Friday, August 25, 2006

The Cherry Tree

Hodmandod Major was a fractious baby. It was as if he were very disgruntled at being born.

I was quite a young mother and very much a novice - before Hodmandod Major I had never held a baby in my arms before. I was afraid of drowning him in his bath, and awkward at changing his nappy and dressing him. I longed for him to sleep. I used to rock him in my arms trying to get him drowsy enough to place in his cot but his eyes would stay open: you just try it, they would say, and I'll start bawling again. Hodmandod Senior and I used to eat in shifts. One walking up and down the room to quieten him and then the other.

Then, when he was about four months old, we bought him a baby bouncer and fastened him into the harness. It was the sort that hung in the door way and after a few experimental bounces he went mad with delight. He whooped and yelped and bounced so vigorously I thought he was going to crash into the door frame. Hodmandod Senior and I looked at each other then made a break for the outside. For a while we stood together in the garden marvelling at our freedom while the baby laughed and gurgled on his own inside.

It was May. The sun was shining and the cherry blossom was out. At last I could believe that one day the baby really would play on his own. I went inside and picked him up and asked Hodmandod Senior to take a photo. Then he set the camera on a tripod and took a picture of all three of us together. Then one of us, I forget who, said, 'Let's do this every year, every time the cherry tree is in blossom.'

So we did. It quickly became a tradition. When we moved house we bought another cherry tree just so we would be able to continue what we had started. And of course each year Hodmandod Major grew - from a babe-in-arms to a baby supported on my hip, then a toddler at my knee and then a child and older brother to Hodmandod Minor. Then each year the two of them stood a little higher against the two of us, until one year they were my height, then the next both were smugly looking down at me.

It is strange to look back at these photographs, to see ourselves becoming older year after year. It reminds me of the protagonist in Anne Tyler's PATCHWORK PLANET who as a youth broke into house with his friends - not to plunder but to leaf through photograph albums and watch the faces change. There is something fascinating about how the human face ages and how an infant turns into a child and then a man. Some years we seem to creep into greater maturity and some years we seem to leap; but always the time between the photographs becomes shorter and shorter and I keep wondering why.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because time does move faster as you get older! P. D. James made note of this in an interview and when I can recover the interview I'll post it here. I think it was a psychaiatrist that told her that times is faster as you get older. And whoever he/she was, they had some research behind them to prove their point.

I remember the six week summer holidays of childhood, as I'm sure you also do Clare. They were long then. Now, six weeks can pass unnoticed almost. Perhaps it's to do with expectations in the conscious thought based on experience? I don't know, I'm just guessing.

Whatever, the passage of time is something precious and we need to remain aware of it, especially as we grow older. History and the development of those we love and cherish, highlights, as you've done with this post, the passage of our time and others so special within our lives...

Time is relative. Whatever stage we are at in life, it's important to make the most of it.

Fri Aug 25, 09:36:00 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Yes, I remember wanting them to grow up, to walk, to have teeth, to make conversation. They did, and all I can do is long for those days when I wished their lives away!!
Is it a rule that you must be taller than your mum by fourteen. I've got an inch left!

Sat Aug 26, 09:03:00 am  
Blogger mareymercy said...

"There is something fascinating about how the human face ages" - unless it yours, then it's just depressing.

But seriously, I like the image of the cherry tree here - constant and secure while the rest of the world speeds up.

Sat Aug 26, 12:38:00 pm  
Blogger dovegreyreader said...

I do a course with parents and babies aged about six months old, Treasure Baskets (what it says on the tin, a basket full to overflowing with ordinary everyday objects)and in a way that is about slowing down the rush to get babies onto the next stage ie crawling.It's a stop and stare time for parents who never cease to be amazed by it.Babies have concentration skills to beat the average adult at that age all based on the fact that what is within reach is all that matters, it's gone in about 2 months time and it goes largely unnoticed because we're just desperate to get them onto the next bit.

Sat Aug 26, 01:11:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CFR: Am looking forward to reading this.

I've been thinking a lot about time and memory just recently and am reading a book called Metaphors of Memory. It's very interesting and intend to review it soon. I noticed that the author had also written another book called something like why time goes faster as we get older (or something a bit snappier than that) which set me off on this, I think. Very profound thoughts there, CFR. I always feel I need to treasure the moment of 'now' a little bit more and not forever be looking ahead.

Minx: That's just the same as me! Relish your inchness.

Ha! Thanks Twitches. yes, the Cherry Tree is a constant, but in a way its constancy emphasises the change in us. And very true about the face!

DGR: I wish I could have gone to your course. It sounds like just what I needed. Maybe it's what we all need - make time to contemplate nowness. Or maybe that's just another name for meditation.

Sat Aug 26, 11:42:00 pm  
Blogger dovegreyreader said...

As the treasure basket babies leave the baby massage class comes in and I end up having the most perfect and tranquil morning it must be possible to have within the confines of NHS employment!I love Tuesdays.

Sun Aug 27, 10:26:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so very sorry but I can't find it. I thought it might be this one:,,24713-736531,00.html
but it doesn't look like it, although that interview/article is exceptionally interesting in terms of talking about life in general.
I felt sure it was in The Time or the NYT. Alas, the NYT comes up as subscription only these days, so I can't double check.

Sun Aug 27, 06:46:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks CFR - I've been looking this up a bit since you said - and I think the answer might lie in that other book by Douwe Draaisma. I think I might order it once I've finished this one - it's quite a fascinating topic.

DGR: Mmmm that does sound pretty good! Things have certainly changed a lot since I was first a mother.

Mon Aug 28, 12:32:00 am  
Blogger Kay Cooke said...

Ah time - it's a fascinating, quite frightening, phenomenon. I love the way you descibe it here with the cherry tree and photos - that must be cool to have that theme running through the record of your sons' growing. I love looking through our albums too and remembering fleeting time.

Mon Aug 28, 12:37:00 pm  

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