Tatty, by Christine Dwyer Hickey
This is the story of a Dublin family deeply impacted the harmful drinking of both parents. It is told through the eyes of their daughter, Tatty, over a period of ten years.
The book has won several awards and is the 2020 Dublin One City One Book choice. Christine has spoken about the autobiographical nature of the book and has kindly agreed to share some extracts from it with the Silent Voices initiative, lending her voice to others who are lifting the lid on the trauma of parental alcohol misuse.
‘When you go out with the men you to the pub. You get hooshed up on the bar stool. You get to do things you’re not supposed to tell Mam about. Sometimes you get a little pint of stout.’
‘And even though Mam always warns her, Don’t be telling those nosy oul ones all your business, sometimes she gets mixed up and forgets. And it’s hard to know what you’re allowed to tell or not, because one minute it’s: Tell the truth and shame the devil. The next minute it’s: Ah what did you have to go and tell them that for? I could kill you stone dead.’
‘Jeannie writes this message to Tatty. The message says Mam is drunk. Tatty has to squish her eyes up to read Jeannie’s message because it’s so small. Mam is drunk, it says. Mam is drunk. No she’s not, Tatty says and starts laughing because that’s such a stupid thing to say about Mam. Mams don’t get drunk Jeannie, only Dads do. Jeannie writes it down again. Yes she is. I bet they weren’t shopping at all, I bet they were in the pub. You can smell it off her and look at her face, it’s all crooked. NO she is NOT, Tatty says, and gives Jeannie’s arm such a Chinese burn that she gives in and says she’s only messing. She’s not drunk. She’s not. She’s just tired.’
‘Jackie Mac was the one who drove her back to school in the end, because Dad had to be someplace else. She was glad too, because for the first time ever, she didn’t want to be on her own with Dad, listening to him giving out stink about Mam, the way she used to have to listen to Mam giving out about him.’
‘She cries when she’s talking to the aunties on the phone; she cries in the kitchen on her own. And that makes you feel really sorry for poor old Mam, crying on her own in the kitchen when she’s trying to make the dinner or wash the dishes or sort out all the clothes. But then after a while she stops being sad and doesn’t cry anymore: she just stays in bad humour all the time. Then you don’t feel sorry for Mam. You just feel afraid.’
‘Everything is going to change from now on, he says again. Everything’s going to be different. Then he tells them he has to go out for a while to see a man about a bit of business and they’re not to make any noise so Mam can have a big fat sleep for herself.’
— Tatty by Christine Dwyer Hickey
Reproduced by permission of author