The Return of the Prodigal Daughter
by Lucy Boutaleb
The Return of the Prodigal Daughter
The autobiographical story of Lucy Pocklington, youngest of eleven children, who went on the run from age 15 until she was found by her brother 20 years later, is an amazing and incredible tale. She had to change her name many times to prevent being found by the authorities.
I personally don't know anyone who has run away from home. Why would anyone want to do such a thing? For 15-year old Lucy, her dad's persistent and unreasonable demands for her to leave the house meant one thing ---- she was unwanted. In fact, he threw her out.
Through a series of misunderstandings, she became a runaway. Her fear of being rejected by her father became real when she heard him tell the judge in court that she deserved three years in prison for running away.
"I couldn't believe what I heard; it was surreal. My emotions were unprepared, I cried painfully, sobs tore through my body, I felt a shiver run up and down my spine and my hands were shaking. A policewoman and a welfare officer took me to a little room and tried to comfort me, tears streaming down my face with a pain in my heart......a physical agony. Only I could ever know how painful that was. I sat down wearily, the sweat gathered on the palms of my hands and I felt helpless."
Children are weak creatures in constant need of love and confirmation of that love. A child can feel unwanted if a parent takes on a new partner and pays less attention to him. Children of divorced parents and/or remarried parents can feel insecure in the new environment, even something as delicate as the removal of evidence of the previous family, such as photos, and the replacement with new wedding photos.
To be told (shouted, is more the word) repeatedly to get out by an elderly father confirmed 15-year old Lucy's inner fears of being unwanted. This could be the greatest blow to a child's self-esteem.
A child who experiences such a huge rejection at an early age feels abandoned. Like children of divorced parents, such a child will always have that deep sense of insecurity, a fear that she might not be wanted. In Lucy's case, she was very fortunate to meet her husband Bob Boutaleb, to whom she is still married today.
In 20 chapters, Lucy Boutaleb takes us on a long journey, one that began with her father in Canada, to the year she was found in London. With meticulous and vivid detail, she recounts her life story, particularly the early years of being on the run. I particularly enjoyed the bits about London, a place I've lived and known for more than ten years. Her description of that vibrant international city beckoned me to return soon.
"Then we dallied up towards Soho the social and the cosmopolitan entertainment centre of London, where the thespian fraternity, painters, writers and stars gather to wine, dine, entertain or be entertained, are seen or made to be seen and where the 'starlets' try to make their appearance in a city that never sleeps."
In the final chapter, she shares her personal views about runaways and missing children. She points out the weaknesses of existing social systems. Her self-publishing website links to charitable organisations dealing with missing persons.
I initially wanted to read Lucy Boutaleb's book to get insight into the mentality of a missing person. My friend from high school, Patty Brightwell Vaughan, was reported missing on 26 December 1996, and her family has gone through a lot to seek closure since then. Patty is missed but not missing. And few would disagree that she is no longer alive.
Lucy wrote that the longer she was away from home, the harder it was to return. Every time she thought of contacting her family, she remembered all the harsh words that were spoken. Time didn't heal --- only making it harder to initiate the effort of reconciliation.
Several themes (I can relate to whole-heartedly) echo throughout the book: rejection, freedom, independence, loneliness, alienation, reconciliation, desire to belong, love, and hope.
"It's difficult to explain, but believing to being unwanted is such a terrible perception, one feels unsure of people's feelings and yet wants to be loved by everybody one meets which, in reality is impossible."
Without a family or a home to return to, a child on the run has only herself to depend on. What is loneliness then?
"I now felt what it was like to be alone, really alone in the world, I had nothing, for a few minutes, I sat silently, taking deep breaths of air, then tears came into my eyes, and I let them fall silently down my cheeks onto my jumper. I put my arms across my stomach and gave myself a hug. I felt superfluous and hollow, as if life didn't owe me a living."
"I personally believe the word LOVE has a lot to do with it. Love can work miracles."
Indeed, when there is love, there is hope. When there is hope, there is a tomorrow. When there is love, there is forgiveness. Only when the past is forgiven, can the future begin.
3 June 2004 Thursday
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Feedback from reader:
Did N's superman idea mean today we are imperfect men? And relativity theory means the world always sees good parents and bad, healthy things and unhealthy. When you see a happy family, somewhere else there exists an unhappy family. These days, as media become more efficient, we hear of more bad news, including crimes, runaway children, inhuman parents. Your review of this book, however, shows this is a true story. Lucy is lucky to be able to write so well.