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.