Loss is a funny thing.
I’m always a little sad when I think about Ross, one of two of my brothers who didn’t live nearly long enough. Ross died at 27, from a brain tumour. We were very close, and I know my life would have been better in oh, so many ways if he was still in it.
But it’s hard to say that I miss him. My life’s moved on and there’s no longer a Ross-shaped hole in it. There’s not much I do now that I remember doing with Ross. Our relationship was one of childhood and young adulthood. We played video games, and went to nightclubs. Before that, we shared toys, and sneaked into each others’ beds to tell stories in the dark. We played out.
In that sense, it’s hard for me to give Flea a sense of who my brother was. And I want her to have one. I want her to understand the things we did, to know the family we were before we became the family we are now.
So today, we took a bit of a walk down memory lane. Literally.
We drove to the town where I grew up, and I talked to Flea about the things I did when I was a kid, and the games I played with my brothers, and especially with Ross.
We parked outside the house where I grew up, and played a game of ‘kerby’ (I don’t know if that’s an official game name, but it’s what we called it).
We walked from the house to my old primary school and I showed Flea all the places where we played along the way. When we got to school, she was most interested in seeing where we managed to climb on the school roof, and where exactly in the playground we got spanked when I got caught.
We kept walking, past the church where I went to Sunday School as a child, and where we all went to cubs. I showed her the chip shop we went to on Saturday afternoons after we’d been swimming with my Dad, and the house we moved to when I started junior school.
After lunch, we wandered over to the big old Victorian park where I played as a child. It’s a huge park – more than 250 acres – and every inch seems to hold a memory. I remember going there as a pre-schooler and I was still going there to read Thomas Hardy novels and feel sad and alone when I was an overly-dramatic 17 year old. There are huge wooded areas, open lawns, gardens, fountains and miles of pathways perfect for scooting. We always stop for crossing squirrels, naturally.
We started at the bus shelter we used to climb on to sneak into the park when it was closed, and the roof Ross jumped off and broke his leg (he shouted “catch me!” as he jumped off, and was amazed when his friend jumped out of the way, instead).
Then we wandered through the greens and trees where Ross and I used to walk our demented rescue dog, past the hockey pitches where I played school matches and Ross would watch, while all my friends giggled and tried to flirt with him. We walked, and scooted, and stopped to explore along the way.
The park has barely changed in 30 years. Of course the playground has been upgraded a bit since the 1980s but brilliantly, some of the old equipment is still there, including the train climbing frame from my childhood, and the old trampolines. It rained. It hailed. But in between that, the sun shone and we made the very most of it.
So now Flea knows the steepest (and therefore most fun) paths in the park to ride down on a skateboard or scooter. And as an added bonus, I earned about a gazillion points when Flea realised I used to skateboard.
Today was the first time Flea’s ever hit a ball with a baseball bat. That’s a pretty big moment. She even knows which direction to hit the ball so it doesn’t land in the trees. I wish I’d remembered that.
Luckily, we brought a spare ball.
Even more luckily, we brought spare clothes. There may have been a few spills and tumbles along the way…
I wonder… have you ever given your kids a day where they get to experience YOUR childhood?