My Rose-coloured Childhood

December 21, 2015 at 1:00 am | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Leisure activities, Memoir, Mental Health, Nature, Philosophy, Society, Ways of Living, Writing and Life | 9 Comments
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I sometimes wonder whether my childhood memories are as authentic as I believe them to be. There have been times when my siblings have reminded me of  an event that occurred which illustrates an alternate version of those times, one that I may have pushed aside or interpreted in a different way.

I know that people can focus on aspects of their youth that colour and reinforce a version they have become used to. Sometimes, that version is a happy one, sometimes a negative one. I know of two brothers who see their experiences in a way that makes it seem they lived in different worlds – one seeing a society accepting of migrants and the other seeing discrimination everywhere. That has to be related to how their personalities have been shaped and to their natural optimism or pessimism I think.

Of course, there are some who really have endured awful family backgrounds,  situations that could  break them if that is what they focus on. And it does break some – but  paradoxically makes others, even in the same family, stronger and more resilient.

We had a pretty good family, where we were loved and cared for, but during which we also endured some pretty tough times. I do remember those hard times, but I also remember the good times. Perhaps I have created a world that was somewhat better than it actually was, but at least it helps me to focus on the good stuff. Here’s a poem I wrote that does that:

 

 

In spring, summer and autumn,

we walked along muddy creeks,

along lake shores and ocean beaches,

over expanses of sea-side rock,

dotted with crystal-clear pools,

our bare feet tickled by weed and grass,

salt water and sand.

 

We collected driftwood and shells

and wave-smoothed stones

and carried them home

in bright red or blue or yellow buckets.

We spent hours sorting them

by shape and size and colour,

and days making sea-drift sculptures,

shell borders for photo frames and mirrors,

shell pictures and maps.

 

We strolled through wetlands,

dense with melaleuca,

wary of spiders and biting mosquitoes,

through lakeside forests of casuarinas

with their wind-eerie sounds,

and through paddocks and gullies

studded with eucalypts & blackberry bushes,

wary of red-bellied black snakes.

 

We collected sheets of paperbark

to make three-dimensional pictures,

flexible green sticks to make

Hiawatha bows

straight-stemmed

dry reeds for arrows,

and bulrushes for spears.

 

 Our Christmas decorations

were made from strips of crepe paper

that twirled across the room;

the star on top of the tree was

a piece of cardboard covered in

silver paper from cigarette packets.

 

From the huge pine trees

that bordered our school yard

(long gone now)

we fashioned their thick bark

into serviceable pistols, or dolls,

and their pinecones sawn through

created wide-eyed owls.

 

Inside, on cold or rainy days,

a sheet of newspaper could make

a ship or a plane or a hat,

or a row of dancing dolls.

A block of wood

made great cars and trucks;

large circular off-cuts from

holes drilled in plywood

made wheels for them.

 

Making our own entertainment was normal,

a stimulus to creativity and independence.

Not for us the electronic wizardry

of television or video games,

of computers or mobile phones.

We made what we could out of what we had

and enjoyed a childhood

rich with stimulation and experience.

 

 

What was your childhood like? Are your memories pleasant or negative?

 

© Linda Visman

 

 

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9 Comments »

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  1. I also grew up in the adventurous outdoors, Linda, inventing my own amusements. It’s the fodder for wonderful memories, and I think, the reduced focus on “things” was an early lesson in happiness. 🙂

    • So right, Diane! Making the most of simple things helps keep a perspective on what is important.

  2. A beautiful poem, Linda. Reading it, I can picture your childhood so vividly. I have wonderful childhood memories of family and home life, but memories of my schooldays are not so pleasant. I suffered from extreme shyness as a child and every day at school was a struggle for me. However, those days are long in the past now and the times I choose to remember are the happy ones involving family, books, paper dolls, and doing the crafty things I enjoyed doing even back then.

    • Many thanks, Kristah. 🙂 It is good to remember those things that made us happy. But it is also good to remember the bad things with the understanding that comes with maturity and perspective.

  3. Your poem brought back memories, Linda, even though we didn’t live near the sea. Bushwalking along the upper reaches of the Bargo River near my home was magical without defined tracks, just climbing rocks and finding sandy pools. Holidays were spent at my grandmother’s shack at Coalcliff with all the attractions of surf, beach and rock platforms. Books were reread many times, trees were climbed, cowboy outfits and toy guns were used for imaginative play and at 5 o’clock, The Children’s Hour (Argonauts Club) was compulsory listening. It was a happy childhood.

    • Ah, the wonderful Aussie outdoors! How fortunate we were in our childhood and the freedoms we had then!

  4. Love the way you’ve described your childhood in the form of a poem, Linda. Something wonderful in your expressing it that way.

    • Thanks, Don. 🙂
      Merry Christmas to you and yours from across the waves. 🙂

      • Thank you Linda, and to you and yours as well. May it be a bright time for you all.


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