Saturday, January 12, 2019

Remembrance on a Landscape of Snow and Fog


I took this picture yesterday at 4.14 p.m. Yes, the days are lengthening. This was just about outside my front door. I was struck by the light snow on the field and as I gazed upon it, the shape shifted and I was back to my childhood self, 10 or 11 years old.

Snow was rare in my Cork, Ireland childhood. Sunday afternoons we'd walk the hills around the city. My father's "job" on those afternoons was to form a small platoon of his more mobile children and frog march us off to faraway hills, thus giving my mother her only respite from household management and abandoning her to the current infant.

He barked instructions at us to keep our backs and shoulders straight and would become enraged if our feet weren't aligned perfectly on the road.

These walks seemed inordinately endless to me. And I had the burden of being the eldest - if I didn't adhere closely to the Rules of Walking with Father I was considered a Bad Example. Sniggering and giggling were considered a hanging offence. These promenades of a Father and his Perfectly Behaved Children were a grim business indeed. If we met anyone he knew, it was agony keeping still while he talked of politics or church.

So, to bring me to the above picture and the memory it evoked, which is still as clear as a bell to me.

There was a rare sighting of snow on a field behind a farmer's gate up on a sheltered hill. I remember being overwhelmed by the desire to slip through that gate and just play in it. It was a very light sprinkling but in my mind I could already see the enormous snowman if we gathered every scrap of it onto one spot on the field.

"Out of the question! Don't be ridiculous!" barked my father and marched off, trailed by my brothers. I didn't think twice. I squeezed through the bars of the gate and managed to make one tiny snowball before his enraged roar reached me.

No supper that night. I had to walk in front of him from now on where he could see me. No allowance for a month.

Worth it?

Hell, yeah.

25 comments:

  1. My grandmother was a daughter of Cork. She taught me to tie my shoes, one overhand knot after another, until there was just a flapping tail. Maybe I was three. The next time he encountered me trying to tie a shoe I struggled with what I'd seen grown up's do, to no avail. "Damn shoe won't tie, dammit!" I said over and over. He taught me on the spot to tie my shoes. I was four.

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    1. The "he" is my dad. Being called away in the middle of a paragraph really requires a proof reading on returning, in order to continue.

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    2. Thanks for this Joanne. I totally forgot the shoe inspections of my father to make sure the laces were tied properly. He also did home repairs on them. There was a company, Phillips, which made toe and heel rubbers to extend the life of the shoes. Imagine filing away the name of the manufacture!

      You were brilliant at 4 to master the fine art of shoelace tying.

      XO
      WWW

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  2. Your father was so domineering. Oh, my. I first saw snow in Zurich, Switzerland in November 1969 when I was 23 years old. Thrilling to watch it falling, but it was so cold.

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    1. Always a lovely sight, Gigi, covering the world in a fresh blanket.

      XO
      WWW

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  3. You painted some sweet pictures in words there, WWW! My main memory of snow, in childhood, is of suffering "snow blindness", on particularly bad winter, in the 1940s, in East Yorkshire. I remember having to lie on the settee with a chiffon scarf tied around my eyes. I've not even heard of that affliction since. :)

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    1. "Snow blindness is a painful, temporary loss of vision due to overexposure to the sun's UV rays. The medical term for snow blindness is photokeratitis ("photo" = light; "keratitis" = inflammation of the cornea). Essentially, snow blindness is caused by a sunburned eye — or more specifically, a sunburned cornea."

      Oh boy you must have suffered, T. I remember seeing a beautiful film "Fast Runner" about the Inuit and how they fashioned a form of blinker to prevent this from happening. I recommend the film.

      XO
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  4. Replies
    1. You bet Gemma, always the rule breaker. I think my father was terrified of children. He was the baby of 6 and overprotected.

      XO
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  5. I have so many snow memories but my best is of when I was barely 8 y/o my Dad taking me sledding AFTER DINNER, while it was still snowing! We went to an empty hill in the cemetery and my Dad and his friend took turns pulling me back up the hill and letting me fly back down on a red sled again and again. Just me! I was so lucky to have my Dad.
    I am sorry for those who were not so fortunate for there is such a safe and loved feeling that lasts all your life when you have a loving father different from your mom.

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    1. My dad had his moments Candace and the times I had with him before all my siblings arrived I cherish. Lovely that you had these playful times with your dad.

      XO
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  6. No snow memories from my childhood. Too many memories of a dictatorial progenitor.
    LOVE that snow scene. And your rebellion - well worth the price.

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    1. Ah we share the master of the house upbringing. It made tiny rebellions all the sweeter. I understand my father today but it took therapy and a lot of work.

      XO
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  7. Those walks seem rather harsh to me, to not be allowed even to feel the snow.
    I don't remember ever being sent to bed without supper/dinner.

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    1. They are not in my favourite memories scrapbook, River. My father was a harsh disciplinarian. And put the fear of god in all of us.

      XO
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  8. Sure, worth it. But how miserable must your Dad have been to make going for a snowy walk such a regimented, humorless past-time. There are so many people how ought never have become parents.

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    1. I agree SAW, it was a man with many undealt with issues and childhood traumas and I do believe he was terrified of showing affection.

      We all bear scars in one way or another.

      XO
      WWW

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  9. Your dad sounds like he was a tough task master. I think years ago many men didn't know any other way to be.

    I have lots of memories of playing in the snow...building snow forts, sledding, snowball fights, ice skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling and skiing but we rarely just walking around in the winter for the sake of going for a walk.

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    1. He was Jean. He had good qualities too but he was extraordinarily difficult to live with with many kids and a small house.

      I played snow forts with my kids, etc. Loads of fun. I made up for it.

      XO
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  10. Of course it was worth it! I would have done exactly that. I have had my own brushes with my old man, and this inspires me to come up with some though none would be with snow in the background!

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    1. Yes you should write about them Ramana, I remember your father living with you, the old codger, you were so kind to him.

      XO
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  11. No supper and no allowance doesn't sound worth it to me but then I grew up in a different kind of household so maybe my appreciation of a moment like that is not so great.

    I'm pleased to know that you now understand your dad and by your tone I take it he is forgiven. I wonder did that happen before his passing or after?

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    1. Before his passing. After therapy which emphasized the child-Dad so I grew to understand his own childhood. It was difficult as he was truly fairly unlovable.

      XO
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  12. What a severe childhood — or at least this event that you’ve described.

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    1. Many of his children are haunted by it, it takes years to shed the deeper scars.

      XO
      WWW

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