Through a Child's Eyes
5 of #100DaysToOffload
I thought about burning my childhood photographs.
The incineration in a garden fire would be a symbolic gesture to rid me of the child who, for years, influenced my personality.
My younger self lacked confidence, preferred being alone and lived too long in daydreams.
But as I travelled through time with each photograph, I decided not to punish the poor boy.
I realise, when I was a boy, I may have misinterpreted or exaggerated situations and made #memories worse with reruns in my mind.
Through writing this story, I came to appreciate my childhood, the good and the bad. Why should I reject the events that make me who I am?
Compared to many, I've no complaints — no sexual abuse, no murders or starvation, unlike the lives of millions of children today.
My Mum once pretended to lose her temper to get my young niece and nephew to follow instructions.
My Mum laughed. “I'm only pretending,” she said.
She probably did the same with me, but I took it to heart. Instead of seeing the ploy to get me to come in for dinner, I felt chastised.
As the decades slipped by, the child who had his hand on my shoulder began to feel further away.
Although I received care and attention, I was not too fond of those times. I was frustrated with being a child, always being told by adults how to behave.
- “Say this, say that.”
- “Get into the car.”
- “No, you can't.”
- “Come in when you're told.”
For years I feared sharing my opinion, always obeyed authority figures, and never broke the rules.
When my young niece looked at a school photo, she remarked: “you look sad.”
She was right.
In early life, it didn't take long for the human race to begin its influence. I don't remember being a baby, but I remember the house we lived at for my first four years. An elderly neighbour, Joe, was friendly and offered me tea and biscuits.
But the Johnstons lived beside Joe. Their son made a rude gesture at me with his tongue. That's when I realised not everyone is friendly.
My grandparents were distant people. They showed no affection, and we never chatted. However, childhood involved plenty of visits, sweets, tea and biscuits.
Granny Watson, from my mother's side, never said much to me and didn't make me feel like family. Grandad Watson always chased me from his vegetable garden, waved nettles to scare me off his heap of builder's sand and only revealed his life story on his death bed.
Despite the remoteness, their deaths saddened me. Their passing was the first sign life doesn't last forever.
A couple of years ago, I visited the housing estate we lived between 1973-78. In over forty years it hadn't changed.
I walked from a now dried-up stream, along a footpath. I swear the paving slabs were the same, they looked aged. On the same path many years ago, other children made fun of me because I couldn't pronounce my age correctly.
But, my reflections are bittersweet. Long summer nights, I was playing among the trees, climbing the builder's scaffolding.
But nearly every day, a few other kids bullied me. They waited in gangs to push me about, hit me, called me names. They also got other parents to tell me off for things I didn't do.
School provided respite, but I dreaded the walk home in case I bumped into the little bastards.
I did play outside. Sometimes the bullies would be out waiting for me; sometimes they wouldn't.
On the Bright Side
It wasn't all doom and gloom. Although previously, #childhood reminded me of:
- clothes I hated
- disputes with neighbours
- the smell of diesel and grease from JCB diggers (our estate was under construction when we moved in)
- being laughed at or spat on
The journey through old images broke a habit. Fuelled by the possibility I misunderstood a great many things when I was a child; I have chosen to see the positive instead.
So from now on, when I look back, I'll focus on:
- care and attention from parents who loved me
- having clothes to wear
- a secure home
- toys every Christmas
- a few good friends
I'm grateful for the life I've had up to now and long may it continue.
I should have realised sooner. I needed to change my reactions and not blame myself for everything that happened.
I can't change history, but I can influence tomorrow.
My whole life has made me the person I am today, loved by my wife and happy.
I have moved on and stopped blaming my younger self. So I decided not to burn any pictures today.