We collect Turn Of The Last Century children’s activity books, and some of the activities – taxidermy, anyone? – are a bit questionable now, while some of them – making candy and kites, “nutting parties” – are sadly rather lost. And that’s the way time goes, I guess, sweetness getting left behind along with all of the long-gone horrors. You can still do these things with your kids, but there’s an odd-element of playacting as you do, since we can only raise our children in the time we’re living in now…. I mean, I could wear a corset and a Victorian gown as day-wear but I don’t, and my children would look at me equally strangely were I to suggest we take up our baskets and gather nuts in the woods. Time passes and we change.
I read a quote a few days ago that said, more or less, that anyone born after 1914 would never know what a truly happy childhood was. – which I think is hogwash, really. One great-great grandmother in our family tree lost three of her four children in a week to some illness that children are now immunized against, and I think that she would likely have much rather have raised her children now. But that’s talking about mothers and not children, I guess.
The Baby seems to be having a happy enough childhood so far, but lately her siblings seem just miserable. Perhaps in our house it’s still 1909 or whatever the Magical Happy Childhood Year was, but step outside and it’s 2009 and they must deal with it. There’s nothing quite as misery-inducing as having unhappy kids, I find. And then there’s the medicine – The Girl alone takes four different kinds in the morning, some for her poorly-controlled asthma (speaking of stress, there’s that) and another for her anaemia and a fourth odd vitamin mixture that her doctor insisted on, and the medicine tastes awful and it’s just a horrible way to start her day, although she doesn’t complain.
“You need to make dessert more often,” The Girl’s doctor said at her last visit, which made me crack up. At MY last visit, the doctor told me that I should eat dessert far less frequently than I do, so apparently I’m going to be sentenced to a tragic fate – making custards and bread puddings and puddings and cakes that are never destined to be eaten by me. But I’m not the one who weighs 50 meagre pounds and so ever since, I’ve been making eggy, milky, buttery desserts in the kitchen – and eating celery. In fact, this dessert is bubbling away in the slow cooker right now, getting ready for a rapturous response this evening after supper.
“You should be glad you live now,” the doctor told me. “One hundred years ago, she’s just the sort of child who would have had tuberculosis.”
And with that, the image of long-ago nutting parties comes to my mind, autumn woods filled with laughing children carrying baskets and the aching spaces where some of the children should have been, a time that would be remembered – by those who survived – as happy.