|Me on my family estate (he lied, shamelessly) around 1988 or '89|
As we grow up and pass through the various, inevitable 'chapters' of our lives - like infancy, childhood, teenage years, young adulthood, etc., - we do so unselfcon-sciously, without realizing at the time that we're exiting one stage and entering another. It's only when we look back, many years later, that we come to recognize that certain phases of our lives (depending on individual circumstances, naturally) each fall into their own separate and distinct 'compartments'. (Or, at least, that's how it seems in retrospect.)
That's probably a bit vague and ambiguous, so let me attempt to clarify what I'm trying to convey. One of my fondest childhood memories is sneaking downstairs with my brother in the wee, small hours of a Christmas morning to unwrap our presents, as our parents snored away in blissful ignorance of what we were up to. Another is going out on Hallowe'en and chapping neighbourhood doors in the company of three or four others, and reciting a verse or three in exchange for monkey nuts, some apples and oranges.
Sliding down slippery slopes on sledges my father had built was another boyhood joy, with the spray from the snow splattering my face with its exhilarating tingle as I raced recklessly downhill with seemingly suicidal intent. I christened my sledge 'Fireball XL5' and still had it right up 'til my early twenties, when it mysteriously disappeared ere I had a chance to protest. My father probably used the wood for something, or it was thrown away in the early '80s when I wasn't looking.
|A very poor, out-of-focus photo of me from around 1977/'78. That's|
my sledge leaning against our dog Tara's kennel on my left
It occurs to me that one of the worst cruelties parents can inflict on their children is to decide, in their absence and without consultation, to dispose of their childhood treasures on the grounds that they're 'too old' for them and don't need them anymore. (Many a lifelong obsession has resulted from such thoughtless parental behaviour, I'm sure.)
If you're an adult who yet lives in your childhood home, perhaps happy halcyon days don't seem so very far away, and, if so, you're in an extremely enviable position. I first moved into my present address aged around 13-and-a-half when the immediate past seemed far closer than it does now. However, these days, I often find it a source of great disappointment that fondly-recalled moments associated with child-hood belong to previous houses rather than my current abode.
It never seemed to matter much before, but as I get older, my past appears even further removed from me, and it galls me that I never got to sneak downstairs at Christmas in this house, or went sledging down the hill in the nearby park in winter, or guising 'round the neighbours' houses at Hallowe'en. These things all happened elsewhere.
|The house with the dark front door is the one I lived in when|
my sledge was built. Photo taken around 2009 or 2010
Last year, at Christmas, I revisited the area I used to live in from about one-and-a-half years old until I was six, going on seven. It's only about 25 minutes away on foot, which might not sound like any kind of a journey, but the 'reality' of travelling 46 years into the past is an immense distance in anyone's book. It was between seven or eight o'clock at night and some local teenagers (about 17 years old, I'd guess) were sledging down the very hill that I had done all those years before. I was with a friend, so not having to worry about being mistaken for some lone, sinister stranger, I hailed them and asked if I could have a shot on one of their sleds.
I explained my connection to the area and they were entirely agreeable, no doubt hoping to witness this old duffer come a cropper on the slopes. It was one of those modern plastic sleds, red in colour (my favourite), so the blood wouldn't show if I happened to injure myself. What an experience! It was great to relive a moment in the same place as nearly 50 years previously, and I'm glad I did so before the local council decide to sell the land for houses or whatever.
But I digress. As my very existence ticks faster and faster away, what once seemed like one cohesive 'whole' now seems fragmented and scattered to the far corners. I refer to the various aspects that make up my life of course. Sometimes, I look at my comics and toys from childhood and am suddenly beset by a feeling that they belong elsewhere, and seem curiously out of place. One item recalls one house to memory, another summons forth recollections of a different one. Mostly, such mementos afford me a great deal of comfort and pleasure, but, occasionally, can also cast a pall of sorrow over my ruminations.
|A similar occasion to the one described, but in a different place around|
20-odd years earlier, in 1989 or '90. (Same colour of sled though)
As I've no doubt ruefully reflected before in my melancholy musings, it sometimes seems like the 'spirit of youth', which once beat so strongly within me, slipped off somewhere to die when I wasn't looking, leaving me tired and empty, a mere husk of my former self. All that remains is a dim and distant echo that yet reverberates in the vast caverns of memory, but even echoes eventually die. The ghost of my childhood now resides in former homes, having fled this current one. It deigns to visit me on occasion however, so I must be thankful for small mercies.
Usually, surrounding oneself with familiar objects from the past helps perpetuate the notion that it's not so very far away after all; that, in fact, there is no past, present or future - only one big 'now'. However, the mind is a fickle mistress, and sometimes delights in torturing us with a 'reality' far different to the one we'd prefer. On that mournful note, I'd be interested in reading the opinions and perceptions of my fellow Criv-ites. Is the past, to you, not only a foreign country, but also a forgotten one? Or, like me, do you constantly endeavour to keep it in view, like MOLE in Kenneth Grahame's The WIND In The WILLOWS, to completely abandon the old life for the new?
Well, I'm not sure whether any of the above screed is as clear as I'd have liked, but, if you can understand what I was trying to say, feel free to analyze, soliloquize, theorize, rationalize - or even agonize - about it in the comments section.
|My faithful dog, Zara, three quarters of the way down the actual hill|
I sledged on as a child - and once as an adult. Taken around 1996
Click on photos to enlarge. In the case of photo #3, clicking again will enlarge even further. (In case you want to look through the windows.)