I recently had a friend ask about some of my memories of my time in England when my dad served as a minister there. I’m not sure exactly what kinds of memories he was hoping for…maybe not some of these, but since I was 5 when we moved to England and 8-1/2 when we came back, they’re not going to be adult memories!
I remember some of our ship crossing on the HMS Franconia and our return on the HMS Queen Elizabeth. Part of the crossing was stormy…and I remember my dad and me being two of the few in the dining room–where the table rims were up to keep the dishes from sliding off!
I remember loving our house. It was a typical English row house with a small front yard where my mother put my youngest brother (who was born in England) to sun on those days when the sun was out.
I remember going to the hospital to see my mother hold my youngest brother up to the window so we could see him. The hospital seemed so big, although it was only two stories high.
I remember the fog! We were still burning coal, and so during the winter there was lots of fog to walk through on my way to school.
I remember marching in the Whitsuntide parade as part of our church group…
I remember my baptism in our little church in Nuneaton. It was on my birthday–in March–and it was cold!! But it was such a special day.
I remember gathering rhubarb in the church yard…and the tangy taste of the pies.
I remember playing for church on an old reed organ. Someone else (I don’t remember who) had to pump the pedals for me because I couldn’t reach both keyboard and pedals. In some ways I’d like to have a time machine to watch myself playing…but in other ways I’m just as glad I can’t. But I am appreciative of the congregation allowing me to share in that way.
I especially remember Uncle John and Aunt Anne Coggan. He was the pastor of our congregation and ran a bakery in Nuneaton…a wonderful bakery. In fact, the bakery was how the church got started. When kids would come for a sweet, Uncle John would ask if they went to church. If they did, that was fine; if they didn’t he invited them and their families to their house for Bible stories on Sunday morning. (The bakery was still in business when I went back for a visit 25 years later–then run by Uncle John’s son.)
I remember bonfires on November 4, celebrating Guy Fawkes Day. I wasn’t aware of the violence behind the day…just the fun for us kids.
I remember visiting Stratford-upon-Avon…and attending one of Shakespeare’s comedies at the theatre there.
I remember traveling with my folks to Germany for a family camp…and learning just enough German to ask for a cold drink of water, please.
I remember being at Trafalgar Square and the pigeons swarming my brother’s white-blond hair as we fed them.
I remember visiting Coventry and enjoying two very different experiences. One was loving the statue and story of Lady Godiva… while the other was much more somber. It was not all that long after the end of the war, and visiting Coventry Cathedral was a reminder of the damage and horrors of war–as well as the challenge to what it meant to Christians…
I remember being vaguely aware of the food rationing. We got one egg per person per week, and so there were often decisions about whether we were going to eat them or save them for a cake.
I remember feeling completely British–and being annoyed when an older classmate called me “a Yankee.” Dad suggested I call him “a limey”…and he was not happy about that! But I also remember thinking when we came back to the States that I was only going to stay here until I was old enough to go “back home.” All my friends and memories were there. By the time I was 18, though, I had come to feel more comfortable here–but it was not until I went back for a visit 25 years later that I really knew where my home was.
As I said in one of my poems in my book People, Places…and Other Musings…
Each home has its problems;
each home has its joys.
My home is now the world–
that’s where my heart is.