These poplar trees are in my local park. Each time I walk past them it triggers memories of my childhood park, playing on the swings, roundabout, slide, hitting tennis balls against the wall and even a bit of putting! Happy hours spent playing, eating picnics.
It is strange how sometimes memories hit us, a sight, a smell even a phrase, often a song and we are transported back somewhere else. Mostly for me this is to good places and times but there are also more troubling memories. Those I tend to revisit and look at how I might reframe them or understand them from the perspective of now.
Today as I was scrolling through my Facebook memories up came ordination pictures. 10 years on I can still touch the joy and the gratitude of being surrounded by many who had supported me on my journey at different stages.
Most Saturday afternoons when I was a young child we went to feed the swans on the Kennet. It was a highlight of the week, seeing the elegant birds swimming seemingly effortlessly along. There is a soothing calmness about them.
This swan is on Ullawater, the whole scene was soothing and calming with the swan triggering joy from the memories it evoked.
I currently carry aa pebble in my pocket from the beach we most often walk on. That triggers memories for me too of conversations, of crashing waves, of the faithfulness of tides.
I purposefully choose to have things around me to trigger positive memories, they can be a counter to some of the things that have the opposite effect.
They are not the best pictures nor are they terribly carefully curated. They reflect what we enjoy.
You only see glimpses of the week. I post partly for the memories to come up in subsequent years so I can look back and recall good times.
I need time away from work to process, to recharge, to ponder, to review and have space which is not strewn with deadlines. I still have lots to process from what has happened over the past year and a holiday is more than just time off, it is space to heal. I look forward to returning to day to day life at home refreshed and ready for the challenges and opportunities the next few weeks brings.
On Saturday I said a final farewell to the space I had inhabited for 22 years in my role as Director of Midlands CYM. It was a strange and sad day and it is important for me to mourn and grieve what has been lost.
As I walked round empty rooms remembering conversations, worship, teaching, presiding… so many memories came flooding back. Memories of people, of stories, of grace, of overcoming, of flourishing, of struggling, of becoming.
However, the head full of memories also fills me with gratitude and joy and what is not lost is an investment in many people over many years by so many staff and students. We learn together, from each other and I always feel I gain at least as much as I give in any learning situation.
Thus it really is the end of an era as the building passes to new hands this week. But the legacy continues across the world of people sent out to pursue and fulfil their vocation in the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
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.