As a young child, it seemed to me that time revolved around routine with going to school marking out boundaries of term-time or holiday time. I do not think I imagined there was any other time at all. Week-ends’ were a blur of visiting places of local interest or shopping trips and Sunday was filled with the savour of roast lunch and time to play with friends, toys and games.
Growing up in the 1960’s was a time of innocence and, in comparison with today’s children who live in a less safe and technological age, it was one of freedom. We were not sophisticated in any way, shape or form. A rag-tag bunch of grubby kids in hand-me-downs who made a lot of noise. We found great delight in nature, spending free holiday time in summer, catching and containing in jam jars with handles of tied up with string, butterflies, and caterpillars. Sometimes we hunted for newts or tadpoles, taking home our catch to proudly show our mothers. We drew chalk pictures and played hop-scotch, we skinned our knees and limped home for a brisk telling off, especially if we tore our clothes before mother cleaned it with TCP and kissed us better. Friendships were forged as thick as thieves and we thought they would last forever and nothing would ever change. This was our lives and we were unaware of dangers or troubles, season after season.
We had day trips to the sea-side, catching the bus and our mother carrying a picnic and all manner of things she felt essential. We marched along singing and swinging our buckets and spades. We ran to the waters edge and paddled our toes in cold sea water and built sand castles and used seaweed and shells to decorate our toppling palaces. We had treats of chips in paper cones covered in salt and drank Fanta from a glass bottle with a paper straw. We smiled for the box camera and waited for weeks to see the small black and white photographs of ourselves. Tired and sun-kissed with sandy and salty bodies we sat unusually quiet from the top of the double-decker, watching the sea get further and further away. Nodding head children carried on father’s shoulders; we’d had the best time ever! As those long warm summers drifted closer to autumn with evenings drawing dark far too soon, we sensed a change in the air, we could smell autumn approaching with the sugar beet factory in full production, shopping trips for new school shoes and conkers forming smooth brown and glossy.
Settling down after those summertime adventures took a while and we wriggled on our classroom seats and gazed longingly at the day outside the window. We drank free milk from tiny glass bottles and dreaded the ‘nit’ nurse. We longed for school trips, and a ride in a coach to museums with pocket money jingling in our pockets and smelly egg sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper. Then I recall that our attentions focused on bonfire night coming with fireworks and sparklers, and colder days we knew with mounting excitement that Christmas was not far off. We collected leaves and shuffled great heaps of them together to jump in. We counted the days, and marked time by making glittery Christmas cards and calendars’ for our mothers’. I do not recall at all that things altered that much, just that the calendar was another year on.
Suddenly Christmas was here, and we learnt carols and marched, in twos and holding hands, to the church to sing to baby Jesus. We longed for Father Christmas, and we just knew that it was not the real one who came to school dressed in red and giving out sweets; for this voice was far too much like our teacher Mr. Chambers and we eventually recognized him wink, as we stared at him trying to decide.
We put up a tinsel Christmas tree, with its satin shiny baubles and mothers delicate glass ornaments, and strung brightly coloured fairy lights. It was a wonderful moment when the lights were turned off and father switched them on. We were spellbound. Silently on Christmas Eve arrived presents gayly wrapped up in red and green and gold, put in pillowcases, not an ounce of spare-room, all tightly packed and found at the end of our beds on Christmas morning. With new baby dollies with their own clothes and soft fluffy teddies, pop-guns and soldiers, annual books and chocolates like golden coins. We treasured skipping ropes and footballs which held the promise of playtime.Trips to the pantomime and dreams of snow and the chance to build a snowman, or play snowball fights. Clumps of ice stuck to woolly mitts and fingers numb and bright red to match our cheeks.
With Spring-time coming, we felt far more alive than ever and watched as new life grew; buds and then flowers and leaves and new-born animals. Easter eggs and warmer days to play outside once more.We celebrated birthday’s and were dressed in our best outfits for parties, taking a present for the child who was another year older. We played games like oranges and lemons and musical chairs, we ate sausages on sticks with jelly and ice-cream and all washed down with fizzy lemonade. We treasured a balloon to take home and fell asleep feeling quite sick from what we had consumed.
Life rolled along, even sad times did not seem as sad to us then. Friends moved away and we accepted the new kid who moved in. Rainy days bored us and we longed for the sun to shine. We did not feel concerned, for our world was secure and we thought it was going to be like that forever. And, all the time we learnt and grew and changed quite unaware. But as all things do, we changed though the seasons bought the same joys, we felt too old for that toy or game. We thought deeper thoughts and it was now more time was spent completing homework and wondering what we would do when we were ‘grown-up’.
Those precious memories now seem to have resurfaced; after lying dormant for years as I have watched my own children do the same things that I did back then. I wondered as I watched them if they will, in turn, recall these times in the years ahead and feel a special warmth and treasure of their own childhood days. There is something so wonderful in the way we can remember and reminisce, and in our minds eye go back to those cherished times from childhood past. We never had much, I marvel at what my parents achieved for us as they did. It is with gratitude that I can thank them for making those times so wonderful, full of joy and laughter.