Here’s another post from my Guest Blogger Mother-on-a-Mission, who writes about things she loved in childhood.
Mother-on-a-Mission lives in the country. Her mission is to perfect the art of being in two or more places at once.
‘I used to be indecisive’s’ list of books she has read includes, at number 17 in 2007, The Owl Service by Alan Garner. I don’t recall reading the book but I do remember the television adaptation which was hugely atmospheric and not a little spooky. Our host comments that she was disappointed on re-reading this as an adult because it did not live up to her memory and I was reminded of a similar experience with another Alan Garner book. I enjoyed reading The Weirdstone of Brisingamen immensely as a child (and I thought the title sounded wonderful said aloud) but when I set about reading it with my own children I was disappointed to find that my memory did not match the reality of the re-reading. I don’t mean to criticise the book in any way. I did thoroughly enjoy it when I was of the age for which it was intended but it has made me wonder if we can ever recapture, as adults, the enjoyment of something loved as a child.
Places visited or television programmes watched seem much less exciting or interesting. Clothes worn now just look downright ridiculous in some cases (although my sister had a fabulous pair of patchwork trousers, I think I’d still covet) and toys played with have completely lost their allure, with the honourable exception of board games like Monopoly and Cluedo.
Some years ago, I sought out a place I remembered vividly from a summer holiday as a child. I remembered enough about it to find it quite easily but it was very different from my memory. It was smaller, of course, and less enchanting because the things associated with it – the other people and the small-child excitement of holiday freedom – were absent. Something similar is true of television programmes. I remember loving a series called Survivors; a story of a small group struggling to survive after a modern-day plague had wiped out most of the population and all government and infrastructure had fallen apart. The original programmes now look dated, static and rather clumsy and I wondered what it was that I had enjoyed so much.
However, this change of view seems to work both ways. Things I actively disliked as a child (even fish) are now an entirely different proposition. Books I read as a teenager that were dull and hard work at the time, improved enormously when I re-read them through adult eyes. The Hobbit and Pride and Prejudice are two in particular which spring to mind. Both were set reading at school and, at the time, I thought both were a complete chore. Perhaps it was simply that I read them then only because I had to, while re-reading them later was my choice. Perhaps it was because my view of the world as an adult has changed far more than I realise. Whatever the reason, reading them again years later was a joy.
So is it that our perspective simply changes as we grow older, a product of our accumulated life experience? Or is it that society moves on, styles of writing change, television quality improves, special effects and “visitor experiences” have become the norm so that our expectations are different even if we are unaware of them? Answers on a postcard, Blue Peter style please.