Friday, 28 November 2014

The past

I was thinking recently about my mother who passed away summer 2013. Not unusual you might say, and I suppose that is true.

Vera was like most of us, a mixture of the remarkable and the very ordinary. Her very ordinariness touched so many lives. My brother in law Will and sister Barbara helped out running an international Bible School, mum used to sit around and talk to people - anyone who would listen really. After she passed away messages of sincere condolence came in from literally all over the world. I doubt whether I shall make the same international impact.

But this blog is about a subsequent event. To mark the anniversary of her death, my sister Barbara and I spent a day nostalgically re-living our roots, in particular the area where I spent 5 years to the age of 10.  I still have a small mental scar which marks the place as small child of being torn away from my school friends when we moved away, but I have absolutely no doubt that it was the best thing to do, and if we had stayed then I would not be the person that I have become. My father took the decision to move his family to an area of greater opportunity, and I am thankful that he did.

Memories are dangerous things. I have for example a very clear recollection of walking to school down a certain road. The moment when I relived that journey only to find that the journey I remembered so clearly was not only not possible, but had never been so, was for me a troubled moment of self-realisation, that our past is a slippery and dangerous place.

So, when Barbara and I went to see the house that I lived in from the age of 5, all kinds of feelings came flooding back. For example the front wall which my father built is still there. The car access to the house is at the rear and as we walked down the rough track there was an elderly gentleman unloading groceries outside. I did not wish to frighten him so I approached and explained that Barbara and I were remembering the death of our mother and had travelled back to the house we left 47 years before. The mas stopped, looked at us and said "Oh you must be The Pooltons, my wife and I were talking about you the other day".

Here was the garage my Dad built, incredibly I suspect that the kitchen was the one he put in and in many ways I became that small child again. But I was a small child who moved away and as I relived so many of the memories (the local library, the Co-op with those wonderful vacuum suction cash tubes which sucked your money away), I realised the truth, that the past is gone. We cannot access it again and the world we knew may look similar to this one, but it is not. The idea of revisiting (even re-inventing?) our past is beguiling, but fundamentally untruthful. Whenever (and this is true of church) try to live in yesterday, we become dislocated from the present. It is a message and lesson we all need to learn.

Take Care

Alan

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