Pamela L. Travers and The Wounded Child Archetype

 

pamela-l-travers

In this week’s post, I will discuss how Pamela L. Travers’s early childhood wounds activated the Wounded Child energetical pattern in her psyche. There are probably other ways of seeing, understanding, and explaining Pamela’s inner workings: however, as I was reading her biography and watching the documentaries about her life, the concept of the archetypal energy patterns (as developed by Caroline Myss) kept coming to mind.

♥ And to be honest, I fancy the idea that Pamela would like to be analyzed through an archetypal lens; archetypes populate myth and that is the space where she loved to dwell.

So, I am going to use Caroline Myss’s model of the different aspects of the Child Archetype (and throughout this blog, other archetypes from her gallery of archetypes) to explain my understanding of Pamela’s personality and her psychological blockages.

To begin with, an archetypal energy is seen as being essentially neutral. The polarity of its attributes arises depending on our awareness of its presence within us or our lack thereof. If a person embodies consciously all her/his archetypal energies then it is the light, positive side that will manifest in that person’s life. If on the other hand, the person is unconscious of the archetypal energies in play, then there is a fragmentation of the whole being and the negative aspects of these energies are activated. The shadow within arises.  

I believe we all come into this world with our own innate nature, personality traits, and archetypal energy patterns and then this inner configuration begins to interact with the outside world and the innate natures of others. Out of this interaction our self-identity unfolds.

♥ The way I see it, the result of Pamela’s early interaction with her caregivers was the shattering of her Child Archetype into separate fragments. Pamela appears to have had the aspect of the Magical Child and the Nature Child in her energetic system, but as she grew older, these fragments became gradually overpowered by the shadows of the Wounded and the Orphan Child aspects present in her psyche.

I also believe, and that belief has been reinforced by so many personal encounters, that some people never grow up, never truly mature. For different reasons their inner child remains fragmented and unconscious of its shadow’s needs. The physical age of our bodies has nothing to do with our self-awareness.

As a young child, Pamela L. Travers knew her parents loved her. They must have. Why would they otherwise keep her warm and fed? As a teen, she knew her aunt loved her. She must have or why would she pay for her boarding school and typewriter. But the love Pamela received was disfigured by her caregivers’ own emotional scars. Because of their own baggage (and probably totally unintentionally), they made her feel inadequate, not good enough, not appropriate enough, not sensible enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, and not helpful enough.

But they loved her… despite her many flaws…She knew they loved her but she didn’t feel loved.  If that was not the case why would she, in her sixties, write:

What was a black sheep, I asked myself. Obviously, in the general view, one full of iniquity. If so, might I not be one myself, in spite of the tireless efforts of parents, teachers and friends.”  And “Can I have been one of the Devil’s party. Was I bereaved of light?

Pamela’s Wounded Child held the painful memories of the verbal abuse and the emotional neglect, as well as the memories of the traumatic early experience of her father’s death and the suicide attempt of her mother. All these experiences occurred when Pamela was very young and highly impressionable; and thus, they created a lens of sorrow through which afterwards she viewed the circumstances of her life.

Childhood wounds from the father – Experiencing feelings of inadequacy followed by the experience of loss and grief. (Pamela’s First Gods Part I)

Childhood wounds from the motherExperiencing betrayal, feelings of abandonment and then the burden of becoming her mother’s pillar. (Pamela’s First Gods Part II)

Childhood wounds from the auntExperiencing feelings of inadequacy and not being part of the tribe. (Pamela’s First Gods Part III)

Carolyn Myss’s model of the Wounded Child holds that if the wounds are successfully processed the painful experiences of the Wounded Child archetype can awaken a deep sense of compassion and a desire to find a path of service aimed at helping other Wounded Children. She also suggests that from a spiritual perspective, a wounded childhood cracks open the heart and the learning path of forgiveness.

Unfortunately, Pamela remained unable to transform the negative attributes of the Wounded Child Archetype into positive ones. 

I do not count myself amongst the teachers, however, but as one who is speaking to a brother seeker. Another un-knower, not necessarily an ignoramus.

♥ I believe that her failure to heal her wounds is partially due to her refusal to blame her parents for her misfortunes.  I believe that first she had to get openly angry with them to bring into her conscious mind her unsatisfied needs. Then she needed to understand that her parent’s wounds made her feel inadequate and unlovable; that these feelings were not an objective image of herself. It all had to do with her parent’s inner suffering. Her intrinsic value was not theirs to determine. She had to truly forgive them and then learn to love herself, to be her own mother and father.  Instead, she developed a strong and abiding sense of self-pity which is another shadow aspect of the Wounded Child. 

By its nature, self-pity is an interpersonal emotion, it directs its feelings toward others with the hope of attracting attention, empathy, and help. Pamela’s unconscious need to have others recognize her wounds underlies her childish unconscious belief that healing and wholeness will come from an outside event, person, or experience. This eventually led to a downward spiral of issues such as broken relationships, alienation and depression.

The same face, the same garments, the other aspect of myself – and I had rejected it, believing, in my ignorance, that I could go on my pilgrimage unshadowed and alone. I could have lightened the load I carried by delighting in herself delight, taking part in her varying rounds, sitting beside her   – friend to friend, compassionate – so that her self-pity could turn about and become its healing opposite, the pity for all that is.  By failing her I had failed myself.

And, what does “pity of all that is” mean? It means that Pamela was hopeless. Her depression made her believe that something was not only wrong with her, but wrong with life, and that it cannot be fixed.

♥ She developped the inner belief that life and people cannot be trusted.

I sense that throughout her life, all the energies of her fragmented inner child became invested in compensating for her unsatisfied needs and in the elaboration of defense mechanisms to avoid what she perceived as insufferable pain. 

Gradually Pamela isolated herself from others. The pain, disappointment and confusion led her to the decision to become her own planet: “I throve on what was difficult, the difficult man, the difficult child…. It was necessary that I should become my own planet.”  The Orphan Shadow signals its presence. But, before you meet it, we’ll talk some more about the Wounded Child and how Pamela mistook it for the expression of the Lover Archetype.

 

 

Pamela L. Travers’s First Gods (Part III)

 

Aunt Sass Pamela Travers.jpg

AUNT ELLIE

This week’s post will introduce you to Helen Morehead, the third (but not the least) influential presence in Pamela L. Travers’s early life. The post is inspired by the story of “Aunt Sass”, a semi-autobiographical and truly exquisite testimony about Pamela’s memorable great aunt.

♥  “Aunt Sass” was published privately in 1941 in a limited edition of five hundred copies and it was intended as a Christmas gift for friends, although the theme had nothing to do with Christmas.

I wonder what her friends’ reactions were. Were they touched? Did they care about her childhood memories? Did they discuss the story with her? Or, did they toss it somewhere on a shelf and forgot it existed? And I wish I knew why she dedicated the story to Eugene and Curtice. Who were they? Maybe someone out there having that piece of knowledge will read this post and give me the answer…

Fortunately, for the purposes of this blog and my personal obsession with Pamela L. Travers, Donna Coonan, Commission Editor of Virago Press, undertook to uncover Pamela’s unpublished works  after seeing the documentary The Secret Life of Mary Poppins a BBC culture show narrated by Victoria Coren Mitchell.  In November 2014, Virago Press, with the authorization of Pamela’s estate, published “Aunt Sass” along with two other stories: Ah Wong” and “Johnny Delaney.” (Stories that will be explored in future posts.)

Now back to the subject of this week’s post, Great Aunt Ellie.

From the moment Pamela L. Travers’s father passed away, Great Aunt Ellie, a wealthy spinster with a bullying tendency, became the controlling force of Pamela’s life. She was a born ancestress and matriarch and used the children and grandchildren of her brothers and sisters for her own dynastic purposes.”  “She was like the central shaft of a merry-go-around. When her whistle blew the family revolved about her like so many wooden horses.

Pamela’s mother, Margaret, found herself financially unsupported and overwhelmed by the task of raising three young children alone. Great Aunt  Ellie (the sister of Pamela’s grandfather) came to the rescue and took the role of  the directing and protecting figure in Margaret’s and her children’s lives. The grieving family, anxious about its future, moved in temporarily with Ellie and her two dogs, Badger and Tinker.  The first meal at Aunt Ellie’s house seems to have been forever carved into Pamela’s psyche:

The next thing we knew we were all sitting at the luncheon table hearing Aunt Sass (Ellie) descant unfavorably on our table manners, upbringing, personal appearance and ghastly futures. One after another the children melted into tears and were ordered from the table. Eventually, my mother could bear it no longer and left the room, weeping. I alone remained. She glared at me and through a maddening haze of tears I glared back.

And now, I suppose, you’ll break down and go too.

I will not, you old Beast! I shouted to her. I am not crying, it’s only my eyes.

This was hardly a warm and comforting welcome.  Not only that, but according to Pamela’s biographer, the children, when visiting, would be sent to sleep on a cot in the attic while the best spare room would be reserved for the dogs, Tinker and Badger.

♥  The story doesn’t tell us explicitly, but it is possible that Ellie herself was overwhelmed by the events and by the long-term task of assisting the financial and moral needs of her niece and her three young children.

Here, take the cherries to the little ones and tell your mother Aunt Sass is a bitter old woman and that she didn’t mean a word if it.

Nevertheless, Ellie’s manners were cold and her mean words stuck in young Pamela’s mind for many years to come. If that was not the case, there would not have been a story about Aunt Sass and no Mary Poppins, for that matter.

♥  Aunt Ellie appears to have had somewhat of a split personality; a rough exterior and mean demeanor with some occasional sentimental deeds.

 “Her remarkableness lay in the extraordinary, and to me, enchanting discrepancy between her external behavior and her inner self. Imagine a bulldog whose ferocious exterior covers a heart tender to the point of sentimentality (…).

♥  Reportedly, extremely opinionated, Ellie viewed the world in either black or white. She also believed herself to be (or wanted others to think so) the retainer of all truth and expected, as “a general in a War Office,” to be obeyed on the spot.

The grim face was stony with conviction, the deep voice rumbled and you felt a delicious tremor of fear and anticipation fly through you. Any minute, any second some terrible miracle might happen. Would the world fall in two if you brought her the wrong knitting needles? Would you go up in smoke if you tweaked Tinker’s tail or Badger’s ear?

♥  For little Pamela, the ambiguity of Aunt Ellie proved itself frightening, but at the same time, her presence  provided a sense of safety, of being taken in charge by someone who appeared almighty and powerful; just like the Banks children in the Mary Poppins stories.

Ellie’s power resided in her wealth and in her use of constant criticism and gossip as her weapons of coercion and disempowerment. I suspect that she was being bullied by her own inner fears and disappointments, and that whenever guilt arose she tried to compensate for her exteriorized bullying by the occasional fairy godmother kind of attitude, which her financial resources allowed her to do. She did pay for Pamela’s boarding school, her typewriter, and her fare to England. As the years passed by, little Pamela grew up to become a young woman with artistic talents and a mind of her own.

♥  Now, this is just a hunch, but I feel that when Pamela, in her budding femininity, began to express her artistic tendencies more assertively,  her Great Aunt’s insecurities only increased and maybe even gave birth to some feelings of jealousy. I wish I could travel in time to see and hear for myself how things really happened. Instead, all I have are little bits and pieces of information to titillate my imagination with, just like these examples of exchanges:

I will not go out with you in that hat!”

Very well, Aunt Sass. I’ll go by myself.

Why do you have to turn yourself into a monstrosity? I am ashamed to be seen with you. Get into the car!

Or

“Writing? Faugh! Why can’t you leave that to journalists?”

 What’s all this I hear about you going to England? Ridiculous nonsense! You were always a fool.”

Anyhow, Ellie and Pamela never truly got along. “For the rest of her life we fought with all the bitterness of true affection.”

Ellie became ill right after her last visit to England. She was ninety years old. The illness “stretched her on her bed and drew a curtain of unconsciousness over her.”  When, against all expectations, she came briefly back to life she was a different woman.

The old gruffiness, the fierce egotism were gone. She was concerned and anxious now to reveal the heart that had hidden so long behind it. It was as if, knowing her time to be short, she must hasten to let the light appear through the thinning crust of flesh. … That stretch of dark unconsciousness had taught her how not to be self-conscious. Her defenses were down at last.

It was on their last meeting that Pamela gave Ellie a copy of the first of the Mary Poppins books. Her aunt took it to read it on her voyage back home. I wonder if she recognized herself in the traits of Mary Poppins. Could that be the cause of her softening of the heart? We’ll never know the answers and I can only speculate.

♥  I also couldn’t help but notice something else, a similarity of fortunes. It is almost as if Pamela in some way professed her own future. She too lived well into her nineties, she too was quite self-obsessed and self-conscious, and it was only in her later writings that she expressed this same willingness to open up and at last  be vulnerable; something that she resisted during her entire life.

“I had to learn that to be vulnerable, naked and defenseless is the only way to safety.”

(Letter to a Learned Astrologer, 1973)

It is true then that Pamela L. Travers wrote more than she knew, although when she said: “We write more than we know we are writing. We do not guess at the roots that made our fruit” she was referring to the resemblance between Mary Poppins and her Great Aunt Ellie. Strangely enough, when interviewed, Pamela always maintained that she didn’t know where Mary Poppins came from.

♥  A comment made by Camillus Travers, Pamela’s adoptive son, comes to mind. Talking about his mother he said:  “My mother was Mary Poppins.” And if Mary Poppins was based on the character of Helen Morehead, then it is only logical to assume that as Pamela grew older she ended up reproducing her bitter aunt’s behavior.

I also wonder if Pamela ever became aware of the irony of this condition. I can only hypothesize that Pamela, experiencing her life as an ordeal, modeled “the giantess, the frightening fairy-tale figure who” in her “childhood seemed immense enough to knock against the stars and hold counsel with God.” She modeled what she believed to be strength and resilience. She remained forever unaware of the wounded/orphan child archetypal energies in play in her psyche. What these are will be explored in future posts.

Pamela L. Travers’s First Gods (Part II)

pamela-travers-mother

HER MOTHER, MARGARET GOFF

The subject of today’s post is Pamela L. Travers’s ambiguous relationship with her mother, Margaret Morehead Goff.

♥  Pamela’s biographer reports that as a child, Pamela often wondered if her mother was more like a doe or a serpent.

Pamela portrays the mother of her childhood as a busy, distracted, and frankly overwhelmed, self-centered housewife; just like Mrs. Banks in the Mary Poppins stories and Mrs. Linnet in Friend Monkey. When I heard Mrs. Linnet constantly complain and ask for help because she has only two hands, I wondered how many times Pamela heard those same words coming out of her mother’s mouth.

♥  Except in her books, the mothers, although weak and overwhelmed, are never prone to angry outbursts as her mother was.

Pamela remembered the time when her mother, exacerbated by the chore of picking up toys, became fiercely crossed and seized Pamela’s favorite porcelain doll and tossed it across the room yelling at her to put it away herself. The doll’s face struck the iron bedstead and broke. “Mother you’ve killed her!” cried Pamela, “feeling the crack in her own body. Her mother, sobbing, gathered the pieces and asked for Pamela’s forgiveness.  

There was the memory of her mother reading aloud the story of the crucifixion from the Bible. Pamela, drowned in sorrow, began weeping uncontrollably for Jesus. Her mother, annoyed and irritated, snapped: I take the trouble to read to you and all you do is cry and feel sorry…dry your eyes, it was a long time ago.”

Pamela was a lonely child: I was allowed to grow in  the darkness, unknown, unnoticed, under the earth like a seed.” She indulged in a bizarre game of pretending to be a mother hen. This is her remembrance of it:

And I remembered how, for a long period in childhood, I was absorbed in the experience of being a bird. Absorbed not lost, knowing, had I been faced with it, that I was also a child. Brooding, busy, purposeful, I wove the nests and prepared for eggs as though the life of all nature depended on the effort.”

Bizarre as this game may appear, there seems to be some meaning to it. For thousands of years the hen has been viewed as a paragon of motherhood, the iconic image of the overly protective mother. The First Century A.D. Roman historian and biographer Plutarch wrote praisingly of the hen in De amore parentis:

What of the hens whom we observe each day at home, with what care and assiduity they govern and guard their chicks? Some let down their wings for the chicks to come under; others arch their backs for them to climb upon; there is no part of their bodies with which they do not wish to cherish their chicks if they can, nor do they do this without a joy and alacrity which they seem to exhibit by the sound of their voices” .

Did Pamela pick up (somewhat unconsciously) the parental symbol of the hen by observing the interactions of the chickens in the family yard?

I wonder if this peculiar game could have been an expression of Pamela’s desire for more nurturing from her mother. Or, was it an attempt to attract her attention? Pamela often got so absorbed in the game that she frequently forgot to join the family meals forcing her mother to notice her absence.

 “She can’t come, she’s laying, the others would say, arriving for a meal without me. And my mother, deep in her role of distracted housewife would come and unwind my plaited limbs and drag me from the nest: “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times, no laying at lunchtime!” Not “you are mad. I fear for your future. We must find a psychiatrist.” Simply not at lunchtime. “

♥  Pamela kept her mother’s suicide attempt buried in her secret heart for the bigger part of her life, providing interviewers and readers with glimpses of her past only in the last years of her life.

This gloom event occurred sometime after her father’s death when Pamela was about ten years old. Her mother feeling helpless and alone needed Pamela’s help and support even to the point where Pamela had to keep her hand on her brow if she had a headache. The strain on Pamela was so intense that her hair began falling out in little red patches.

One rainy evening her mother stood by the door her blue robe hanging from her shoulders, hair in a walnut braid down her back, her face white and distraught.I have had enough. I can stand no more. I am going down to the creek. And she went out, closing the doorPamela terrified sat down by the fire with her two little sisters. And I knew that what they needed from me was what we all needed from her – security, reassurance. In an effort to distract her little sisters from the horror of what was happening to them all, Pamela began to tell a story about a magic white horse.

All the while, terrifying questions flooded her mind.

The creek is not deep. There are crayfish in it. Surely no one could drown in it, unless like Ophelia in the picture, they lay down and let it cover them.

But the creek flows into a wide pool. Nobody knows how deep it is. We are not allowed there without a grown-up. A thrown stone has many rings around it.”

What happens to children who have lost both parents? Do they go into Children’s homes and wear embroidered dressing-gowns, embroidery that is really darning?”

Perhaps they will send us to different places, one here, another there. No one will be a little one.”

Maybe she has gone from the creek to the pool. How long does it take a person to drown?”

And then, her mother came back. “The little ones leapt and ran to her, crying, laughing, embracing her...”

But Pamela turned away without a word and went to heat up the kettle; she filled a rubber hot-water bottle, flung it at her mother and went straight into her room.

Oh, you cold-hearted child” cried her mother, “The others are so pleased to see me. What has happened to you?

Pamela’s heartbreaking answer to her mother’s selfish question was silent.

 I could not answer. It was true, however, that I was cold, not only in my heart but throughout the whole of my body. I lay in my bed still as a stone, feeling and knowing nothing….”

In the story of Johnny Delaney, Pamela wrote this, which I believe applies to her own experience of being a child: Children have strong and deep emotions but no mechanism to deal with them. What I feel she meant to say was that she experienced loss and betrayal in early childhood and that she was left alone to deal with the intensity of her emotions.

Now, I will ask you to stop for a minute and do an exercise in empathy. Close your eyes, if you will, and go back in time, back to when you were ten years old. Reconnect with your younger self. How did it feel to be you at that age? When you get to that point of emotional recollection, imagine that it is your mother standing in the doorway saying she’s had enough and that she is going to end her life. How do you feel? Terrified? Confused? Disoriented? Abandoned? Betrayed? Sad beyond words description? All of the above? Do you think you would’ve been the same kid after such an incident? Would you see your mother in the same way? Would you grow up to trust others? To believe that you deserve their love and faithfulness? 

It is difficult for me to find sympathy for Margaret. It seems to me  that often times Pamela’s reactions, thoughts and emotions  were kind of boomeranged back to her mother, back to how she felt about them and not how and why her daughter expressed them. At the same time, I am aware that people cannot be seen only in black and white and that I don’t have access to the “objective” truth.  And to be fair, it must have been extremely hard to be a young widow with three young children to take care of. And Margaret had her good moments too.

She had too flashes of inspiration, when the streak of poetry in her Scottish blood broke up the daily pattern. Picnic breakfasts miles from home; or a tablecloth spread out on the carpet and supper on the floor. The sudden lively moments! She would have called them merely moods, but they seem to me now a kind of wisdom, as though she knew instinctively that nothing brings so much energy as the brakes in a regular routine.  Full of the saws and customs that are handed down from the generations, innocent honest predictable –  it was from her we learned, far more than from our less dependable father, to be ready for the unexpected, even to the point of knowing that truth can be juggled with.”

Pamela’s parents appear to have been very emotionally unstable and overwhelmed by life. They were too deeply involved in their own sufferings to have been able to provide emotional security to Pamela.  Sadly, emotional neglect, even when unintentionally inflicted, produces its own life-lasting bruises.

Alas, it was not only her parents who interacted with her in an ambiguous manner; there was also the domineering presence of great-aunt Ellie, the suspected prototype of the character of Mary Poppins. You’ll meet this memorable lady in next week’s post. 

 

 

Pamela L. Travers’s First Gods (Part 1)

 

pamela-travers-parents

This week’s post explores Pamela L. Travers’s childhood’s wounds. I am using information from her biography Mary Poppins She Wrote as well as some of Pamela’s own recollections from her childhood which she chronicled in a few essays compiled in her last book What the Bee Knows.

I believe that Pamela was deeply wounded in her early childhood and that these wounds exerted tremendously destructive powers over her life. Out of these wounds stem Pamela’s beliefs system which governed her life choices. I will go as far as to assert that her entire literary work is about these early wounds and her effort to heal them.

♥  Simply put, Pamela L. Travers experienced the devastating powers of Helen Lyndon’s (Pamela’s real name) shadow. The unsatisfied child’s needs remained somewhere hidden in the darkness of the unconscious mind. And how can you see a shadow in the dark? Well, you can’t. You need light, light of consciousness, just as much as the shadow does, because  by leaving it in the dark you are denying its existence. And we all know that it hurts not to be seen and not to be heard.

Pamela expressed this truth beautifully in her essay, About the Sleeping Beauty:”

Powers such as these, at once demonic and divine, are not to be taken lightly. They give a name to evil, free it, and bring it into the light. For evil will out, they sharply warn us, no matter how deeply buried. Down in its dungeon it plots and plans, waiting like an unloved child, the day of its revenge. What it needs, like the unloved child, is to be recognized, not disclaimed (not refused acknowledgment). Given its place and proper birthright and allowed to contact and cooperate with its sister beneficent force. Only the integration of good and evil and the stern acceptance of opposites will change the situation and bring about the condition that is known as Happy Ever After.” 

I suspect that little Helen Lyndon felt as the unloved child, not worthy of love and at the same time longing for it. Wronged and revengeful, she also felt shameful and deserving of the mistreatment. Coming up with a new name did not relieve the inner torment.

♥ Torn between opposites, this is how I believe Pamela would have summarized her experience of being alive.

LACK OF NURTURING PARENTS

Pamela’s parents kept her warm and fed but that was the extent of their nurturing skills. They were her landscape and she was part of theirs. The following quote encapsulates succinctly their parenting style. Arguments yes but no explanations. I cannot remember that he, or anybody else, ever explained anything. It was clear from their general attitude that our parents had not very high opinion of our intelligence but at the same time, apparently, expected us to know everything.

Undoubtedly, Pamela’s parents sent ambiguous and confusing messages which, combined with the emotionally charged events of her father’s early death (Pamela was seven years old) and her mother’s suicide attempt (when Pamela was ten), could not have done otherwise, but leave permanent marks on her developing psyche.  Yet Pamela’s resolute refusal to blame her parents for the pain they caused little Helen Lyndon is remarkable. And even though she says that the “…parents are the child’s first gods and responsible, whether they know it or not, for many seeds of fate she also says that “with awareness blame arises.” And then in another essay she asks rhetorically,  But why lay all our troubles on parents? They provide a door for us into life; that, and nurturing, is their function. Afterwards, it is up to us. We can’t blame them if the door opens on scenes we hadn’t bargained for.

Maybe it was her love for her parents and maybe it was her own failings as a mother (adoptive mother) that prevented her from acknowledging her parents lack of nurture. Nevertheless, little Helen Lyndon remembered…

HER FATHER, TRAVERS GOFF

Travers Goff loved to tell his family and friends tales of ancient Ireland filled with elves, fairies, and pixies, and apparently, the more he drank the more romantic the stories became. He had Ireland round him like a cloak”.  But Goff was not Irish. He was from London, a city he left in his early twenties for the tea plantations in Ceylon. From there he relocated to Australia where he founded his family.

I wonder, did he ever dream of becoming a rich plantation owner? It is quite possible, but we’ll never really know. Maybe it was just Pamela’s imagination, but she liked to confuse people and tell them that her father used to be sugar plantation owner.  Nevertheless, it is plausible to say that his dreams whatever they were, never came true. Travers Goff worked in a bank, climbing down the ladder from a branch manager to a simple employee. The man was doubtlessly disillusioned with his life and chose to escaped in the land of fairy tales and alcohol.

♥  Pamela’s memories of her father are somewhat romanticized and embellished. This is probably because he was not around for long enough to “dwindle down to human stature” and, because of his storytelling and his love for poetry. His lyrical side must have appealed to the imaginative part of Pamela’s innate personality.  

Anyhow, the poetic Goff compensated for his feelings of powerlessness by dominating his household with his bad temper.

Pamela wrote about the time when her father got furious with her because she left her rag dolls, Lady Hamilton and Lord Nelson, outside in the rain. Scared she denied forgetting them outside.His righteousness frightened and shamed me“. 

She wrote of another incident when her father gave a beating to their dog Tippu because the dog had the insolence (frankly, the misfortune) to sit on his chair. Pamela and her sisters tried to explain that the dog believed he was a little boy, a rightful member of the family. And so, her father decided to teach everybody in the household a lesson. He was the king of his castle and he was to be obeyed.

He was Irish, too, in argument, determined to have the last word, even – or perhaps specially– with children. Criticism he did not like. And from his own flesh and blood- really it was too much.

Pamela’s biographer, Valery Lawson, reports “Lyndon was never sure whether her father would respond to her mishaps with a joke or an explosion” or even worse, sometimes dismiss her with ridicule.

♥  How could a little girl predict and understand the impulsivity and mood swings of a heavy drinker? Nobody was there to tell her she was not responsible for his reactions, that there was nothing wrong with her. Nobody was there to protect her from his abusive behavior.

I was never made to feel that I was anything special. Her father, the poet at heart, rejected her first poems as insignificant. “Hardly Yeats!” His love for poetry failed to stretch itself wide enough to encompass Pamela’s first writing attempts. It seems like in all occasions he made her feel inadequate and not good enough.

♥  Maybe she tried to write poetry to please him, to connect with him or maybe it was an attempt to attract his attention, or all of the above…whatever the motives her father failed to understand her needs. 

Her biographer tells the story of Pamela’s fifth birthday. Her parents sent her away from home into the custody of stern aunt Ellie.  Her father wrote her a letter saying that he has learned that Lyndon had grown “very fat. ” “Why, little woman, you will be like a prize pig when you get home again. Never mind, we will all be delighted to see you home again after your nice long holiday. As you will be back soon we are not going to send your birthday present to you but you will get it when you return.

Her biographer adds: ” Back home the fat little girl had only just opened her present when her mother told her she must stay with friends until things settled down. Baby Moya needed all her attention. Lyndon later wrote that she always suffered from being the eldest of three girls.”

♥  Truth is she suffered from her parent’s coldness.

Next week you’ll meet Margaret Goff Pamela’s weak and emotionally needy mother.