I am very lucky to have spent my two senior years of high school with a group of girls – as we were then – who have been very active in maintaining our ties over the years during which it would be false modesty not to acknowledge that we have developed in so many fascinating directions as women (who are already, now, planning for our 60th reunion in 2018 – that’s how far we go back).
And in one of our occasional gatherings, early last year, our effervescent ringleader came up with an interesting idea. It was prompted by the fact that – unusually for that bygone era and those somewhat conservative suburbs – we came from a diversity of backgrounds, with several from overseas. And, she thought, it would be interesting to collect stories of our memories of our early childhoods, whether local or from further afield. The idea was circulated amongst the wider group, and took hold to the extent that nearly half of the 60 or so who made up our year sent in our accounts of that long ago time, to the retired English teacher who nobly volunteered to be the editor of our monograph of memories.
And now, we have that collection of stories. And I have to admit that we’ve been quite flabbergasted at just what a good read it is. From wartime children who didn’t know their father for several years, to children who’d escaped from the sorts of conditions that are – sadly – still prompting people to seek refuge to this day. And about the ways in which so many of us had been engrossed in a riot of childhood hobbies and activities that are only of historic interest in these times of high technology (did we really play jacks with real veal knuckle bones?). All back in the day when radio was king, and filled with programs aimed at us. And, with disarming honesty, some of the reminiscences were interwoven with insights into a variety of different types of family relationships.
Who knew that such a simple idea could produce such a windfall of memories? It has turned out to be, literally, a page turner. And one that I’m very much looking forward to sharing with my grandchildren: both my account of my own childhood, which I’d never thought to record, and now, here it is; and also the accounts of the other Old Girls, to give them more insights into that almost inconceivably bygone era when we were their age.
And it’s certainly got me thinking. First of all, I can assure other people of my age that writing about those times way past provides one with a nostalgic and often delightful walk down memory lane. Secondly, it would be very special to share them with the young people in one’s life, the grandchildren, grand nieces and nephews, both to give them a glimpse of a different world, and to plant the seeds of an understanding of how time flows through a life (or is it a life flying through time?) from childhood to old age.
And thirdly, I can see this sort of writing as being something special that the primary school children of now could ask their grandparents to do, and then read them both for their own pleasure and as a school project that the class could find a fascinatingly personal way of traveling back in time. Of course, those of us who have been at schools’ Grandparents’ Days will know that they often go part way to that, with our grandchildren quizzing each of us about aspects of our childhood, and that is a fun group activity. Doing something more in depth, one to one between grandchild and grandparent, takes it one insightful step further.
So I can’t wait to go and visit my grandchildren’s school with monograph in hand, and suggest this extension of a wonderful idea to its teachers.