I recently spent a few days with my father, who lives next door to the house where I grew up. My brother and his family are living in the old family home now. Often when children grow up and parents move there can be a grief at losing the place where so many childhood memories were forged. I am incredibly lucky in that I am forging new memories with my niece and nephews while reliving memories past, in the house, garden and fields where I grew up.
Every time that I return the first thing that my niece and nephews ask me is “Did you bring your rope?” You see, their favourite thing to do with me is to head for the back field where an old ash tree stands tall and on two levels, as there used to be a pond there in times of rain when I was growing up. This tree has the perfect branch to throw a rope over to create a swing and, being on two levels, you can push yourself off with your feet and immediately be high off the ground as the earth drops away. We get hours of fun from this simple swing, made just from a rope and a stick.
This same ash tree is the one that my sister fell out of as she climbed, always striving to reach the highest point, higher than the boys. This same ash tree is the one where I would hide a box with my treasures inside as there was the perfect nook in the trunk for guarding things out of sight. This same ash tree is the one that I landed beside as I came tumbling off our pony when my brother swung his leg to dismount, with me still sitting behind. This same ash tree is the one that was clung to for dear life as the ice cracked beneath our weight while trying to ice skate during a cold winter on a frozen pond. This same ash tree is the one to which I would often retreat when I needed time and space alone. This same ash tree is the one that I think of when asked to bring to mind a tree that I know well.
I feel very grateful that I can in some way relive the adventures, and the moments of peace, from my youth with the next generation, who are thankfully all showing a love of being outdoors, while also being led on new adventures and forging new memories with them, that they too will hopefully carry into adulthood and beyond. As Rachel Carson, marine biologist, conservationist and writer from the first half of the 20th century, once said, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”
How lucky I am to be that adult.