There are plenty of memories I could wade in and bring to the fore as examples of why much of my childhood was tempestuous.
But every so often something comes to the front of my memory and if I have the free-thinking space, I will pluck it out and gently coax it to my conscious adult-perspective brain and ponder on it. Mull it over. Like one might savour a jersey caramel on the roof of the mouth rather than push and chew it away quickly before the benefit can be appreciated.
So it was with the memory of the special apples my father used to share with me after tea.
I can remember quite clearly, every so often after tea and getting ready for bed, sidling up to my Dad – a rare “treat” (given he [a] had a job that saw him away from the house from about 7.30am-6pm every day, much like Steve is nowadays, and [b] had three other children to share his limited spare time around). I would curl up under his arm and burrow my balled-up body into his side. If I could just go unnoticed and not disturb his concentration on Rumpole Of The Bailey, or Yes, Minister/Prime Minister (whichever series was current on ABC at the time), I could stay like that for a good half hour or so.
The unspoken agreement was, if I was quiet and let him watch his show, he would share with me the after-dinner apple he invariably enjoyed most nights. My memory recalls that my siblings and I were well-versed in the importance of letting Dad have his TV viewing time. The stereotypical “children must be seen and not heard” moment, if only for that sacred televisual viewing hour of a night time. His time. We were not to interrupt. But we probably always did…
There were two very important and magical things about sharing that apple. The first was that Dad would cut the apple into bite-sized slices. Slowly, methodically, deftly. Silently he would pass a wedge down to me and I would take it, whispering a “thankyou”. The second reason for my relishing Dad’s apples was the taste of them. These Dad-apples were always so different. Where did he get them from? No other apple I had tasted had ever been the same. The taste wasn’t altogether awful… however, it wasn’t something I would have chosen, given the choice. But because the slices were from Dad’s apple and he was sharing it with me – only me! – I delighted in the tangy, slightly tart, strong flavour of his special magic apples. Besides, I didn’t want to disrespect his preference for these strange-tasting apples. One time, I did tell him I thought it tasted “funny”. His response was that it tasted fine to him. So I just accepted from then on that my Dad had a special stash of strange magic apples that just looked identical to the ones I pulled from the fruit bowl.
It remained a mystery to the 7-year-old me.
It took me a number of years to realise, when the memory of these cozy cuddles came back to me in my adulthood, that there had been nothing different about the apples Dad ate and shared with me…
Toothpaste makes everything taste weird.
I’m often reminded of things like these as I now raise my own young daughter. There is something undeniably important about holding the memories of your own young self – truly appreciating all that potential, the wonder, the imagination and creativity that lies dormant in so many adults because they bury and deny their natural instinctive selves (the child-state) – so that the magic in your children’s lives is never undervalued.
In this day and age of children “growing up too soon”, I see the simple magic being stripped off children everywhere I look. But in equal amounts seems to be a beautiful enjoyment of the simplicity of those easily explained “mysteries” and a bunch of adults not letting on and spoiling the wonderment.