MY TWO daughters came down to catch up for Christmas and the New Year, a sort of two-for-the-price-of-one visit. I’m not that comfortable with the “came down” phrase. Seems a bit of a putdown in some way for us country dwellers but then we do travel “up” to the city. That’s if you are nuts enough to want to go there in the first place. And you can’t travel “up” both ways so one of us has to give way.
Anyway, somewhere during their visit we got around to talking books or to be more precise we talked about reading. When they were young, bedtime reading was essential if peace was to reign of an evening. I was reminded that many evenings were not readings as such but telling stories constructed on the spot. It’s easy to get away with that if your audience is only four or five years old. I seem to remember my Freddy the Fish was a best seller in its time.
When I was that young, my burning ambition was to be able to read solo so I no longer had to rely on others. I know my desire for such an achievement was greater than when I reached the driving licence year.
Now one daughter is a librarian and a lover of books of all genres while the other in her busy family and professional life confesses to reading one book a year. I think even that is stretching it a bit. Did I succeed with one and fail with the other in the art of storytelling? They say emphatically no, they treasure the memories of those times, they just put different values on the long-term outcomes. I also hold those memories dear so that’s just fine with me.
After they had left, I began to ponder on those days long gone and got to thinking about the nature of love in all its many guises. My love for these two middling-aged women is so far removed from the love I had for those two little girls. So different that I cannot put it into words but I think they know and understand.
It is strange how so many men shy away from the love word as if it were a finite commodity to be carefully rationed out. Perhaps some see it as an admission of weakness. In part, that may be because we get such little exposure to the concept of love, especially from our daily papers and TV news. And who in their right mind in their masculine world would be interested in stories of the heart when footy and big bash cricket and Highway Cops are available?
Mind you, they have a point. Love can be a minefield of heartbreaks of the very worst kind. Nevertheless I quickly reach for the remote when yet another piece of “breaking news” flashes across the screen exposing us to scenes of blood-soaked road crashes, the devastation of war and the unimaginable cruelty of famine. I know only two people who do not and will not own a television and I admire them like I admire those who are vegetarians though I know I have not got the willpower to join them.
There is a line in the song Cannibals where the father is taking his young son up the stairs to tuck him in to bed. The father tells him a story as he goes and assures the boy that cannibals are no more so he may sleep in peace. But the child turns to his father and says “Daddy, why do people go to war?” I don’t have an answer for that. Some questions are just unanswerable.
What we need is a TV channel that only gives us the good bits so we can turn away from the reality of this wounded world where love seems to have taken a back seat.
But then that’s returning to fantasy land. That’s reaching back for those bedtime story days and we know we can never do that.