I look back fondly at my childhood, as the years were filled with laughter and smiles. I like to think of them as the Wonder Years because we truly did not have a care in the world.
When I was a little girl we had virtually nothing, and yet money did not seem to be a problem.
Obviously I was just a child with no real concept of money, but myself & my sisters wanted for nothing. We lived on a council estate, we only had a coal fire, we only had a black & white television but it never really mattered to us.
We had a large garden to play in with rabbits as pets. We had an abundance of friends as neighbours. We played from morning until night, riding our bikes, climbing trees and playing ‘tig’ and ‘curby’ in the street until our hearts content.
There were just the four of us back then, and we managed just fine without a dad. He left when my little sister was young and it was probably the best thing he ever did for us. We never even noticed that he was missing. There was just the four of us, and that is all we ever really needed.
Our mum worked hard to get her teaching degree and when she wasn’t working, she busied herself in making our childhood extra special. On her days at home she would take us out for long walks and help us to build secret dens in all the best places. On the occasion that we had little food in the cupboards, she would make up her infamous ‘Wild Man’s Grub’. A magical broth made with stock and potatoes, vegetables and meat – and with it came a story of the old man who once lived in a cave, who knew how to make magical food. Our absolute family favourite was a chicken, rice and gravy dish made from the leftovers of Sunday dinner. As we got older we would enact our own radio show with a ‘made up’ audience where we would delight in explaining to them how we made it.
When Christmas or birthdays came around, we always received the very thing that we had never dared to ask for. One special year I received a Tiny Tears doll, I named her Gemma and she went everywhere with me like a best friend. And yet, even more special than the new toys were the ‘hand me downs’ that we always watched our big sister play with. The silver Raleigh bike, the doll with the worn down clothes, the giant space-hopper, the go-kart and the rainbow roller boots that we taught ourselves to use.
We always looked forward to the long Summer holidays because we knew that we would get to visit the seaside.
We took trains to visit Aunties, Uncles and cousins and it was all such an adventure. We spent hours paddling in the freezing cold sea, rolling up trousers and jumping the waves. We went for long walks along the beach and hunted for crabs in rock pools with our buckets and spades. We got caught out by the tide and had to climb up the cliffs to safety. We spent all day long running up and down the high school fields behind my Auntie’s house making up pretend games and never wanting to go home when teatime came around. Our cousins were our best friends, and inevitably just like siblings, the arguments always flared up over who was winning at Monopoly or who wanted the chocolate French Fancy.
We had birthday parties in our back garden, with blankets thrown on the lawn for a picnic tea. We invited everybody in the neighbourhood to join in the party games and watched in excitement as the homemade birthday cake was unveiled. Inevitably, the cake was always a house made of chocolate fingers and chocolate buttons for the roof, or sometimes it was a Dolly cake with a Cindy doll placed in the middle.
We had so little, and yet we had so much.
We wanted for absolutely nothing. If only children nowadays could be allowed to ‘play out’ until the sunset without fear or even enjoy the simple things like taking delight in inheriting second hand toys from siblings.
I hope my children remember the Summer holidays, the birthday cakes and the make-believe games.
I hope they know that their cousins will be their best friends no matter what life throws at them.
I hope my children laugh and smile as much as we did.
If only we could have bottled those Wonder Years to give to the next generation.