In quiet moments of reflection, I often think about my (semi-Greek) childhood and all the happy memories that have comforted me as I have grown old and bitter.
On a recent trip home my father decided that we should all sit together and watch a film. My father has many hobbies but by far one of his greatest pastimes is to watch films. However he doesn’t like to watch just any film. No, he watches our old home/holiday videos.
In recent years he has lovingly brought back to life our younger selves, transferring us from VHS to HD-DVD and immortalising our adventures under headings such as ‘Ekaterina and Christiana Singing 1995′, ‘Andreas riding his bike 2001’, ‘Holiday in Athens 2003’ and so on.
I am not ashamed to say that watching these videos brought a little tear to my eye.
Alright I was bawling.
I sobbed to my mother that now we have grown up and I have moved away, “Holidays will never be the same again!” and how upsetting it was that “I don’t fit on the slide anymore!”
As we sat and watched various past episodes with me making appearances at age 8, 9, 12, 14, 16 and 18 (it was a long afternoon), I realised how happy we all were in each clip, constantly singing, dancing (and making rude jokes) not showing the slightest hint of banal everyday misery that seems to blight our present existence. In those videos there was no sign of financial hardship, relationship-sorrow, exam stress, or illness. More surprising was the fact that in every home video (even in England) the sun was always shining! Even at Christmas!
I realised that my entire childhood was exceptionally happy, despite the ups and downs of general adolescent angst that plagues us all.
Moreover my childhood was exceptionally magical – an adjective that is sadly lacking in younger society’s vocabulary today.
Summer holidays were filled with mischief and adventure and as we grew older, my sister, brother and I still shared the same innocent excitement as we did in our younger days when exploring new places.
Christmas was always a particularly enchanting time and the three of us used to spend hours planning Christmas Day productions to perform to the family (well I planned and directed, my brother and sister were forced to join in). In my much younger years my sister and I used to spend most of the year plotting how to catch Father Christmas and instructing mum and dad to alert us immediately if they heard the sound of sleigh bells… (alright I confess we are already working on this years biggest Santa kidnap plot yet).
Upon sharing these experiences with my Greek man I was sad to hear that he does not recall such magical memories and instead only has recollections of a time spent in the family restaurant and at regular family gatherings – not an unhappy childhood at all but one devoid of any magical nonsense and one that I have learned is shared by quite a few of my fully Greek kin.
I firmly believe that the absence of stories, fairy tales, magic and mystery in a child’s life can be extremely detrimental.
My most exuberant friends all have magical childhood memories – I’m not saying that they all had conventional, nuclear-family upbringings, but the ones who grew up with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, books and outdoor play have that undying twinkle in their eye that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
In these paranoid, narcissistic times of big brother technology, plastic beauty, religious insanity, internet predators and increasing financial and educational pressures, the world of innocence and magic is dying.
Let’s try to keep it alive.