A Memory of Childhood
This is a wonderfully moving piece that Marlene wrote recalling memories of childhood. Her words create in your imagination the sense of wonder that she felt at the time, allowing you to join her in some small way, the sun upon your back.
The Fairy Ring
My childhood. A magical time! Days filled with sunshine. It never rained. Well - only the once. I remember it well, that wet, blustery day, when my sisters and I battled our way to school, sheltered under the canopy of our mother's huge, black umbrella. To a child brought up on a diet of Enid Blyton, I regarded the whole journey as thrilling. After all, one never knew just when the biggest gust of all might pick us up off our feet and sweep us away to another world. Another world filled with odd characters, fairies, pixies, goblins, magic carpets and beautiful trees from which would hang the most delicious sweets imaginable!
I can't ever remember reaching school that day, although I obviously did and yet I felt no disappointment that my dreams hadn't been fulfilled, only a definite hope that one day soon it would rain again and the wind would blow and we would battle our way to school under that vast black canopy and with one almighty gust the wind would fill the umbrella and we would be lifted up, up.........................
Of course, the rest of the time the sun shone. All the time. Those were the days on which, if we were at school, we were permitted to take our desks and chairs out onto the lawn (which was always dotted with daisies) and our lessons would be conducted in the open air. It made them seem more interesting somehow and despite the birdsong and the noise of the traffic going past and the occasional whispered "Look there's your mum!" as a familiar head bobbed along the top of the school hedge, it also seemed that we learned a great deal more than we did when cooped up inside a stuffy classroom.
Those were the days, when our Nature Study classes were taken in the little wood, off the school playing-field. We took bark-rubbings of different trees and compared their leaves. We knew under which tree the rabbits burrowed. We learned which wild flowers favoured the shade and of those that preferred the sunnier spots. We saw blackbirds gathering twigs for their nests and we sat in awed silence, hidden by the bushes, hearts in our mouths as we watched their young ones take their first flight. How much better to learn of things first-hand than by reading about them in textbooks!
During the school holidays the sun continued the shine. On those days I would put on my fairy dress, made by my dear old Nan. A rainbow-coloured satin bodice with layer upon layer of fine multi-coloured netting. I would don the ballet pumps given to me by one of my cousins and trip lightly down the garden, pausing now and again to pick (and eat) the fruit from the various bushes, gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants and so on, until I reached my final destination, the blackberry hedge. There I would sit for hours, waiting for the fairies to appear from under the hedge, whispering to them through my fruit-stained lips, "Please come out. I won't hurt you. I only want to talk to you and show you my dress!"
They never came but I never gave up hoping that one day they would realise I was their friend and they might show themselves to me.
I frequently danced in the fairy ring on the front lawn and made many a wish. I can't remember what I wished for or if any wishes came true but I dreamed and I hoped that one day....................
But those days weren't completely centred around fairies and dancing and eating fruit.
I was fascinated by the old man who lived next door. Day in, day out, he sat by the fence dividing our two houses. He always seemed to have a cup of tea in one hand, and an endless supply of rich tea fingers in the other which he dropped into his cup, one by one. I watched, spellbound, as he scooped the inevitable mess out with his spoon, then slurped them into his mouth, gulping them down greedily.
It seemed such a delicious way to eat biscuits but I knew better than to try it for myself, my mum was a stickler for good manners!
At weekends we went for walks through the woods with mum and dad.
Wild flowers grew in abundance then. Ragged robin, violets, primroses, bluebells, harebells and my favourite 'wooden enemies', and we would walk and walk until we felt our legs would drop off, then stagger home, arms filled with flowers, to a delicious tea of sandwiches and home-made cakes.
Have you ever savoured a cheese and spring onion sandwich after a long walk?
How I wish the woodlands were still there. How I wish my children could experience the joy of picking wild flowers and of watching a baby blackbird take its first flight. How I wish they could dream about being swept away to a magical world where sweets grow on trees and the sun always shines.
Times change. This I know. Life is like a marriage, you take it for better or for worse. Not all is progression. Yet, who knows, one day my children may long for the days that they sat in front of the television, day after day, or played on their computers, fighting evil with good and the days they hung around on the housing estate with their friends because they had 'nothing to do'. Such is their lack of imagination and my heart aches for them.
My heart aches too for the child within me, who yearns, even now, to put on her rainbow-coloured dress and sit by the blackberry hedge and talk to the fairies.
If only I could dance in a fairy ring and make a wish, you never know, it just might come true.......................
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