Where are the children

I remember the river as a fun place. F.U.N. fun, as my brother says. I can picture it almost as if I am back there. I’m quite young, about 10, it might be 1976 – remember, that stinking hot summer when Saints won the FA Cup. We watched Bobby Stokes score his goal on our neighbour’s telly, as they had colour and we only had black and white. I was there with my brother. We were pretty inseparable then. We still are now. But I digress. Let’s go back to the river.

It is what Yorkshire folk would call a beck. There are trees, gnarled and brown, branches hanging here, there and everywhere. Great for hanging off. I don’t remember a rope swing, not on that particular river. I remember little yellow fishing nets – do you remember those. Stepping stones. Playing pooh sticks. Trying to catch tiddlers in the net. Splashing and having F.U.N.

Mum is reading on the bank, seeming to be in her own world and letting us get on with ours. Yet, unbeknownst to us, keeping an eye on our safety.

What strikes me now, whenever I walk by a river or a beck, is “Where are the children?” Why aren’t they here, playing and laughing and feeling the sun on their skin and the mud between their toes, and learning and growing. It makes me sad to see a river without children. It always feels as if something important is missing from the scene. And I think that I am right to say that. Yes I think I am.

And as I type this up ready for our Thursday writing group, I wonder if I should leave it there at that full stop. Or should I go on to say that, since I free wrote this I have realised exactly what I was writing about. And of course this is a metaphor. And of course the river is my life. And of course I feel sad that I do not have children.

But the river keeps flowing and my mum is still here keeping her beady eye on me. The sun keeps shining and my brother is still here providing F.U.N. And I have learnt that if I don’t talk about it, or write about it, or go walking by the river, then generally I can keep the sadness at bay and keep smiling.

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