Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The Start of a New Chapter
We lived for a year in a room at the back of the Old School House where Dad grew up, in Hagley with my grandmother Lucy, just down the road from the house that had been ours for the previous 3 years.
When we moved to Alvechurch at the end of that year, we left behind the beautiful Clent Hills, through which we often walked with Dad. He had known the hills from boyhood. Sometimes Robert and went into the woods with our friends. Although we were strictly forbidden to go beyond a certain two trees that Mum could see from the window, of course we did. The hills held secret places like the Temple of Theseus, the first accurate copy of a Greek building in England. We just called it "the temple." There was also a "ruined" castle. Although both of these were meant to look ancient, they weren't really, but still, they were 200 years old--not that we knew anything of that at the time.
Once, while in the woods with Robert and some friends, I took off my shoes and waded into a pond covered with huge lily pads. My legs parted the cool, green water as I strode out into it, until I put my foot forward again--and could not feel the bottom. I stepped back to safety, but forever after I had the sense that I was protected that day by a guardian angel, who saw to it that I didn't take another step. I couldn't swim and would have drowned. I had dreams of my guardian angel. He had long robes and a halo, just like the stained glass depictions of angels in the parish church. No doubt I kept him busy.
We also left behind the field where we played for many happy hours, with the winding path that led to Hagley Hall and the old church of St. John the Baptist, with its tall steeple. In that field I walked and talked to God. I just knew he was there and since I was very shy and had no close friends, he was my closest friend and confidante.
We attended the Sunday School at St. John the Baptist briefly. It was the church in which Dad had sung in the choir as a boy and he took us there sometimes. My one memory of the Sunday School is being cast in the role of the father, in a play that we were rehearsing based on the story of the prodigal son. I had to stand in the pulpit and look off into the distance, shading my eyes, looking for my "son" to come home. Unfortunately I could not stop giggling and that was the end of my amateur dramatic career. Robert's one memory is dropping the basket of eggs that someone gave him to carry up the aisle of the church in the Harvest Festival.
Behind the church was a cricket field, with a club house, and where, on lazy summer afternoons, we would watch the cricket match. The cricketers wore white flannel trousers, sweaters, shin pads and white cricket caps. We would sit on the big, slightly rusted, metal lawn roller that was used to keep the cricket pitch smooth, as we watched.
In the spring of 1959, Mum, Robert and I traveled in the back of the big moving truck, with our furniture, to the council house on Bear Hill that was to be our new home. Dad rode there on his motor bike. The truck rumbled along, taking us further away from Hagley with every bump and roll. We had lived there for 4 years—which feels like forever to a child.
We had left behind something else that was precious: our cat, Molly, who I loved. I don't know why we didn't bring her with us, but I missed her terribly and I cried for her often. Fortunately I didn't know her fate until years later when I learned that she had been shot one day when she had an accident in the house. I would have been heartbroken.
Although homesick for Hagley, I had no idea then what a wonderful place God had brought us to. Of all the places we could have found a home, we were blessed to be in Alvechurch.