostly calm, or remote greyish khaki. Yet, he was, and is still, persistently patient withholding all criticism and judgement allowing the lives of his family to flow.
While he avoided bombs, my mother needed to set them off to remind herself that she was no longer evacuated far from home, that she was still alive. The fumes of England lingered around the edges of my childhood without my knowledge, until now.
This wartime experience never quite left my parents, I think, like many traumas experienced early in life. I don’t know what happened. I don’t need to know what happened. But something did. And honouring their early traumas has helped me hold space in the story for the invisible ones in others.