I was talking with a young friend at church yesterday about the happy, golden years of my childhood. Except they weren’t. Well, they were. I guess they kind of were. Let me explain.
I think every adult who has had a somewhat normal childhood has a Shangri-La source of memories. Probably a particular place, or portion of childhood, where everything was secure and wonderful. For me it is the summers spent at my grandfather’s home in a village in Quebec. This was before the era of government benefits, so Doda had bought a mansion and converted it into six large apartments against his retirement years.
My grandparents lived in one of the bottom apartments, my aunt and uncle with their family on the top floor, with my family spread between the two. For most of July we stayed there, with the run of the house and its land. I revelled in that, but even more in the security of being loved by six adults at once.
Every day had a blue sky. There was no conflict of any kind amongst family members.
At least not that I remember.
I have a funny feeling I was missing a lot, though. Now when I go back to that part of the world I am astonished at how poor even summer weather can be. And I learned in later years that my grandfather was recurringly unfaithful to my grandmother.
Against all my memories, the sky was often – probably mostly – not blue, and there simply could not have been the family harmony that I remember.
But in terms of what that time means to me, and what my adaptive memory has done with it, my truth might as well be the objective truth. It has created a deposit of beauty and security deep down in my soul. Intimations of the New Heavens and the New Earth when all is finally and truly well.
I imagine you have a similar bank of memories. It seems that, if given a chance, every child will form them. They are deeply entrenched in your soul. And probably not really ‘true’.
But I thank God that in a world like ours he allows that quirky process of mutation from reality to ideal.
I think we really need it.