Retirement Delight -
Courtesy of a Cookie Raider
by Gordon G Kinghorn
‘There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.’ – Graham Greene
Collectively speaking, as reluctant seniors all, our sensibilities and vision can, and all too often, become distorted when we wrongfully ascertain that life has only a couple of relevant chapters pertaining to the story of our existence – one being that much-cherished instalment we refer to as youth - the other relating to our contributing years in the workplace and everything associated with them – wrongful assumption for sure!
On leaving the armed forces, I entered a melancholy period and remained at a loss as to how to fill the void. After many months, I discovered an outlet working with former soldiers who had fallen on testing times – a learning curve for me and the ideal panacea for what ailed my weary mind.
Where I had opted for a safety-net within an environment that was familiar to me – and felt comforted and assured by that existence, I overlooked the possibilities of working with those much younger than myself – quintessentially, it was pretty much a taboo subject and one I simply could not consider – what youngster of sixteen or under could possible find benefit from a liaison with an individual who had lived just over six decades on this troubled planet? –Few that I could think of!
During a wet, cold October evening last year, the doorbell stirred me from my post-dinner power-nap, a nightly thirty-minute interlude that I have enjoyed for many years and something that has little to do with my current vintage.
Convinced that I was being beckoned by the annual Trick or Treater’s, I armed myself with a few ‘goodies’ before opening the front door – half expecting to see the usual group of kids, bedecked in various colourful guises and scary masks, demanding appropriate recompense for their extensive sartorial labours.
I was somewhat astonished therefore to find my neighbour’s twelve year-old daughter on the threshold – holding a couple of books and still in school uniform. Before I could enquire as to the nature of her surprise visit, she, in a somewhat agitated tone asked, “Do you remember the 1960s Mr K?”
I wanted to respond by saying that anyone who remembered that wonderful decade was never really there, but I thought better of it, I simply acknowledged her query in the affirmative and awaited justification for her question.
Within a couple of minutes, I learnt from Claire that her teacher had asked of her class to select a topic from the decade in question – and then write 500 words on the subject of her choosing – given the fact that I was not twenty-one anymore, (in Claire’s considered opinion) she suspected I might be better placed to discuss her dilemma – “Mum is only thirty-seven and dad is just two years older” she innocently remarked, adding further, “They have heard of the Beatles and Martin Luther King but know “nuffin” about them!”
I must stress at this juncture, if I was feeling elderly before I opened my door that particular evening – I felt a damn sight older after exchanging a few words with this ruthless if not charming child.
We soon established her concerns and the size of the task in hand – I invited her into our dining room whilst my wife made a hot drink for us both - and then we cracked-on, discussing my recollections of days gone by.
Some three hours later, I received another knock on the door, on this occasion I was met with a concerned parent enquiring as to where her missing eldest daughter may possibly be – time had just flown by and I had erred in not paying sufficient notice to the clock – similar to my cookie jar I hasten to add, Claire had certainly made good use of the time that night and quite surreptitiously consumed the entire contents of my biscuit barrel!
In truth, It was a little disappointing to see her depart as I loved every moment of her company - and remained astonished with the scope of her enquiring mind; it was just like being ‘Dad’ all over again.
Young Claire submitted her thesis some days later, dealing specifically with the music of the early part of the decade, gaining a credible A-plus for her literary definition of the sixties pop industry…and it was better than good.
As we talked during that dank winter night, we sometimes branched off in the direction of the social aspects of the early 1960s, that special time when kids still walked to school, played ball games in city parks with little or no threat to their well-being and of a time when children sat on Santa’s knee at Christmas time.
In addition we also chatted about an American President who craved equal rights for all - and wanted to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade, not because it was easy but because it was hard.
We then discussed the loss of a brave American Negro who held dear a dream that his little black children would one day be able to play with little white children - but was not granted the right to see his vision realised.
We laughed together about the fact that nearly all male singers were called Bobby and female vocalists were either Sandra or Sandie or even Sandy – each crooning the same theme about failed puppy love.
It was so refreshing to escape back into a world from a child’s perspective, to a era where things were just a little simpler, a world that to the kids of my generation, never saw politics and war rear their ugly heads and the worst thing that could happen to you is that you didn’t become a school monitor or that your girlfriend/boyfriend opted to fall for another.
Even that wasn’t much of a worry because there was always another interesting extracurricular activity and another equally interesting potential girlfriend/boyfriend waiting in the wings.
I did take time to stress to my young guest that we are all adolescent at one stage – adding that many of my age group would like to return to the fifties and sixties, solely to simply slap the back-of-the-skull of the youngster that was us all – a timely assault to stymie the errors and greenness of judgement that we all so naively extolled during the era of our adolescence - and teenage rebellious years - and possibly beyond – I am certainly one.
On the fifth of January this year, I was invited by Claire’s teacher, one Miss Watson, to attend the school and listen to her class deliver a series of lectures and participate in a school play concerning life in sixties Britain, this with the understanding that I would be prepared to summarise and deliver some of my own recollections regarding the comparisons of family life between then and present day.
This exciting event occurred earlier this month - as a former soldier I have indeed had my fair share of anxiety in a number of situations, I was surprised therefore to discover that I was nervously perspiring just before I had to face a sea of cherubic shiny faces in the school hall – suffice to say, my presentation went down incredibly well and was greeted with cheering and enthusiastic applause on completion – great feeling indeed.
From this experience, I have determined that we must never singularise or consider ourselves compartmentalised through age, there is scope out there to continue enjoying life providing we each want it.
It is also pleasing to report that my personal standing in the neighbourhood has improved considerably, where I was once perceived as that “grumpy old guy who lived in the middle house” or ‘Mr K’ or simply ‘Sir’, I am now Gordon and I enjoy a rapport with a section of the community that was once upon a time, light years removed from where I stood.
My own book of life has seemingly many chapters to run - and from where I stand at the present moment, I’m nowhere close to completing the final instalment.
© Gordon G Kinghorn 2012