Thursday, 25 February 2010

Going back.

Do you happen to still live in the place where you were born, like the farmer? Or have you, like me, moved around a lot over the years? And if you have been a mover-around, have you ever been back to the place where you were born, and where you spent your "formative years"?
I have been compiling a book of our family's history, as a present for my grandchildren. I know they are not particularly interested now, but in case they become interested as they get older I am putting it all into one place for easy accesss.
I began by drawing a map of the small village in Lincolnshire, where I spent the first eighteen years of my life. It was a friendly village on the banks of the River Witham and - being I suppose a curious child - I knew everyone who lived there. I knew their names, the names of their houses, their pets, their grannies - everything. I was not above turning up at their doors with my dolls pram, to show them my latest doll. Nobody ever turned me away, nor did they fail to show interest. There were no locked doors in the village and everyone helped everyone else. I don't suppose for a moment it was anything like the idyllic place I make it sound. But to the eyes of a child, it was the perfect place to grow up. When I gained a scholarship to the city high school, everyone celebrated, as I was the first village child to do so. And after that everyone took an interest in what I was doing.

A friend, who still lives there, sent me a map of the village drawn at the millennium. I show you both maps above. Where the population in my day was probably about three hundred, it is now over twenty thousand. There is a housing estate on the very place where we used to go for violets every Spring. The whole field used to be carpeted with them and the smell of violets filled the air on a sunny day.
The lane - Allaballa as it was called - was my father's and my favourite place to search for wild flowers and birds' nests in early Spring. Father knew all the secret places - we would look, but never touch or disturb - and I would record it laboriously in one of the many notebooks I filled over the years. Allaballa went to houses many years ago. As did the field alongside it, where my mother and I out mushrooming one Autumn came across a hare caught in a cruel trap.
My mother managed to get the wire loosened but the poor hare was terribly injured and died as we released it. Mother's favourite dish was jugged hare, so she carried it home and we had it for lunch the next day. But I can still see the tears coursing down my mother's face when she released it and saw its terrible injuries. (maybe that was the beginning of my love of the hare).
We can't go back and expect everything to be the same, can we? In reality the village was probably not like I remember it anyway - I have, over the years, maybe sentimentalised it. What remains is a picture in my mind, idealised like a Miles Burkett Foster painting.
But what made me think was comparing those two maps and realising that the opposite must also be true. If early man came back he would no doubt be unable to recognise anywhere, and while some settlements would have grown into huge towns, there would be many other places which had disappeared altogether. There would be places where wild flowers are growing in profusion, where pretty woodland has sprung up - and he would stand and look and remember when he had a dwelling on just that spot. Like the Thomas Hood poem, which someone read yesterday at our poetry reading:

I remember, I remember,
the house where I was born.
The little window where the sun
came peeping in at morn.
I suppose we can call it all part of life's rich pattern, all part of the ever changing scene. If we were like desert nomads and wandered with our dwellings wherever our cattle took us, then maybe we would not attach so much importance to the places of our childhood.
Do you have an important childhood place you would like to share with us? I do hope so.
###more watery words - I have had a comment from Kazia in Poland, with the following words:-
rzeka, rzeczka, rzeczulka; strumien, strumyk, strumyczek; potok. Thanks Kazia.
Keep them coming - I shall put them all on one giant wordle eventually.


Jinksy said...

Memories, I find, can often make you homesick for something which may have been illusory to begin with! I know exactly how you feel, though. Change happens...

Elisabeth said...

We lived in the countryside, Greensborough, a place of grassy paddocks and dusty roads. From their bald, green slopes the hills peered down into deep valleys whose creases collected into creeks and potholes in which children threw scraps of raw meat to entice the yabbies.

Before my mother arrived in Melbourne from Holland, pregnant, with four little children following behind, a nearby farming family, the Hicklings offered my father the use of an old two-roomed incubator in which to house his family.

It was a long, rectangular building, with a concrete floor, bare wooden walls, one entrance, one window at each end, sealed with fence wire and a galvanised tin roof.

It was filthy with the stench of dead chickens, rotting eggs and chicken poop, ossified in little piles across the concrete floor. Yet my father managed to clean it. Putting his home-spun carpentry skills to good use, having learned everything from books, he converted the shed into reasonable, though tiny, living quarters.

The incubator was divided inside into three by curtains forming a small kitchen/living room area, a tiny master bedroom and a larger area at the other end for the children's room, all six of us.

This chook shed was to be my first home. I remember it from the descriptions others have offered and from my imagination.

It is gone now, covered over by suburban development, but it is always alive in my memory.

Thanks, Weaver for an inspiring post.

Elizabeth said...

Dear Par/Weaver
Everything you write is so spot on.

YES YES, you must write it all down for your grandchildren. I have been doing that but using stories/fiction and a little adventure in each.

I think I must have been a bit like you as a child.
I have been back and it was strange but not bad sad or bad.

Leilani Schuck Weatherington said...

This will be a treasure for your grandchildren. Once upon a time, where I spent half my childhood, we could cross over the freeway on a footbridge and be in "the country" (even though we lived in the city); open fields; meadowlarks sang, wildlife lived, and there were horse stables and ponds with tadpoles. Now it is huge warehouses and parking lots. A hawk still shows up at my dad's birdbath, but the meadowlarks, snakes, frogs and horses have long gone.

Bovey Belle said...

What a lovely post - they say never go back, don't they? I went back to the road I grew up on a couple of years ago, and of course, all the places we used to play were under housing, with the long field beyond the brickworks, where we used to play, a place for dog-walkers . . . but it lives on in my memory.

We had SUCH freedom . . .

Reader Wil said...

This is a post that brings back memories. I was born in Rotterdam, but soon after my birth, we went to The Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, where I grew up until I was twelve, then we had to flee because the Indonesian population wanted to put us back in the concentration camps we had just left. So we went back to Holland, to our relatives in Rotterdam. Rotterdam was heavenly damaged, because of the bombardment by the Germans in May 1940. My mum grew up in Rotterdam and didn't recognize the city. She was so sad to see all the places she knew so well, in ruins. Since our arrival in the Netherlands we lived in 4 different places and I myself in 8 other places all over the Netherlands. I have lived here in this village for 38 years now.

Sandy said...

No, I haven't been back to the city where I was born to see where my folks lived. But I have traveled through the city though. I only lived there maybe the first two years of my life so I have no memories of it. However, I do visit most of the homes I have lived in as a child - at least the ones I remember. My parents moved quite a bit, I guess, following the jobs. I love it when the home has been taken care of - it makes me feels good. I went to eight different schools growing up. I've lived in Maryland (where I was born), Ohio (where I was raised), Illinois (the first 26 years of marriage) and now Pennsylvania (the last 10 years). Your village sounds so lovely.

Teacup Lane (Sandy)

Tess Kincaid said...

My family moved on the average of once every two years when I was growing up. I hated it, always the new kid on the block, no roots, few friends.

Heather said...

I grew up in a long straggling village in Bucks, on the road between Chesham and Great Missenden. Like you, I remember it as a safe, friendly place and was very happy there. I would like to think that bee orchids and wild strawberries still grow on the bank at the edge of the bluebell wood, and that the field of wild thyme is still there. The worst time was about 30 years ago when I did go back to visit a relative sometime after my grandmother's house had been sold, to find that houses had been built on her field and although I could see glimpses of 'her' garden between the houses, I knew I could no longer walk in it. That was very strange and these days I am happy to enjoy my memories.

ChrisJ said...

Oh don't get me started on Flamborough. I've been back quite a few times, and I still love it as much as ever!

Gigi Ann said...

Weaver, I so enjoyed reading your post today. I grew up in the country, but the few neighbors we had were kind and always welcomed me when I showed up on there doorstep.

We had a country store a few yards from our home which was quite a blessing, since we didn't have a car to travel to town and get our groceries. I have been back to visit, and now there is a McDonald's restaurant right there in the middle of a field, a big truck stop with a restaurant and such. The old home place where I grew up is still there, but no one lives in it anymore.

What memories you brought to my mind today,

Have a wonderful day.

Gramma Ann

Mac n' Janet said...

I so enjoyed your post today. At the turn of the year I decided to look into my family history and have been so amazed at what I found. I was born in California and my family moved frequently and when I married my husband was in the Army for 21 years. We lived in Europe and in several places in the USA.
We returned to California, but it's true "you can't go home again", for California is no longer the place we grew up in, it's someone else's dream.
When we retired from teaching we moved to Georgia, one of the places we had been stationed, and in my search of family history I've discovered that 2 different branches of my family had come from Georgia.
I plan on sharing our family history with the rest of the family and hope they enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed researching it.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

I moved quite a bit growing up, however not for the first 13 years. That is where most of my memories linger when I think of childhood. That town, a small one, has not changed much, but I don't know anyone there any more.

Sometimes I think of the past, but seems so much going on in my life, I'm too busy making new memories.

Golden West said...

My family's been here in the same town for 8 generations, which isn't long by Great Britain standards, but for California, that's a good stretch. My people were farmers, innkeepers and merchants, but leisure time for all has always revolved around the beach and the ocean. I walk the same beaches, with my daughter and my mom, that my great grandmother walked with her family. Although the area population has grown like your hometown, Weaver, I'm still happy to be here and it will always be home.

Lyn said...

Stayed here for years, never went anywhere distant..until I started moving..then never stopped..but now have circled back to the old homestead(NYC)and this is it!!
Thank you...

Pondside said...

My parents moved from the place where I was born - and my father and the seven generations before him - when I was just two years old. I went back every summer of my childhood and often as an adult. I find it hard to go back because while I identify so strongly with my roots there, I really am a stranger to it all.

Moonstone Gardens said...

I had an idyllic childhood living on a farm along a river in Oregon. When I was 12, my parents sold it and we moved. Everytime I saw the old farm (my grandparents still lived there, "renting" the house they had built)I would get a kick in the gut. Strangers were living on MY land. However, once I visited and saw children playing under one of the huge maples and I felt much better. Some other child was having the same wonderful childhood that I had. I visit quite often now since the farm has become a nursery and the same family who originally bought it still lives there. One of the children I saw under the tree is now a friend of mine and I am now seeing HER child growing up in the same magical kingdom.

Jennifer said...

There is so much sadness related to loss of open spaces. For the most part there is nothing one can do about it, but a part of me wants to loudly reject the acceptance of the inevitability of the loss. Yes, no one can stop change, but does "change" always have to result in more and more building? I dream of a future where maintaining open space is so important, we create altnernatives for meeting our human needs to bulldozing the fields of violets. Then, maybe when we go back to the places where we grew up, they can still be as beautiful as we remember.

Cloudia said...

This is a lovely, masterful post!

You touch the heart.

I have moved a continent and half the Pacific away from my birthplace.

Sometimes I dream of it.

Though it no longer belongs to me, but to those who live there, I still belong to it in some deep way.

Thank you for stirring me today.

Bless your dear mother...and you.


Comfort Spiral

Heather said...

Thankyou for your lovely comment Pat, but sharing what I have discovered is about as far as I go! The lady from your village is truly remarkable to be still so independent at 105.
I meant to say earlier that your maps and information recorded for your grandchildren is a brilliant idea. The years fly by and suddenly there is no one left who remembers people and places, or who can answer questions.

Anonymous said...

I remember playing with other neighbouring children in the vacant lots around our childhood home.War Service homes were springing up everywhere in South Australia in the dry paddocks north of the city, to provide housing for returned servicemen and women and the resulting baby boom.As part of this we roamed in rowdy childhood gangs through Scotch thistles (introduced flora and a pest,and now no longer seen) and hot summer grasses,along uncurbed roads and had free rein.Where there is now a big hotel, we would play shoulder-deep in marshmallow weeds, and pungent plants which I now know to be fennel, dill and sage,delighting in the burst of aromas. I am sad that children don't have the opportunity to play hidden in these plants anymore, and sit inside with electronic entertainment in big houses with no yards. My parents moved out of the area recently, pleased to do so. It has become quite down-at-heel.They had lived there 58 years, while I have moved 28 times since age 18.Great post Weaver.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I am glad I stirred up happy memories for so many of you. Jinksy is quite right in that what we remember is not always accurate - our minds tend to dwell on the pleasant - but still, it is nice to dream occasionally, isn't it.

Anonymous said...

A very interesting post, Weaver, and so many thought provoking comments too.
I have some times thought that if I could really go back to childhood times (like in a science fiction time machine), I would surely miss all the everyday comforts that we have now.
Nevertheless, I did have a wonderful childhood in a rural area. We could go everywhere and visit anyone we liked, - old or young, - and there were always other children to play with outside and in.
I now live in a similar place, where my husband grew up and his family goes back generations (like my does where I grew up). It is a small place with few jobs, so perhaps 80 percent (my guess) of everyone who has grown up here during the last 50-60 years have gone to live elsewhere, - and they keep coming back, wanting things to be unchanged, while the ones who stay must do whatever it takes to make a living here. It is an ongoing conflict of interests.

BT said...

What a lovely post Weaver. My first memories are of our home in South East London. We lived around a large square and I remember the milkman coming with his horse drawn cart. We used to feed the horse our pea pods! We had a lovely back garden with a swing and an aviary. Also a duck pond and several ducks. At the age of 9 we moved to another area in the South East and knew many of the neighbours. It was a happy time. We had a large garden there and my mother used to hold garden parties which I loved. I haven't been back for a while but on my last visit it was all very similar really.