I still remember those eternal summer days from my lingering youth. Time stretched on forever into infinity. I knew not death, nor should I have known. For I was young and bound to live forever.
I didn’t know it then, but I was recording a timeless world in which change meant clean underwear and the incessant clucking of my mother hen. Many a writer has made reference to those summer days. Even now, some fifty five years on, I come alive when the sun shines all day and retreat in sulky silence from the hum-drum drip of a rainy day.
The strange thing is my childhood was far from idyllic. I could recall dark images of a violent, tormented union that masqueraded as my parent’s marriage, but I put those in a mental locker and long ago swallowed the key. No, I have come to draw strength and reassurance from the good things that were hidden deep back then. Memories of passing the bakery and standing transfixed as the flour sacks went up a seemingly endless conveyor belt into the warehouse above and my mother tugging at me gently, reminding me of the purpose of our walk.
I once read a Peanuts cartoon that featured Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty back to back against an old tree. They were philosophising about childhood and what it meant. Charlie Brown (Charles Schultz) hit it on the head when he said that ‘Childhood was being able to travel on the back seat of a car and when you woke from sleep, your parent were there in the front and all was well. Growing up meant you never got to travel in the back again.’ That is how I look back. Like countless others, I can never travel in the back again; so to speak.
So where am I going with this? Well, as I fast approach sixty, I have a lot to look back on and a finite number of days ahead. Hence the title ‘don’t ask’ for who really wants to know the date and time? I for one know that I would waste my remaining days worrying about the days, hours, minutes and seconds. I don’t think for one minute I am alone with this philosophy or that it is anything new, but it IS new to me. I have finally learnt to treasure each moment. I now devour a sunny day, instead of just living in it. I stop and stare and wonder. Not in fear, but in awe at seeing what was there in front of me all the time.
I don’t ask because I don’t really want to know. Yet I carry an urgency with me now that prompts me to take a second look at that which is around me and be thankful. To the God of my understanding “Thanks be!”