I was the perfect child, apparently. Slept through the night very early, blonde, sweet as a sugar cube. One day, I came out of school and as soon as I saw my Nanna, I started to run, jumping into her arms. She bought me a green felt school hat with a light blue ribbon; I was that cute.
I was born in a house in a village at the edge of a larger town in the middle of Britain. That would be Britain, Europe not that we were too keen on the European thing in those days; the 1960’s.
At the end of our road was a Co-op, one of a chain of stores that offered stamps with purchases that we could trade in for coupons or cheap but enticing products from a catalog.
I wasn’t allowed to travel beyond the store without an adult. It marked the edge of my independent world as well as being the marker that announced we’d moved into enemy territory; beyond the Co-op was where the other Alison lived.
Alison Storm was my nemesis. She and I shared the same name and freckles but that was where the similarities ended. She was everything I wasn’t, to my mind. She was rough, she was tough, she lived on “an estate.” I remember she had dirty blonde hair, a puggish nose and a stocky build. She didn’t like the kids on our street. We were posh, we were stuck-up, our parents owned their own homes.
When me and my friends saw her and her gang coming towards us, it wasn’t a good feeling. Outwardly we held our ground but inside we were terrified and got away as soon as we could to the safety of our homes. I remember breathing a sigh of relief when we were inside, our mothers in the next room. Those times felt excruciating. Just writing it out makes me tense.
In those days, I was mad over my dolls. My Nanna was a seamstress and had made a full set of linen for my dolls pram. It was extensive and most of all, it was all co-ordinated. No-one else I knew had a pillow for their dolls. Most dolls had to lie flat on their beds but mine had their own feather pillow with matching pillowcase.
Alison Storm coveted that pillow. As I proudly walked up and down the street with my pram, she would make sneering comments. She would jeer, she would sniff. She would tell me it was nothing special.
I would get upset by these comments. I’d never known anyone not like me. It was a peculiar feeling. I lived in a bubble where I was adored. Hostility, animosity, negativity of any kind was almost unknown to me so it was very uncomfortable and confusing.
My mum told me to ignore her, that she was jealous. But I still found it strange. In that 60’s modern housing development, where we had a black and white TV, one car in the driveway and fish for dinner on a Friday, there were stirrings of discontent.
It all blew up one Wednesday afternoon. My pillow disappeared. Alison Storm had been in the neighbourhood and she had stolen it. I’m not sure quite how I connected those two events but I knew. Outraged, my normal placid temperament took a jolt. I gathered my friends who were equally outraged and we walked up to the Co-op in search. To my consternation, we actually found her. I had to do something. Not. Nice.
Being not nice wasn’t part of my repertoire. I was much more comfortable being sweet, smiley and cute. But I was mad. I couldn’t let this bullying continue. It had to stop. Plus my doll was getting a crick in her neck.
So I accused Alison Storm of stealing my doll pillow. She denied it of course. I accused her again. She denied it again. We were at stalemate. Me furious, her stonewalling.
In the end someone had end it, so I turned around and went back home, considering what I’d actually achieved. Nothing really. I hadn’t got my pillow back, I hadn’t got any admission of guilt. Certainly nothing approaching fellowship. My doll still had a crick in its neck.
I was confused by what had gone on. One could argue that I had let base emotions get the better of me. That I had allowed a mean and nasty side of my nature to get the upper hand. I certainly up to that point had always been rewarded for being ‘a good girl.’ And chastised for showing any kind of negative emotion. Feeling angry and acting upon it had required a lot of energy. It still does.
But you know what? I never saw Alison Storm or her cronies again. She never ventured my side of the Co-op and I never ventured hers. She backed off. And while my doll never did resolve that crick, and I had been left with a feeling of futility and even humiliation from my scene with her, I did learn one thing. That a lamb who occasionally roars can be effective. That, even at the age of four, a girl has a power she can use. Even if it feels kind of crappy and crude. And particularly if boundaries are crossed.