'Brenda Mary Cook' by Brenda Cook

This is how I got my name

Brenda Mary Cook

My family chose it

They thought that Brenda matched with Cook

Mary was my Gran’s name, she said

‘If you call her after me

I’ll give you a shawl for the christening.’

So they did, Brenda Mary Cook.

At first I couldn’t place my name

Later I got to know it and it felt right

I needed to know it for school

I needed to know my lessons

They told me that staying in school would put me behind

What with the school work

What with the other children taking the rise out of me


They said, ‘You should go to a school for backward people.’

I felt disappointment and it was like an ending to me.

From then on I heard the words

Backward

Mental

Sick

Not able to do anything

Stupid

Handicapped.


Children laughed, ganged up on me

Pulled me,

Pushed me

Pushed me,

Pulled me,

Threw sticky buds at me to stick on my coat

To make me know they didn’t like me


People want you to be like them

If you’re not, you don’t fit in

I know this,

I feel sad

All I knew as a child

Was I was Brenda Mary Cook.


Now I am Brenda Mary Cook

And many years from then

What I am now is changed.


I missed staying on at school

I’d have taken exams, ‘o’ levels,

And I’d have passed

I would like to have gone to university

Studied drama, music and I would have liked

To have gone out in the world

Playing a guitar, folk music,

Or studied pottery and made models

Ornaments for art galleries.

I’d have liked to be a teacher

And teach about the world to school children

And if I’d seen a little girl with learning difficulties

I’d have taken her after school, privately,

And I would have helped her develop

And keep her at my school.


Now it’s begun, the real life of Brenda Mary Cook

I am now 56 and I’m much happier than I was

I can do a hundred more things for myself

Than I ever might have done.

I hide back the learning difficulties thing

Underneath as if it doesn’t exist

I don’t feel different anymore

We’ve all grown up now

And the name calling stops.

Children don’t seem so ignorant now-a-days

Because they don’t see things that way anymore.


Now I work as an assistant in the Toy Box

A day nursery before school

On Wednesday from 9 o’clock in the morning

‘Til four in the afternoon I’m there

To make the children happy

I wear a real smile.

James is a little boy in the nursery

He looks on me like I am his aunty

When his mother comes to fetch him

He says, "This is Brenda, my friend.

She is very nice and kind."

Hearing that gives me great faith

I feel good and happy,

Makes me feel like a new person

It replaces the bad

And my life is happy and content.