Description "Why do they say it's wrong that I'm reaching for the stars?" The night I was conceived Norma, my biological mother, was at a party and met the man who would be my father but whom I would never meet, and about whom I would eventually discover only the barest facts. That's all she can remember of the event, or so she has told me on the few occasions when I've plucked up the courage to enquire about it. My official files, which are the only means I have of finding out who I might be, tell me that he was a ...
Description "Why do they say it's wrong that I'm reaching for the stars?" The night I was conceived Norma, my biological mother, was at a party and met the man who would be my father but whom I would never meet, and about whom I would eventually discover only the barest facts. That's all she can remember of the event, or so she has told me on the few occasions when I've plucked up the courage to enquire about it. My official files, which are the only means I have of finding out who I might be, tell me that he was a Pakistani called Khan. My mother has never plucked up the courage to mention that fact. I suspect that interracial relationships were something of an embarrassment to a working-class girl at the time. The Sixties might have been "swinging" in London, but I doubt very much if they were in the suburbs of Manchester. I was also later made to feel that having an Asian father was in some way shameful. Norma was old enough to know better than to get pregnant by accident. She was twenty-two by then, not sixteen, but it seems that pregnancy still took her by surprise. Perhaps she'd led a particularly sheltered life until then. She lived alone with her mother, her father having been drowned at sea in 1943, just before Norma was born; at least that's the story that has found its way into the files. Maybe my grandmother went to a party as well and was infected by the sudden drop in inhibitions that times of war can sometimes bring about. Perhaps the "lost at sea" story was just a useful cover for the truth. Norma and my grandmother lived as a respectable mother and daughter in a corporation flat, where the corporation did not allow children; or so I've been told. Norma was working as a shorthand typist, no doubt hoping to improve herself by meeting and marrying a middle-class businessman, someone who would allow her to rise in the world, someone who would take care of her. My imminent arrival must have seemed like a catastrophe to them; the ultimate shaming for a young woman trying to feign respectability. 'There's no way that baby is coming through my door, ' my grandmother warned. It seems I was bringing with me a double stigma. Not only was I illegitimate, I was also going to be half coloured. Even if the corporation had allowed babies in the flats, I doubt if my grandmother would have been willing to adjust her principles. Nothing in her world had prepared Norma for the responsibility of being a single mother. If my grandmother was not going to back her up, she had no-one else to turn to. There was no boyfriend or husband to counsel her or encourage her. She didn't have a single clue what she should do with me or for me. When it came to starting a family she was entirely socially inadequate. I might as well have been born to another child for all the use she would be to me on my appearance in the world. I, of course, knew nothing about any of this when I arrived, dependent and needy, helpless and vulnerable. I was born like any other child, entirely innocent and completely reliant upon the woman who had created me. And she had no idea of the time-bomb that was ticking away inside me, a condition biding its time before showing its face and creating another problem for those who were going to have to look after me. Unable to take me home, Norma gave me away to a friend to look after, much as you might give away a kitten which was an inconvenience to keep, or a goldfish you had won at a fairground stall. I know nothing about the woman she gave me to. I dare say she was thrilled initially to have a little baby to look after; helpless infants are designed by nature to be appealing, otherwise they would never survive their early years and the human species would soon disappear. I dare say I was as appealing as any other.
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