Charles Kingsland was born in London in early 1973. He was an only child to parents Jane and Charles Kingsland Sr who had been married for over 15 years. Weighing only 4 pounds he was very underweight and had to be kept in the hospital for 5 days while his situation was monitored. Baby Charles made a swift recovery and after 5 days he was allowed home, much to the relief of his family.
Charles was a happy baby, an only child he had lots of attention from the extended family. He was a fast learner and started to crawl by 5 months and was soon exploring the house with a knack for disappearing when you wasn’t looking. I remember one time his crib was set up in the kitchen, I was busy cooking a shepherd’s pie, chopping vegetables thinking to myself about the evening ahead. The next thing I realise I turn around to check on him and he’s gone. Nowhere to be seen! My heart started racing the way only a parents can. I still remember dropping the carrots on the floor as I ran out the room. Even if you know your child has to still be in your house the feeling that you don’t know exactly where is a frightening one. I was like a whirlwind running from room to room, checking the living room, the dining room, the down stairs toilet but to no avail! My heart was racing as i stormed upstairs. Thinking to myself there’s no way he could have climbed them, I again go through all the rooms, the bedrooms even the wardrobes. By now I’m starting to feel sick, that dread, that coldness slowly taking hold. Back downstairs nearly slipping on the last few steps, back through the living room, lifting up cushions like there would be any chance that he could be under them. Crazy thoughts starting to run through my head, what could of happened? Where could he have gone? What had i done to deserve this? I end up back in the kitchen, carrots all over the floor, the crib still empty, I start to cry. Out of the corner of my eye I notice the pantry door is ajar, I feel my heart thud in my chest, I can taste the adrenaline in my mouth. I reach out and swing the door open and there he is. Lying there on a bunch of old aprons surrounded by earthy potatoes. Sleeping soundly without a care in the world. I start to cry for the second time that day.
I can’t recount how many times I went through the same drama with Charles. Whether it was in the local Salisbury’s or that time in Disneyland when at the age of 6 he climbed over one of the fences and we found him hugging one of the pirates from the It’s a Small World ride. Luckily things have always worked out ok in the end.
Charles grew up quickly, he enjoyed school from a young age and always received good grades from his teachers. It was only in secondary school that his grades started to slip. I don’t know if it was just part of his growing up or the fact that his dad wasn’t around as much as he could have been. But Charles started to act out, getting in trouble with teachers and here at home.
I started to get phone calls from the school, Charles was being unruly, Charles was being rude, Charles was fighting with other students. Whenever I sat down with him and tried to talk I was met with a wall of silence. When I was called into the school and we had a meeting with the principle I felt like I didn’t know the child sitting there in the office with us. There seemed to be nothing that would break this moody aggressive demeanour. It was at one particularly bad parents evening where I had seen 8 or so teachers and heard 8 different versions of the same story of a rebellious child who wouldn’t do as he was told that I really started to lose hope. I was outside standing under an awning, watching the drizzle, smoking slowly, wandering where I had gone wrong as a mother. Should I just go home? I had one teacher left to see, was there any point listening to another stranger tell me how bad my child was? As I threw my cigarette to the ground there was a clash of thunder, the wind picked up and the rain fell from the sky in great sheets. The car was parked on the other side of the school, there was no way of getting there with out being soaked to the bone. It was as if my decision was made for me and I turned and headed back inside.
Down the hall, to the last door on the left, with my hand on the wood I took a deep breath and walked in. I was greeted by a young man with long black curly hair and a small moustache. “Mrs Kingsland, I presume?” he said with a smile. I gave a false smile and took one of the small seats next to the table. I braced myself for another list of complaints and problems. Instead, Mr Beadsly got back up and walked to his desk, as my eyes followed him he looked back and said “I would like to show you something” I had no idea what to expect, what could he of done that was so bad it couldn’t be explained but had to be shown. Opening his desk draw he pulled out a small tape player, one with a built in speaker. He sat back and pressed play. After a few seconds of scratchy static I heard a piano start. I still remember the first seemingly unsteady notes, they sent a chill up my spine. I had heard the song before but this was a much slower rendition. It was Mozart’s Requiem in D minor. A sad song at the best of times but on my fragile nerves I started to well up. I felt myself getting lost in the subtle lonely notes coming from the tiny speaker. I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts, I had to hold my hand and and ask, What was happening? Why are you playing me this? Ma’am came the reply, this is your son. This is Charles.
It was a turning point not only for Charles but for all of us. We bought him a keyboard and with help from Mr Beadsly encouraged him to put all of his pent up energy and emotions into music. We soon saw an improvement in his grades across the board and a much better attitude with all his teachers and other students. It might be corny to say that music saved his life but it definitely gave him a much better one.
I still think back to that cold wet night outside the school and am forever grateful to the horrible English weather that drove me back inside.
Mum! Thanks so much for the story, but more than that thanks for putting up with me as a kid and believing in me when a lot of other people had given up.