Discovering My Inner Child
Not long ago I was in Devon for my oldest friend in the world’s wedding. We’d been at nursery school together and now she was beginning a new life as a married woman! All the nostalgia caught up with me and I felt the urgent need to go to a tiny village about an hour’s drive away the following day.
The village was Lustleigh and happens to be where my granny lived before she passed away about twenty years ago. I have never been back but I have so many fond memories of my time there – Christmases together as a family, making secret hideouts in her garden and rolling down the little hill which ran adjacent to her thatched cottage.
A long and winding drive later, we eventually approached the village and a lump formed in my throat as the emotions started creeping in. I couldn’t believe I was finally returning to this treasure trove of memories.
Anyone who’s met me will know that I have a terrible memory – I write everything down and try to document life events as well as possible purely because I have so much trouble retaining information about my life. I envy friends who can reel off anecdotes from years ago with no struggle at all.
You can understand therefore why I was slightly nervous about having dragged my boyfriend to the middle of nowhere, in the rain, with the threat of Bank Hoilday traffic all around us, with absolutely no promise that I would recall where we would need to go or how to get there!
We parked up on a winding little street and wandered along a road barely wide enough for a car to drive down. Suddenly I picked up the pace as the smells all around began to scream familiarity, beckoning me further along the road. I couldn’t believe it. Turning a corner, a sign boasting ‘Yonder Wreyland’ swum into view and I realised we had found the house.
I was hit with mixed emotions. It certainly looked and smelled familiar but so much work had been done on the house over the years that in some senses it was barely recognisable from my childhood memory. I so wanted to explore the grounds and peak through the windows and sneak upstairs to find my room but I no longer had that right. I didn’t want to corrupt what little memory I did have with any new images and thoughts associated with the house.
I began looking up and down the hedge, I could have sworn it was around here somewhere. Turning a corner, I spotted it. Set back from the road, was a little green gate that opened from the bottom of the garden onto the road. My eyes began to tear up as I realised I hadn’t imagined it. My memories were becoming a reality!
Wandering further down the road passing quintessentially English cottages, the smells of wet leaves and berries and honeysuckle consumed me.
I felt like an exuberant child again. The walk into the village always felt like an eternity when I was little, wrapped up in my coat and wellies, but now it was only a few paces before the sound of the stream began getting louder. Honouring my childhood tradition we played pooh sticks over the bridge, reliving the endless competitions I’d had with my siblings growing up.
The road had now become a path and, as we continued down it, I realised I could see over the hedges to my right. I had never even considered that there would be a cricket pitch there. I had always been completely oblivious to life beyond what I had been able to see. I guess when your line of sight gives you nettles and bugs and puddles, you’re pretty content with what you have that you don’t have to spare a thought about what you can’t see.
As I looked ahead my eyes gleamed with excitement as another memory came rushing back. Standing under the bridge I hooted and squealed as my voice echoed all around me. I felt five again! I don’t do this often enough in the busyness of every day life.
Veering around a bend we came up the ascent to the centre of the village. We ducked into the church and I was hit again by the familiar smells of dusty hymn books and wooden beams.
Now for my final search – I had to find the playground. My memory was starting to get hazy. There were so many possible avenues and things looked a little bit different from what I could remember. The post office had closed so there was no option of penny sweets for us today.
Then, coming over onto the other side of the hill, I spotted the silver glint of a slide. Yes, the very same slide that had graced the edges of the park all those years ago. Skipping past the swings and the apple trees, I headed straight to the middle of the green, where the May Queen rock stood, a giant rock with a throne on the top and the names of the former May Queens carved into its side. I took a seat on the throne and surveyed my kingdom with glee.
I was so relieved that my memory hadn’t failed me, that I had been able to reminisce on all the happy times I’d had here and reinforce the fading images in my head with fresh ones. My trip down memory lane has reminded me that my past is as important to me as my future. So often I forge ahead with plans and forget to appreciate what’s got me here and made me who I am today. It’s taught me to embrace a child’s perspective again, taking each day as it comes and enjoy the simple pleasures once more.