Memories of an idyllic childhood

Published September 1, 2011

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and while I know this is not always the case, whenever I recall a certain idyllic or, as some people might say, “corny” scene from my childhood, I would give a lot to have the talent to capture that long-ago scene on canvas. Pictures in our memory banks, like those in old family albums, fade over time, but just like some of those old photographs, one or two remain sharp and clear after all the years. The scene that frequently pops into my mind, especially when I see a young family enjoying a picnic in the park, never varies. The July sun is shining on a lush meadow spattered with buttercups. A few fat, black-and-white cows are lying in the grass, lazily chewing their cuds. In a corner of the meadow, almost hidden by a stand of huge weeping willows, is a swimming hole. I see a boy, about six years old, sitting on a bank. He watches in wonder as the sunlight shafting through the trees glints on his father, who swims around and around beneath the surface of the clear water. Meanwhile, the boy’s mother is busily preparing their picnic spread under the giant trees. This bucolic scene in my mind’s eye sets in motion a moving picture of an entire summer day. A butterfly catches the boy’s attention; he ceases watching his father and gives chase to the butterfly as it zigzags across the meadow. After many failed attempts to catch his fluttering prey, the youngster loses interest and flops on the grass. There, lying on his back, he pictures wonderful images in the puffy white clouds that drift high in the summer-blue sky. After a while the boy jumps to his feet and runs around, plucking buttercups. Then, with his hands full of the yellow flowers, he runs to his mother and begins threading them into her brown hair while they both laugh, and then end up wrestling on the grass. The boy’s father, standing in the shallow end of the swimming hole, signals his wife to lower their son into his outstretched arms. As he slips a swimming tube over his son’s head, the father hears a faint hissing sound. He dips the tube repeatedly in the water but fails to locate the leak. He is beginning to get frustrated when he notices that it’s his son who is making the hissing sound. Pretending to be angry, the father dunks his son repeatedly in the water as the boy’s squeals of delight echo in the rustling branches overhead. After father and son emerge from the swimming hole, the mother joins them in a game of hide-and-seek among the trees until they are out of breath. When their game of hide-and-seek is over, this happy little family sits down to enjoy their picnic in the shade of the willows. That old swimming hole, the yellow, speckled meadow and the giant weeping willows are long gone; high-rise condominiums have taken their place. The young couple has gone the way of all flesh. And the little boy? While I can’t see him in the mirror, he is still here. All I have to do is go to my memory bank to see him clearly as he runs carefree through a field of buttercups on that family picnic long, long ago.

William Bedford lives in Toronto.


Keep on reading

Skip to content