Friday, February 13, 2009

Sense memories of a lost childhood in New England

I have a life-long condition called depression: clinical and chronic, I cannot remember a time without it. As a girl in the 1950s, a time when depression was barely recognized as an adult condition, my suffering was mostly misunderstood by everyone except my mother, from whom I inherited the tendency.

Depression creates a dark gloss or veil over all normal emotions. Typically, all emotions would quickly convert to either despair, self-loathing, or rage. As a consequence, my childhood memories have not been altogether pleasant. I remember once when I was a teenager, I looked back over my life and could see nothing but tears.

I am 57 now and my depression is under control through medications and wisdom. In my long struggle to come to terms with a lost childhood, I discovered something surprising. Lurking below the dark gloss were sense memories of childhood play. And by focusing on those senses, I have reclaimed some of my childhood memories of growing up in New England.

I can recall the delight of playing hide-and-seek in the grass maze the older kids created down in the field
the thrill of spinning and rocking the tilt-a-whirl
Riding my bicycle home from a friends house after dark
Or playing kick-the-can on summer evenings with neighbors and cousins
Playing until the sun was long set and our parents had to called us in
(I miss playing outside after dark)

I remember the sheer joy of running around in a summer downpour, splashing barefoot in puddles, squishing soft mud through my toes
Of listening to the babble of a brook edged in ferns, lily of the valley, and skunk cabbage
Of discovering a patch of wild violets or a lone, rare lady slipper
The sweet/sour taste of wild grapes ripening on the vine
I remember lying on the edge of the lawn for the pungent smell of a freshly tarred road or to pop asphalt bubbles on a hot summer day

I can recall the smells and colors of autumn in New England
The way the colors become fluorescent after a rain
The golden color cast on them by the setting sun
Throwing myself into a pile of dried leaves smelling of dust and spice
Picking pussy willows and cattails
Roaming freely through the small woods and fields

I remember the quiet peacefulness of ice-skating on the small streams that ran through The Woods and marshes
The wonder of watching water flow below the surface of the ice

The magic of racing through the snow maze in Brattleboro, VT that was deeper than I was tall
The pleasure and pain of the nose-freezing walks along snowy paths to reach the ski jump where my cousins competed
Of hopping on a sled or toboggan or piece of waxed cardboard and sailing down a bank of snow
And I still recall the crazy taste sensation of sugar-on-snow (hot maple syrup drizzled on clean snow turning it into sticky candy) served with a dill pickle and plain donut at the winter festival

All these sensory experiences existed simultaneously with my depression. They were real. And with a breath, I can remember and enjoy them today.

1 comment:

  1. I thought you might like to be aware of this online resource group:

    Healing Dance Network - a web between the various healing dance studies,
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    expand knowledge and understanding into the possibilities and realities of
    healing through dance. I am hoping you will let us know about your own
    search and findings and how we might work together to bring our learning

    Laurie -

    [if the links do not take you to the web pages, please cut or copy and paste
    them into your web browser]

    Please feel free to distribute this information to any whom you think might
    be interested.