Perspective and Life…

It wasn’t until I watched Call the Midwife that I realized the National Health (NHS), a social service that has been a part of my life since I can remember, was still dealing with teething problems when I was born.

It was brand new for my parents.

My grandparents had raised their children without it.

“How?”  I asked my uncle.

“Churches and charities paid for some medicines and procedures,” he said, “other things were too expensive so home remedies were used by most.”

The National Health was part of the social reforms put into place after WWII, it provided comprehensive, universal and free health-care, based on need, not ability to pay.

An attempt at settling the waters of fear and insecurity, after the terror and uncertainties of war.

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I have always availed myself of the NHS, it had a beginning and its beginning was in my lifetime and I was too young to marvel at the changes it brought to the man in the street across Great Britain; I took it for granted.

My parents were working in Germany as conquerors when I was born; they did not return to London until I was six.  They bought and renovated a late 18th century Georgian cottage in south London.  There were tumbledown, shells of  houses, at the bottom of the road that had not been demolished because of lack of funding after the war.

London literally looked as if a bomb had hit it…which of course hundreds had.

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“Doesn’t appear that we won does it?” were comments made by many of my family members.

To my young eyes they just looked like oversized doll houses with wallpaper clinging to the walls and fixtures precariously perched on intact floors, staircases exposed running up the middle of the house and rubble everywhere.

The war was still a raw reality for my parents; it wasn’t part of my life but a very recent part of theirs.

By the time I was ten or fifteen the horrors of the holocaust were found in history books.  My parents rarely spoke about their experiences.  For me I was fascinated by the astonishing cruelty, alongside the remarkable empathy and bravery, of man viewed objectively from my comfortable, unthreatened life.  A savagery that happened to others.

For me today when I cast my mind back a few years it’s easy, it may be just a small fraction of my life.  For my children when they look back they are youngsters with few and treasured memories that seem like a long time ago to them and only yesterday to me.

Anything that happened before they were born might as well have happened hundreds of years ago, for all the relevance it has in their immediate lives;  a date that pre-dates their birth holds no personal meaning for them, it’s something they will only read about in books.

I feel so old, I mean, wise…

I can put the pieces together; what happened then affects what’s happening now.

The future is a result of the present that was formed by the past.

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They’re still too young to appreciate that.

One day I watched a little girl walking with her mother in the park.  She was turning four soon and was bubbling over with excitement about her birthday party.

A flurry of leaves played chase around my ankles and as I looked down I imagined laying out one leaf for every year of my life -

-the line of leaves would stretch a long way.

Then I imagined laying down a leaf above my leaves for every year of her life, that would be four in all.

My row of leaves stretched way beyond hers…I mean she hadn’t even lived a decade and here I was with many.

Lots and lots of leaves representing years of experience since I was an excited three year old on the eve of turning four.

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Would I give up all those years to join the four year old way back down the path of my life?

Would I forego my knowledge and happenings?

Would I gather up the leaves and put them in a jar and hide them away in denial?

Would I wish I could do it all over again?

No!

I’m happy watching my children grow and live their independent lives with me in the wings.

I’m happy valuing this season.

And I’m happy that my perspective has a wide angled lens in which I can capture and compare the relevance of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

 

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