I stayed with Mum last night who still lives in the house I grew up in. As I walked to the station this morning to get a train to London I passed by a house which holds happy memories for me. Shirley Lees lived there and I think I have blogged about her before. She was a missionary in Borneo and published one of the early positive books on women in ministry. She was one of my Crusader leaders and ran CSSM holiday clubs. Back then it was really only women I encountered in my emerging Christian journey – apart from clerics! One of the sad things is never having expressed appreciation to her for the way she inspired me but I can publicly honour her through my blog. I am minded that we rarely know the impact of faithful ministry with children and young people but it can make a difference to a whole life. It is always nostalgic going back home but in a way that encourages gratitude for the good foundations instilled in me.
I don’t always make a shopping list and I had forgotten lemons (or limes) which are an essential item for us. As I was driving back to where we were staying I remembered there was an old fashioned greengrocer with produce piled up. I found the lemons and some were still wrapped in this beautiful, colourful tissue paper. My mind immediately floated back to childhood where a great uncle had a fruit van and he would produce oranges with beautiful wrappers. Fruit seemed a lot more special back then when carefully wrapped and more seasonal. Now fruit can feel a bit functional – have I eaten my five a day yet? I am often surprised by the way that memories return from tiny triggers. It was a very special lemon and I appreciate more fully those who cultivate and pick them!
The M25 on a Friday afternoon is not a great place to be. As we saw the time creeping up we had to make a call – could we get to Southend in time for Paul to get a Rossi’s ice cream? Yes we could and memories of a four hour journey evaporated. Southend holds happy childhood memories for Paul and an annual pilgrimage enables the reliving of some of them as most of those he shared the memories with are no longer around to reminisce with. Places have a power to evoke memory and emotion and in this instance good ones that nourish and replenish.
I began reading a book on poetry as medicine last week. One of the poems struck me and I was reminded of it today as we spoke about play as part of a lecture:
My heart of silk
is filled with lights,
with lost bells,
with lilies and bees.
I will go very far,
farther than those mountains,
farther than the oceans,
way up near the stars,
to ask Christ the Lord
to give back to me
the soul I had as a child,
matured by fairy tales,
with its hat of feathers
and its wooden sword.
(Federico Garcia Lorca)
I long for the child like wonder to return – there are glimpses of it at times, particularly in nature but I long sometimes for the freedom of that joy filled child who didn’t yet understand the expectations of others and the things which constrain.
Mum joined us for a few days on holiday and one of the things we did together was to visit Polperro in Cornwall. Polperro is a name I have known since I was very young as that was what Mum’s Godmother and husband had called their house. They have been dead so many years now and there are no relatives left who might know the story. But we wandered down the lanes wondering where they might have stayed.
I have written more than once recently about visiting aspects of my childhood. At Polperro we played amongst the rhodedendrons, watched the fish in the pond, saw adults playing on a full sized snooker table, collected eggs from the hens and met lots of family members we seldom saw as different branches of the family came together. One of my favourite childhood memories comes from a photo where several of us were sitting in a hammock. I am enjoying revisiting some of these memories while Mum can fill me in about all sorts of things which are only fragments.
I spent most of yesterday preparing a session on children’s spirituality for a module on multidisciplinary spiritual care later this month. I got to revisit books I had read long ago and was again inspired by how wonderful it is to spend time with children. The quotation that I am using which struck me most is this:
If the spiritual dimension of children’s lives is not listened to, and nurtured it can become suppressed and damaged by socially and historically constructed processes. This can lead children, as they grow older, to repress, neglect and even discard the spirituality first experienced in a significant way during their childhood. (Hyde 2008:59-60)
It is with sadness that I recognize the truth of this, the loss of wonder, excitement, the jadedness which can come at a comparatively early age. I most often use nature to get me back in touch with this wondering, monday morning it was a baby bird hopping around the garden from branch to branch, I was sorry I had not got round to replenishing the food!
Hyde. B. (2008). Children and Spirituality. London: Jessica Kingsley.
We walked into a building labelled “Mushroom House” – dark and damp – using my phone as a torch while my eyes adjusted to the lack of light I saw not mushrooms but pears! Although the pears looked lovely and I did have to resist the temptation to take a bit out of them I was a little disappointed not to find what it was I was expecting. I seem to be in a connecting with childhood mode at the moment and remember with great fondness a giant toadstool that sat in the middle of the long gone hut we used to meet in.
I sometimes get torn between feeling cheated that something wasn’t what it said it was and excited because it was something unexpected. This was perhaps a bit of both!