The “story of my life” sounds much smoother than “the blocks of my life”. Block is such a chunky word, it is clunky, it implies stops and starts. Much like my life really. Sometimes people will talk about their life like it is a river, connected, flowing, sometimes smoothly sometimes turbulently but always there is a clear sense of direction. One situation leads seamlessly into another, they meet the right person at the right time and life just flows!
Makes me sick really! I generally meet the right person at the wrong time, the wrong person at the right time and most usually the wrong person at the wrong time. My careers haven’t been a smooth progression. I have been a mental health nurse, a minister of religion, worked in aged care and managed not for profit organisations. Being the other side of fifty you don’t get asked what do you want to do with your life. Most people assume that by now I have worked it out. Well, let me assure you I haven’t. I still don’t know what I want to do with my life, although I certainly know what I don’t want to do!
The first block of my life was lived in
Scotland, at least the first block I can remember. I was actually born in Australiabut when I was two years old my family went back home to the UK. My mother hated Australia and after giving birth to me she conspired with her Doctor and God to get back home. You see my mother never wanted to travel to the antipodeans or to marry a minister of religion. The fact she ended up doing both plus having a son was a constant source of anger and frustration to her. Nine years later God and my father won the next battle and we came back to Australia. Personally, I think God should stay out of domestic issues, but that is an adult view. As a child I got used to sudden migrations because “God said we were to move”. I realize families in the Defense force get moved around on a regular basis but this is a known fact. You build that knowledge into your lifestyle – every three or four years we are going to move. When God said to move it was different because usually there wasn’t any warning, except of course the major church fight that had occurred two months previously.
Still, I digress. The first block of my life that I remember was lived in
Scotland, in a smallish place called Larbert somewhere between Glasgow and Edinburgh. I can remember walking home from school at three o’clock in the afternoon and it beginning to get dark in winter. I remember going to bed at seven thirty in the evening and it being light in summer. I remember the day I took the bird’s nest I found to school for show and tell and carrying it home so proudly that finally I have been able to stand up in front of the class. A gust of wind came and blew it out of my hand and down the road. Though I tried to run after it I still couldn’t catch it and I knew I was in trouble. My mother had told me to be very careful with the birds nest though what she wanted it for is beyond me! Sure enough, I was told how careless I was and what a disappointment that I couldn’t be careful with a bird’s nest! My sense of sadness was probably about the same as the birds when it flew back to find its home missing!
I remember Halloween and my father hollowing out a pumpkin so we could put a candle in it. Yet the thing that surprises me is the fragmentary nature of my memories. They are like little blocks, little Lego blocks of fragments that I carefully try to reconstruct to make sense of my life between the ages of two and nine. There is so much that I don’t remember. I don’t remember any of my birthdays. I don’t remember any of my friends, whether I actually made any friends. I have photographs of myself as a child during this period. I look at the photos and feel no connection between the boy I was and the man I am now. Am I supposed to? Am I supposed to be able to link back through the years to those photos of myself frozen in time and who I am now? There are too many blocks in the way for me to do that.
The overall memory I have of those years is the silence, not a restful silence, a frozen tundra of silence. Fortunately global warming was not an issue at that stage so I never had to worry about the tundra of my family thawing out! I became an expert on silences. You see there is the silence of an Abbey or Cathedral. I can’t remember what Abbey or Cathedral, they all blurred into one another, but it was the silence of light as it filtered through the stain glass window. The silence of the ethereal, the beauty of men’s creation mixed with the brilliance of light to point in the coloured dust motes to the otherworldly. Then there was the silence of stately homes that were opened to the public. These homes stank of bees wax polish, brasso and the accumulated dust of time. The silence of the ticking clock that has given up all pretext of being interested in either modern day visitors or family secrets having witnessed it all before.
Then there was the silence of the Lochs and Glens. The silence of nature brooding. Still deep waters, cold as mountain snow, mirror for scurrying clouds to make sure they are looking good. The silence of the heather broken only by bird calls. The silence of raw natural beauty. I loved that silence. It is a silence that percolated into the marrow of my bones and into the gaps of my soul. It is a silence I still hear and am drawn too though whether I will ever stand in a Glen before a
Lochto hear it again is highly unlikely.
Perhaps that is why I cling to the small fragments of memories I have of those years. Among the silence they are the blocky outcrops of another time. Like an archaeologist uncovering fragments of ancient history they tell a story. They do not tell the whole story for they are only fragments and perhaps I interpret the fragments incorrectly.
Yet in the fragments of the block there is the story of the boy who became the man who is me.