It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. ~ Berkeley Breathed
I first heard the phrase “Once a man, twice a child” from my mother’s lips. It means our minds and bodies often revert in older age to that of a child and, in some instances, our needing to be cared for as though we had in fact recently exited the womb.
Not quite there yet, I have however twice recently experienced becoming a child again, or a much younger version than the woman who writes these words.
My first reversion to childhood is when I decided apropos of nothing to go hare hunting.
Fifty large stone and creatively themed GoGoHares! sculptures have been placed around the “fine city” of Norwich to celebrate 50 years of the charity Break. Standing around 4ft tall on their concrete plinths, I first came across one of these hares – the black and orange hare named ‘Tessellation’ sponsored by Black Orange Investments – on my usual morning walkout.
Turning the corner, the majesty of the thing took my breath away. It stood expectant and proud as though it had been waiting just for me to come and say hello. In the half light of the early morning, I stopped to examine my new friend, took a photograph with my iPhone and walked on. I imagined later posting the image to my social media and moving on with my life.
But by the time I left for work that morning, I had posted the image to social media, but had also printed the trail map to see where the other 49 hares were located in the city, downloaded the app and made a spreadsheet to keep track of my progress. Yes, this 56-year old woman decided to join a campaign trail aimed primarily at children.
I have tried several times to unpick the joy I have derived from hare hunting. And it is joy. When you spend a long time walking in pursuit of hare number whatever, on the brink of giving up finding it, it is thrilling to round a corner for it to be sitting there waiting to be found. Even more magical when you find your man-made prey in the photographer’s magic hour just after sunrise or the hour before sunset. There is alchemy also in reading the plaques detailing the artistic direction each sponsor decided to take with their hares.
It has been hard to pick a favourite, since that moniker depends on the miles walked, level of complication and/or other difficulties it took to find a hare. Many of them were destined to claim a place in my heart, but so was the hare I was convinced I would never find. I won’t name it here so that others can experience the eventual aha moment on discovering its hiding place.
My advice to children young and old is to keep looking – you will find it.
Talking of persistence brings me onto my second reversion to a childlike state this week. It was on the occasion of my youngest daughter’s graduation from university.
Morgan had been persuaded by graduates of all ages to sit for the official graduation photograph celebrating her First Class Honours in Politics and Internationals Relations. You know, the one with degree in hand looking stalwart and proud, worthy of a Winston Churchill portrait.
Known only to her younger brother, I had secretly, and some might say childishly, decided to try and take a better photograph than the official photographer as my gift to Morgan. Maybe a different angle or even a candid photograph of the photographer capturing Morgan in her moment of recognition.
But the day was hot, the queue long and a glass of champagne beckoned in an equally stuffy Royal Festival Hall. Clapped out, literally, and tired from a long ceremony, Morgan and her small entourage (me, her brothers Robbie and Hart and boyfriend Ross) stepped out into her bright future eschewing portrait posing.
And I put away a camera which was no longer needed in a photographer shoot-out!
Until we came across the funfair.
In the London sunshine, bright and gaudily coloured funfair horses beckoned in the way those giant concrete hares had done in Norwich. In an unfathomable flash of madness, I begged Morgan to let me take her official graduation photograph atop a ceramic Merry Go-Round horse.
Whatever Morgan’s future holds, which may well include running a small country somewhere, I have asked my daughter to remember to hold onto the girl of her graduation day.
The courageous girl with the childlike zeal, sass and confidence to let her hare-hunting mother take her official graduation photograph atop a ceramic Merry Go-Round horse.