söndag 15 januari 2017

What is a childhood, anyway?

The more I think about it, the more it strikes me, this childhood thing.

The streets of my hometown, 1964

Our oldest doesn't want to leave this house where we live, but we sometimes do! We rent it, it's getting old and worn out, falling apart here and there. If I ask her why she is so determined about this, she says: But Mum, this is my childhood, I grew up here!!! And yes, that she did.

Can't argue with that.
Living in the  countryside as we do now, I have learned to see things differently. Here people live for generations, often in the same village, parents and children being neighbours or next to it. I grew up in a larger town, well, its the third largest in Sweden anyway.
There is no place I could point out as my point of origin, no place that I can return to telling my children: Kids, this is where your mother grew up.  Well, there was the very first apartment, I don't remember that, was too small. Then my mother got married and the second apartment I can remember, one watertap, gas stove, no bathroom, no refridgerater, tv-set with a moneybox on the back, pidgeons and rats in the backyard, smelling dustbins and 4 storey houses all over.

Going out meant streetwalking, the town is rather large and famous for it's great amount of parks, and there is water present everywhere. The largest park we visited had it's origin in the Baltic Exhibitions 1914. The two great ponds where dug out several years earlier by the convicts in the city jail. In the centre of town was a castle surrounded by water, in the cellars the convicts spent their time. The castle is still there, today a museum. 
As an only child and a very lonely child, my idea of fun was to go to the playground, alone, and especially during rainperiods, dig canals and ponds, destroying the grounds around the swings and slides.  When I started school we moved to a larger apartment with bathroom, electric stove, hotwater taps and refridgerator AND freezer!! I guess I could call that my childhood home, I stayed there from the age of seven til' the age of 21... School was small, there were more grass and trees, we got a small dog and in the summers I was sent off to the country, spending 5-6 weeks with a family . I have written about them earlier, hardworking, earnest and kind people with cows, pigs, sheep,chickens, a dog called Pia and several cats. 

It was the kind of time many here call childhood days. But children grow up, we always say that we have to care for the children, giving them a safe and happy upbringing. But they grow up and become like everyone else, what is the childhood ? How does it affect us? I can tell of several incidents in my childhood that I remember vividly, but I couldn't say how they have effected me as an adult. Everything we go through effects us, in every age. We are never really grown ups, never is there a time when we can say: That's it, this is finally what I have become, this is me and this is the way I will stay my lifetime out.

So what is a childhood?  People write biographies and memoirs where they wringe and examines their childhood from the inside and out, often finding lots of things to blame their parents with. The only thing I have learned growing up is that I make the same mistakes and my children will probably suffer some bad memories because of me. The things I could blame my mother for, and others in my closest realm, I realize now are things that can be difficult and impossible for any person to deal with. Parents are no superheroes, they do their very best and often that is enough, sometimes not.
My time in the countryside however, HAS indeed made a difference, although I couldn't tell you what kind. Maybe it's just that I have an experience many other children in my neighbourhood never had. Me, a city girl, learned to milk cows, feed calves, pull out lambs from wombs and pick eggs. I learned what it's like to have your t-shirt sucked in by the calf standing behind you, and fall into the largest pile of shit imaginable . I learned what it's like to sit in the hay with a bunch of kittens in the barn, listening to the thunderstorm. I learned what it's like to walk the meadows shortly before milking time, calling in the cows. I also learned about the barndances and the difference between using the backdoor and using the fancy front door, only on parties.
My grandparents also lived in apartments, but the grandparents in this family lived in small villages and small cottages. Fireplaces, rocking chairs, you know.

So what is a childhood? It is, in some way, your preparation for the adult life, but only part.
The adult, as I see it, can be just as much in need of care and comfort, safety and love. We also need to meet life with bright eyes and happy hearts, we too need to be handled with care and welcomed and listened to.  Adults can be just as vunerable and tender as a child.
Still - the childhood will always stay on in our memory, true or not. If it's a bright and wonderful time, we aim to give our own children the same, if it's gloomy and bad we aim to give our own children something entirely different, a childhood of the kind we think every child needs. We compensate through our children, trying to give them what we didn't get.  Some times that can take disastrous forms , forcing the children into something they don't need.
And, honestly, children with happy childhoods, don't always turn out pleasant and secure people, loving and caring. Children with bad childhoods, don't always turn out villains and cruel persons or unhappy even.  

The streets of our childrens hometown, 2016

Even so, our childhood will always be important to us . My childhood have made me partly who I am, but the rest of my life keeps shaping me and reshaping me. Who I am deep down inside, only the Lord knows, and he keeps lifting me back on track when I'm lost. I hope every person and especially every parent will experience this, beacuse only then we can look at our own childhood and the one we give our children, with a forgiving and understanding heart. The frail life we lead will give us joy, comfort and horrors, but childhood will keep staying on in our minds as a very special time!!! So let us keep our children safe!!

3 kommentarer:

  1. Our childhood never leaves us. Mine was spent almost in the shadow of Caernarfon Castle. I went back there recently and took a one hour cruise on the Menai Straits. The castle looked splendid from a distance but on closer inspection it was not the castle I explored in my childhood. Now there are sliding glass doors and barriers and a pimply faced youth in an office with leaflets for tourists etcetera . . . but that's life, that's progress as they say.

    1. I went back to that farm, together with my husband, some years ago. Strange feeling, it looked so different. Yes, our childhood lingers on. Was that on Ireland, Gwil? Those names sound just like the ones I read on Herons blog.

  2. I looked that castle up, not Irish , welsh, pardon my ignorance!! That was a quite majestic view but I can understand that it isn't what it used to be. Sad, when our history get turned into museums with entrance, leaflets and brisk looking guides. I for one feel bad about those great churches and monasteries that has become nothing but tourist magnets and no place for worship. I know, if I went to that castle I would be a tourist, but I prefer when they leave them in peace, progress may be important elsewhere. Most medieval buildings here are left to decay in peace, only keeping them safe enough for visitors. I envy you somewhat, the scenery, the landscape, the buildings. I suppose we all carry a shimmering picture of a place important to us, from childhood days, I have some too, but no castles!!!