Maybe I peaked in childhood.
I didn’t know I could feel that way. That reckless abandon. That absolute peace. It felt like I was in a small bubble, and I knew it would pop at any moment, but I didn’t want to think of that until it happened.
I just wanted to enjoy the now most thoroughly.
We walked on the mountain for hours every morning, as the sun climbed higher and higher in the sky. I could feel its malignant beam on my back, scorching through my clothes, making my skin prickle uncomfortably before it broke down and wept rivers of sweat. My feet were sore by the end of the day.
We ate whatever we could get our hands on. Pineapples chopped, mangoes until the orange stickiness dribbled down our chins and under our shirts. Strawberries by the bowlful. Fruit in abundance.
We jumped in the lake straight after, with all our clothes on. You swore loudly because the water was deceivingly cold, and we glanced back at our parents, our relief palpable when we saw them laughing on the lake’s edge, oblivious to our transgression.
We cycled on old rusty bikes found in the garage, the wheels patched and pumped, the chains oiled. Our fingers were grimy with mud and grease, and the summer wind rushed on our faces and separated every strand of our sun bleached hair. You burned severely one day, and your mother smothered you in aloe vera and I rolled around laughing as you squelched outside like a giant slug, a brilliant scowl on your face.
We were bloated with lemonade and stuffed full of sugar, our feet hardened over the span of the two months we were there, browned and baked by the heat and roughened by hot ground beneath our bare soles.
It ended though, as I knew it would. My father had an office to get back to and yours had patients to dissect. Our mothers bundled us away in our respective cars, stuffed blankets down by our feet as we sweltered within, our noses pressed to the windows, watching as the adults exchanged handshakes and claps on the back, and our cars trundled on the dusty road, the distance between them growing with each second.
They didn’t spare a thought for the little people. They dragged their children along wherever they went and they didn’t think that in leaving the holiday house they seared our hearts. Well, my heart. I’d never experienced anything like the friendship we had. the fearlessness, the secrets, the tents and the battles.
There was never a summer quite like that summer. I don’t know who you are, and my parents are vague whenever I ask them. So I leave it, thinking perhaps someday in the future we may meet again and rekindle that bond between spirits.
But I know it will never be the same. I am too old to feel that surge of excitement when I think of the day ahead. Ants and beetles on the ground are nothing to me now. Your voice echoes through the years sometimes, and that summer heavily influences all of my choices and the way I respond to the world.
It’s the smallest things, sometimes. The smallest things.
So, I noticed that some other bloggers do this, notably Diana from Myths of the Mirror. I thought it was a wonderful way to share some of my favourite posts by bloggers – to share the lovely work of other people.
SO, without further ado, this week’s share is a beautiful little piece written by Judy Dykstra-Brown – Scraps of Her. A lovely poem about the trail of glitter children leave in our lives.
Scraps of Her
She was the glitter
in our all-too-literal lives.
She left a trail of it,
our littlest fairy.
It was the dust of her,
like that perfume half
school glue and half strawberries…..
Continue reading: Scraps of Her.
I knew a girl once, at primary school, who told me one afternoon while we were having lunch that if I visited her one day, we could go to Japan for a day and visit her father.
She was insistent that you could do that, so easily.
‘Easy,’ she said. She was half Japanese, and her name was Jasmine.
‘I don’t think you can do that,’ I said, cautiously. ‘Don’t you think you would have to fly there on a plane? And it’s terribly far away.’
At that time, at the age of nine, Japan was far off and oriental to me. A land of mystery and romance. It was not mentioned in any of the books I devoured, which, at the time, were all 1940s-50s classics about Western children who dressed well and had adventures, and a charming Canadian girl with Titian red hair. Japan, to me, was unknown, therefore un-interesting.
‘Oh, but you can!’ she was nodding wildly, her mane of thick black glossy hair falling over her smooth caramel skin.
‘My father is from there. He always says I should go and see him for a day, and we can have so many adventures. And they put up red dragon flags everywhere and we can eat dumplings. And I can give you a red silk gown so you won’t feel out of place. Tell your mom, she will drop you off at my place and we will be back in no time.’
I half believed her, because she was so earnest. After all, why shouldn’t it be true? There was nothing to suggest its implausibility. And Jasmine was so adamant that she had done this several times. The idea appealed to me; I stared up at the copy of leaves above the school playground and dreamed I could go with her. How exciting. And her father sounded so child friendly and accommodating.
When I told my mother about it later, I heard my voice sound just as adamant as Jasmine’s; it was my dream just as much as hers now, and I would not let my mother dampen it for me by telling me it wasn’t real.
‘But you can go and visit her, of course. I shall certainly want to see her mother again.’
We never did go. I don’t know why. I heard on the grapevine, and by grapevine I mean the chatter of adults unaware of childish ears eavesdropping, that her parents were divorced and her father had deserted his children.
As an adult, that explained Jasmine’s sad eagerness to visit him in Japan for an afternoon.
But you know, I will never forget that magic in her black eyes, dancing and alive, truly believing in what she was saying. So strong I believed it too, and hoped so hard for her. We all need coping mechanisms.
Damon Ludwig was the love of Alex’s life.
Of course, she did not tell him that. She barely looked at him, barely glanced in his direction when he greeted her. Covertly she admired him, though.
Damon Ludwig was the boy next door. Of course he had to be; Alex snorted at the ironic cliche of it all.
She couldn’t help herself, though. Damon was a very handsome lad, but it wasn’t that, really. She knew as well as the next person that just because somebody was handsome doesn’t mean they were very nice.
He was full of energy, is how she would describe it. He was constantly on the move. Lifting and carrying and bringing in mysterious logs through the front of his house. She would hear his mother berating him for getting mud and splinters all along her newly washed floors. She knew he made things out in the back garden shed, which had been converted to a personalised workshop. He made chairs and carved ornaments, most of which his mother lovingly displayed around her house.
He was funny. And laughed a lot. His laugh was swelling, coming from deep within him, so you knew it was genuine.
When he wasn’t carving, Damon was reading. He read everywhere. In trees, behind bushes, on the garden wall, lying precariously with his solid edges spilling over the sides, in his carpentry shed, on the gentle slope of the roof of his house.
And when he wasn’t reading, he was mowing old Lady Redmond’s lawn down the road or clipping the hedge for Mr Mason whose fingers were riddled with arthritis. He always had time for everybody, and with a cheerful smile he would help them. Sure, sturdy and confident.
She watched their faces when he left them; always smiling. It was like he was the sun and he left his glowing rays wherever he went.
She loved him. But of course, she would never tell him that.
She would carry on in her silent Alex way. Watching when he wasn’t looking, burying herself in her studies, taking care of things as best she could. Her little sister Lem was always in and out of the house next door. She envied her her childish confidence. She would come back with tales about Damon and even though Alex pretended to be nonchalant and dismissive she wanted to hear every detail.
The week has come to an end, and so has my thunder cloud mood.
We went on a school trip today with Year 1 and 2, and despite going through four seasons of weather in one afternoon, it was an enjoyable trip. Kids are sweet, and they do come out with the funniest things.
We hiked through a forest, and mounted a summit. Some children were being blown away by the wind at the top of the hill, and their terror combined with the way they were reaching out to the teacher, but being pushed further and further away, was a pile of hilarity for me and my sister in law.
Obviously we kept our laughter in check at the time, but my oh my what laughs we had later.
I have to say, though, that I think the trip should have been cancelled, and it wasn’t such a good idea to take a bunch of six year olds on a hike because they aren’t going to appreciate that. They just want to play.
I did try to engage them by pointing out different kinds of trees and how you can tell an oak apart from a birch. We also examined animal droppings (once we got over the toilet humour!) to see which animal might have passed by before us.
All my knowledge of nature has come from books. I grew up in the desert, and walks like these were few and far between (every ten months when we came back to the UK for summer holidays and to see our family and grandparents, obviously), so I relished things like oak leaves and pine cones and rabbit poops. The kids in books did all the things I could only dream of. These kids sure are lucky, I tell you that much.
I think they were interested, because they kept bringing me dead leaves saying ‘Miss, this is an oak leaf, see, look at all its ridges!’
They are a bunch of cuties.
I have to say, though, that I didn’t get to sit down all day and am only just sitting down to catch up on internet stuff. In fact, I have been so busy all week that I haven’t been able to wash my clothes and I am travelling to Shropshire tomorrow to have a look at the place where they filmed Narnia (Hail C.S. Lewis!), and then to Birmingham to see the places where Tolkien grew up! Who knew he grew up in Birmingham? I don’t particularly like Birmingham but after finding out about that little Tolkien tidbit I might have to change my mind. We’ll see.
I hope those clothes dry overnight outside. You know, it’s too cold for April! We have been hailed upon and snowed down on, and the sky looks mighty troubled tonight, and breath is coming out thick and fast and hanging in the air as though it was too cold to dissipate.
Which it is.
Have a great weekend and bank holiday!
As I wheeled by bike
Out into the wonderful outdoors
Fresh, cold wind on my face
Up my ankles
Fanning my cheeks
I heard the trees swishing their bare branches
The birds tweeting
The hills rolled away in the distance
I climbed aboard
I squeezed the handlebars
And I thought to myself
Goodness gracious me
I am twenty two in 26 days
TWENTY TWO YEARS OLD.
Only eight years or so,
Until I am thirty.
When you reach thirty, folks,
You have hit the point of no return.
You’re a true adult,
The truth is, folks
I still feel twelve.
I still feel six
Looking down at my feet
To see how far off the ground is
And wonder if I’ve grown a little
I still feel small.
When I look at my feet,
It is only to have adult thoughts
And lament about my long toes,
The coursework that I have to submit,
Or the bills I need to sort out,
Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that it happened.
I don’t know when I went from hiding between the clothes in a supermarket, or jumping over the cracks in the pavement which were really large crevices filled with gnashing crocodiles, to trawling miserably through the same shops that I used to make magical playgrounds out of.
When I went to the hillside park of my childhood the swings were old and rusty and too small, the playhouse desperately needed a lick of paint, the grass strewn with cigarette ends and bottle caps.
Where was the vibrant green hill of my childhood? Oh, it’s just a small mound with more sand than grass.
The glorious forest of trees I used to wander through, my head craned, fascinated by the canopy high high above, is just a tiny thicket, its ground peppered with unsavoury adult things that I now know the meaning of. I look down now, not up.
Walking at night was an enchanting adventure, all the shadows seemed blacker somehow, and moved when I walked. I felt so deliciously vulnerable, safe in the knowledge that my parents were with me so I was protected. Now it is all dark alleyways, and every stranger is a potential attacker, heart quickening as I hurry along, desperate to finish my business and get safely home.
Even my childhood home is different. My old reading nook is too small, it’s only an alcove that could fit a skinny child.
I don’t know when I stopped running everywhere. Running down hills because my legs would swoosh so fast and the scenery would blur, picking all the daisies, the climbing frame becoming a castle, turning strangers into evil sorcerers and playing hide and seek with them while they walked on, oblivious. Discovering secret tunnels full of prickly thorns, that were just gaps between thick holly bushes. Always, always always finding the most fun way to get to places, catching flashes of my parents as we darted through bushes and happening upon little trails through the trees. Walking past people’s front gardens and sniffing their roses, and dreaming of the colourful arrays they had nodding at passers by.
Now I hurry on by, maybe admiring the flowers a little, but never with the radiant reverence of my childhood.
The world is still the same, folks, but the colourful film of innocence has been lifted from my vision, and everything underneath is drab and grey.
When did this transition occur? For I don’t remember it. I remember vehemently saying that I would never be as boring as the adults, but here I am, walking not running, stepping not skipping.
I miss the magic so so sorely. I try to conjure it again sometimes, when I am playing with children. Try to see the lions approaching through the trees, the swings turning into swift hover boards, the daisies twirling their pretty white skirts tinged with purple like small fairies, but the images fizzle away so quickly.
Do you remember the moment you transitioned? Or is the moment elusive to you, a slow and painful death of the allurement of life.