Yesterday my timeline had lots of posts about Gordon Banks, the great goalkeeper who won the World Cup with England. One of the stand out memories from my childhood. I so admire his skill and ability. A goalkeeper making a great save is one of the most exciting sites I know.
I was also reading about the importance of memories and want to quote the wonderful John Swinton who has so much to say about how we should live. He uses the phrase “dangerous memories” which are
stories of the ‘other’ – the victims of history who have been forgotten by society, but who remain at the forefront of the memory of God. In raising our consciousness to the reality of the lives of the oppressed such stories become dangerous because they radically intrude upon and call into question, our complacent and comfortable present.
While it is good to celebrate the life of those who brought us joy, every life is equally precious to God and we need to try to share the stories or more importantly help others to share their own story so we can be challenged and respond.
John Swinton Resurrecting the Person Nashville Abingdon Press 2000 126.
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!
One of my favourite childhood memories is going for a walk near home and picking up acorns and seeing the wonderful little cups that held them. Perhaps even more fun was seeing squirrels pick them up – storing food for later. The phrase ‘mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ seems apt for summer where little acorns can be seen as memories that are planted and which can grow and nurture us over the years. Memory making is a key element of what youthworkers and families do and if we look back, there are things which have shaped us and changed us and which have helped make us who we are. Sadly, not all memories are good and some of us have experienced things which have made life more difficult for us and the same little acorns can grow into oaks which overshadow our lives and which we need help to chop down.
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.
The roses in this picture live on my bedroom window sill. They are over 30 years old. They are from the bouquet I carried when I was a bridesmaid for my lovely friend Grace. On Wednesday I traveled to London to say goodbye to her. I saw the lilies as I walked back to Colliers Wood station. They are beautiful, reflecting God’s glory as she did. Worship, love, encouragement and following God’s call were at the heart of her life – I learnt much from her example. We both gave up our jobs at the same time, Grace to join YWAM and me YFC, she got to go to Hawaii and me Luton – I clearly didn’t learn everything I could have done! Using our metaphor of marker posts and shelters, she was both for me.
Last week I went back to Reading for Mum’s birthday. The morning after we took a trip down memory lane. For the first eight years of my life most Saturdays we went to visit Dad’s family – near Cemetery Junction of Ricky Gervais fame! One of my abiding childhood memories is the walk down to the Kennet with a big bag of bread to feed the swans – perhaps the grandparents of the swans in the picture here! We lent over the metal link fencing and threw chunks of bread which were eagerly grasped. I still love to see swans, they evoke some of the simple pleasures of childhood.
I don’t know if I was told when I was young, if I was I didn’t remember, that the bridges we walked under each week were built by Brunel. One of my favourite sights today is as we approach the river Tamar on our way into Cornwall and see the Brunel railway bridge. I appreciate the transition that bridges offer. Brunel also built the horseshoe bridge of the picture above too – apparently so barge horses could use it. Crossing the bridge always seemed a little bit scary as a child, I remember is as being a little more rickety and wooden and seeing the water through cracks, my vivid imagination imagining it collapsing!
We drove around a little and Mum pointed out roads where relatives lived, I passed the church I got baptized in. Sadly the house I remember from my childhood is long gone, and we couldn’t quite work out where the road would have been but I have many fond memories of being there. The record player in the front room, watching Dr Who on the television, Saturday afternoon sport, beautiful flowers in the garden, the mangle in the outhouse and the outside toilet, the tin of buttons. As a child I was fascinated by so many simple things and many years on I enjoyed the connections and rootedness I felt going back.
Last weekend we sat in Rossi’s, one of Paul’s childhood haunts, and I took this picture of the lightening sky after heavy rain. The sign above the counter reflected in the glass.
As Christmas approaches we may spend quite a bit of time looking backwards. Perhaps to some of the magical memories of our childhood when the days leading up to Christmas day were full of excitement. Perhaps to some of the sad Christmases where we lamented someone or something we had lost.
Today is the end of term for many. Another opportunity to look backwards and reflect on what happened to the hopes and fears we started the term with. To perhaps resolve to make changes for next term.
While I want to be fully present in today a little bit of looking backwards helps me to learn, be grateful and change.
When I think back to some of my childhood memories, the things that stand out are the little things. I don’t know if my parents were conscious of the idea of memory making – I hear it talked about much more now but perhaps that is a youth worker thing… All my vivid pictures are of things like picnics or fishing and other sporting things, being got out of bed at my cousins to see a partial eclipse…
This summer I have enjoyed some of these seemingly little things: hitting the golf club my adorable nephew told me to hit and doing a much better shot than my choice would have led to; playing with god children at Kingsbury – watching them feed the birds, take risks on play equipment; sitting watching swallows playing in the eaves of where we were staying and watching egrets roosting in the trees; browsing round a local art fair on Bodmin admiring the creativity of others; worshipping at the riverside chapel… These are the things that have nurtured my soul and spirit – little things which really are big things.
There are unhelpful ways of reminding people of your presence at a place of beauty such as litter or graffiti. Despite doing this walk many times over the years we have never seen cairns here before – a beach a little bit east of Bude.
We sat looking at them wondering who had built them – one person, different people and thinking about why, what they meant to those who helped to build them. They are largely above the tide line except if there is a big storm so I wonder if next time we come they will still be there or a new fashion will have been adopted and a different sort of creation appeared…
How many of the loves and dreams and fears of yesteryears have their hold on you today? Anthony de Mello
Holidays are times when there can perhaps be more time to think, reflect, remember. We go to the same place regularly on holiday and layer upon layer of memories are built and inherent in that are some of the loves, dreams and fears that we have had over the years. While some of the loves and dreams may still rightly have a hold on me today I try and work on the fears, not always successfully. One of the things we enjoy on holiday is going into art shows or galleries and I am always drawn to pictures of lilies because of the biblical resonances of not worrying (Matthew 6.25-34) and I know I have mentioned this before in my blogs. However, I need to let go of some of the dreams too and find some of the healing and purpose in where we are now and the journey we have been on. This summer I am particularly enjoying my love of sport with lots of walking, kayaking, golf etc – my childhood and adolescence is full of happy memories of playing sport in the garden and further afield. I am appreciating that I am getting a little fitter and can look at a (small) hill or cliff and no longer dread walking up it. When I first read this question it sounded like none of them should but on reflection I think that was a wrong response – part of who I am has been shaped by loves, dreams and fears over the years and while I continue to hope in the transformation that is part of my journey of faith I am also grateful for where I have come from too and what I have learnt about myself, God and others along the way.
Anthony de Mello Wellsprings New York Doubleday 1984, p232