JOURNEY – Physical and Emotional with a Profound Effect

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Journey.”

When I was child of about 3, we lived in a tiny village that had only one shop. It seemed miles from anywhere but my cousin, she lived just around the corner and around the next bend on the same country lane lived Grandma and Grandad. For some reason I wasn’t over keen on Grandad, but I adored my Grandma. She was such a loving person and I really enjoyed being with her. I was allowed to ride my tricycle along the pavement, all on my own to visit them.

It was a delightful place to live, surrounded by wildlife, farms and an abundance of greenery. We took regular walks thoroughly indulging in the effect of the changing seasons. To this day I have a similar passion for nature, the countryside and the seasons.

We would watch the butterflies dance from flower to flower, noting which one it was and if we weren’t sure, we’d look it up in a book when we returned home. We’d breathe in the scents of the blossoms on the hedgerows, trees and the wild flowers in the grass verges. I was renowned for sticking my nose into flowers.

There was always something riveting to watch or exciting to explore. Many of the fields roundabout had small ponds in them. Here we would sit for hours just watching the dragonflies dance from reed to reed, or watch the pond skater insects whizzing over the water’s surface or catch newts with our nets, putting them into a jar so that we could get a better look at them. We would always put them back into the pond before going home. Other times we would keep a watch out for calves or lambs being born, watch the farmer plough a field or bale hay.

Big cousins would come to visit quite regularly, cycling all the way from their village miles away and we would ride our bikes or play ball games and drink cordial, something that was only available when visitors came. We were rarely indoors and my selective memory can only recall rain in April, though we must have had days when it poured.

Then one day, which for me seemed quite out of the blue, we were moving. A giant green lorry with a cavernous space at the back was taking all our belongings and we were going to live somewhere else. I can only remember horror. All the things I would be leaving behind. My Grandma would be miles away, how I would miss my dear loving Grandma. And my cousins, I would have no friends to play with.

When we arrived at our new house, it was on a straight main road and it felt as if it were on another continent. Being a new house it didn’t have the old established gardens around it so it felt barren. The whole place felt empty, the whole area felt empty. Where was the greenery?

There was a big hedge over on the other side of the road and there were some big trees but the cosseted feeling of the old village which just oozed greenery, was non-existent in this strange place.

I was told not to make a fuss, I would make friends. There was a girl next door that I was encouraged to play with, but a part of me didn’t like the feel of her. I started school and began to make some friends but somehow they never felt like the deep comradeship I had had with my cousins. My only saving grace from living in that very empty feeling place was that at the weekends my dad and I would go for long walks along the riverbank or the canal and we would observe all the bounty that nature had to offer. Those days were like heaven on earth.

One of the things that sticks in my mind was the feeling of isolation, I felt as if I was ‘out on my own’ and despite having moved from a verdant green village, I felt separated most strongly from my beloved sea. Now we didn’t live by the sea but we were probably only a couple of miles from the sea as the crow flies and less than an hour away by train in those days and whilst I have no recollection of being at the seaside when the sun went down, I can clearly remember sitting in my bedroom with my head poking through the curtains, watching the sun going down behind the hedgerow across the road and wondering just how many miles away the sea was and how I yearned to be near it. This has stayed with me ever since and must have had such a profound effect on me that I now live right by the sea and would have it no other way.

Writing 101 DAY 13 – Serially Found – My Dad is Back

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.

Tell us about the time you retrieved your favorite t-shirt from your ex. Or when you accidentally stumbled upon your fifth-grade journal in your parents’ attic. Or how about the moment you found out the truth about a person whose history or real nature you thought you’d figured out. Interpret this theme of “finding something” however you see fit.

Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.

There were moments over the next 20 years when I glimpsed the dad I adored as a young child. Moments when shared interests collided with a time created opportunity.

He was always helping someone else. But on occasion I would tag along. I got involved in building a shed for a friend of his, a greenhouse for an uncle, church hall renovations and the one I loved most – helping out, with my dad, on the veg stall at the Annual Christmas Fair. I can smell the old wooden hall now, just thinking about it. A smell of old dry, warm wood, mingled with a hint of musty old fabric.

Funny how those old wooden buildings had such a nurturing atmosphere. The original wooden building has now been replaced with a brick one and fewer people use it. Where I live now, we still have an ancient wooden village hall; they call it a community hall here. It smells very similar to the ones of childhood. Everyone appreciates it and its unique aromas create an ambiance that seems to attract a list of regular events going on there.

Other times I would help with watering the plants. This meant filling up a large bucket and a metal watering can with water from the kitchen sink tap and staggering down the garden one in each hand, trying not to spill any. He used to do this twice a day in the summer months.

If there was a drought we would save all the washing up water and whenever anyone had a bath, we had to scoop out as much water as possible to water to fill the buckets and stagger gingerly down the stairs, through the house and down the garden path to water the thirsty plants.

I learned how to take cuttings, dibble out young seedlings and look after the growing crops. These moments of joy, cherished memories, I have come to appreciate more as I have shared them with my own son.

But it took over 20 years before I felt the unconditional love of my dad again.

It took the death of my mother.

I never got on with her, she was a narcissist through and through. It wasn’t long after she died that my dad seemed more open – as if a barrier had been removed, or a veil been lifted.

I could see him, really see him again. I could feel love pour from him. Even his eyes were more alive. He was much more fun and loved to play with my young son. His sense of humour was priceless.

Up until then I had not realised just how much my mother’s presence had supressed my dad. She was so devious and manipulating he must have been under an immense pressure most of the time. No wonder he spent his spare time down the garden, out of sight, involved in an important project or helping out other folk. He missed her of course. Who wouldn’t, they had been together over 30 years.

But the change in my dad was remarkable. We spent more time together, he shared memories of his past, little snippets of his life I wasn’t aware existed before. He actively encouraged family get-togethers, times when we all reminisced indulgently.

As I watched his loving actions and sense of fun during the times spent with my son, it triggered the odd happy memory of early childhood. This was the dad that had been missing all these years and I indulged in the joy of having my dad back again, for now, and being able to share him with my son.