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I bowed down my head

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I bowed down my head

4 minuten leestijd Arcering uitzetten

I can see myself now, at the age of ten years old, sitting in the row at the back of our large classroom in Scoil Iosagain, the primary school I attended in Cork, Ireland.

The year is 1972. The school was situated on top of Fair Hill, a hill well known in Cork and steeped in history and folklore. From the classroom could be seen the Cork landmark which is most precious to all Corkonians, as the inhabitants of Cork are known. The tall structure of Shandon Church can be seen from all over the city, but it is especially cherished and claimed by the people who live on the northside of Cork city, who have lived daily under the sound of its bells for many generations. Upon this sight I would gaze every day while in school and its north facing clock told me how many hours and minutes were still to pass before I could run home to the warmth of my grandparents' house, which was situated just a few hundred metres from the school gates. I lived with my grandparents; my grandmother, May, was at that time in her sixties and my grandfather, Jack, was in his mid-seventies. I adored them both and they provided me with a home full of love, warmth and joy. I wanted for nothing and my home was the most secure place in the world to me. From the west facing window of my classroom, I could see the front door of our house, and periodically during the day I would see my grandmother going in and out, and at lunchtime, or at the end of the school day, I would see her peering anxiously out of the doorway, waiting for me to come home. It was a sight at the time which both comforted me and saddened me.

It saddened me because that year in school, we studied a poem in the Irish language, entitled 'Chlaon me mo Cheann', which roughly translates as 'I bowed down my head.' The poem meant so much to me. In it, the poet tells how he is passing by his childhood home and he bows down his head because he is afraid that in his imagination he will see the image of his mother waiting for him by the door, or of his father returning home in the evening from work, with a song on his lips. He is afraid that the memories of so many years will come back to him and that the sight of a stranger standing at the door will be so upsetting for him that he will not be able to contain the sadness and that he will surrender to the crying welling up inside him. It is a beautiful poem and it affected me deeply at the time. How would I cope, I wondered, when the same thing would surely happen to me in years to come? How would I deal with seeing a stranger standing at the door of this place which meant so much to me.

Thirty-six years later, on a beautiful December morning, I walk by that house again. I have not been inside it for almost twenty years, since my grandmother died. It has long been sold and 'strangers' have lived in it for all of that time. Suddenly, I see the stranger standing at the door. I pluck up my courage and tell him that I once lived there and we start to converse. He is so kind, so gracious and he asks me in. He and his wife make me a cup of tea and we talk about the house, my grandparents, myself. We talk about them too and the family they have reared there. It has been a very happy house for them. To my surprise, it doesn't feel sad to be there at all. I feel comfortable and at peace in that place. It has been a very happy home for me and for those who came after me. Neither do I feel any sense of my grandparents there. It is like we have all moved on. This house has done its job and the past is the past. I found this very interesting, because I am a person who loves the past and who can be quite sentimental and nostalgic. But, I realise that we can love and cherish the past for what it was, for the ways in which it has shaped us, and still not cling onto it. It has completed its task and it has enabled us to move on. When I did bow down my head, having left the house, it wasn't in sadness but in gratitude.

The author is teacher and lecturer and got a PhD in Mission Theology and Christology at the University of Liverpool.

** 'T WAS ANDERS De column op de pagina Reformed Daily van 20-12 was geschreven door Sean O’Callaghan en niet, zoals abusievelijk aangegeven, door Crawford Gribben.

Dit artikel werd u aangeboden door: Reformatorisch Dagblad

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van zaterdag 20 december 2008

Reformatorisch Dagblad | 35 Pagina's

I bowed down my head

Bekijk de hele uitgave van zaterdag 20 december 2008

Reformatorisch Dagblad | 35 Pagina's