Yesterday I found the photograph on the left amongst some possessions left at their flat by my recently deceased mother and father in law. It is a beautifully captured moment when my son Tom was playing some sort of game with me in a hotel room during a weekend away to celebrate the Ruby wedding anniversary of Barbara and Cliff.
This picture could have had anyone of the children in it, when they were small they were forever jumping on me; wrestling or riding an imaginary horse, it was something I loved to do with them.
A few minutes prior to finding this photo I was horrified to find the picture on the right of the same child following a night out in town that had resulted in him getting beaten up for some unknown (to him) reason. Although he looks like he had gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson the injuries were superficial and fortunately he will be ok with no lasting damage.
It’s easy to think that you will always be able to protect your children from harm. If he were still living with us, whilst he might not be still sitting on me, I would be there to keep the world of drunken beatings away from him. Indeed we feel that if we were somehow able to go back to how things were then all would be well in the world.
When I look at the these pictures of the children the memories of playing games, the cute smiles and happy faces captured forever, I forget that there were equally as many, if not more, times when we weren’t all so joyous together. The times they cried, the times I got angry, the times we argued, none of which were photographed so we could look back on them fondly in years to come.
It seems that in our post-brexit, post-Trump, post-truth times everyone is looking back to a glorious time in ‘the past’ when everything was, well, better than it is now. We all felt safer, we all had loads of space in which to live, Summers were long and sunny etc. etc. blah blah blah.
Too much nostalgia for the innocence of my children’s youth denies the beautiful, ugly, clever, stupid things they have all done since. Letting go of the Tom on the left has allowed him to develop into the Tom on the right. I couldn’t have prevented him getting beaten up on Saturday night but I could have stopped him pursuing his dreams, I could have denied him the chance to be the person he is now.
By grimly hanging onto a distorted vision of the past we deny ourselves, our communities, our nations and our world from going forward into a yet to be realised, but usually better, future.
We need to trust that what has gone before will deliver us to somewhere better in the future. We may well get a bloody nose and a black eye along the way but it has to be worth the risk.