Lately, with our children, I’ve found myself often back in my own childhood.
Our son has taken to climbing the tree and I have gladly followed him into its cool tranquillity, hidden among the leaves, peeking out at patches of blue sky, calm, safe and free. I remember running and climbing on long, country walks with my siblings and cousins, the feel of bark and the scent of earth, rain and growth. Nature continues to hold out paradoxes: safe and wild, small and free.
Another day: den building. Our son dragging sticks twice his size; the satisfaction of sitting in the little wigwam; spring flowers around us; a green canopy above and memories of my dad getting stuck into the same task with verve.
In perhaps more worldly moments, our little girl has been painting her nails and choosing posters from her wall from a magazine. Only three, she is already taking me back to my old early teenage room, when I listened to cassettes or recorded the radio, curled my hair, made friendship bracelets and played with my pet hamster.
For me, having had a fortunate and happy childhood, there is something reassuring and hopeful about looking back at the child inside. As I rest my hands on the smooth bark of the tree or smell the familiar tang of nail polish and magazine pages, I know that that child is still very much here, very much alive.
There may be a few more lines on this face, a few more stone on the scales: these tell of the journey that child has been on, the one she continues to make, but that soul is essentially unchanged. When faced with a tree to climb or a wigwam to build, years, wisdom and battle scars disintegrate into insignificance. Intriguing, too, how age and wisdom so often lead us back to our childish eyes and hearts. I’m fairly sure that in heaven, there are roller blades, cassette players and climbing trees.