No, I am minded to believe you should remain firmly rooted in the present, making new experiences and not reliving old. I believe that to ruminate on one’s past is a useless pursuit, should you possess the happy ability to ignore it.
It was an odd day.
Our usual bridge over the River Thames was closed and we were forced to follow my childhood route down to our cottage in Kent, through some grim areas of South London. And from thence skirting the dismal Medway towns, where Magwich had the ill luck to find himself banged up in a prison hulk.
My childhood was certainly not all bad and those bits of it which were, were the result of parents who, in retrospect, lacked wisdom and self awareness.
Nothing awful happened but childhood, in retrospect, consisted of endless and heated disputes between two deeply foolish parents, one of whom (my father) suffered from bi-polar depression.
My mother was, well, deeply unwise. Almost everybody was deemed “common”, even though she herself was the daughter of a humble shopkeeper from the Victorian seaside town of Ramsgate. Her father was a groundsman, gassed in the First World War, who lingered on awhile, until the bracing seaside air was no longer a match for the mustard gas poisoning his lungs.
My mother managed to wreck her relationship with so many people around her, especially as she grew older, and as children we were expected to join her endless crusades against our father and others who had earned her displeasure. These included both her own siblings and those of my father and thus, eventually, we ended up cousin- less and alone.
Early girlfriends were described as “gold diggers”, although what gold there was to dig remains a mystery. In my adult life, my mother spent 30 years making herself almost invariably unpleasant to my wife and her family, and managed to gang others up in like cause.
My father, as well as being mentally fragile, had never taken the advice of Mr Micawber, and I spent many of his later years trying to repair the damage. Sorting out Lloyd’s losses and cutting up his credit cards were unfortunate features of the closing years of my relationship with him.
At the end, we were terrified of having to sell up under the pair of them, but happily the last of their lives was seen out under the selfless care of a younger sibling, who looked after the aging, sick (and impoverished) couple for almost a decade. Together with her cheerful and enthusiastic husband.
That I cared for my parents is evidenced by the fact I did not desert them, but I did myself and my wife great harm in the process.
For the troubles never really ceased, even after their death, and if ever a case of learnt behavior was to be seen, I did not have far to look.
And so back to today where, in one of the less salubrious parts of the never prosperous Old Kent Road, I pointed out one of the many spots where my mother had jumped out of the car, in the middle of some pointless and bitter dispute with my father.
They were always looming, those feuds, and I would dread the next storm during the rare quieter periods. My father was not an easy man and trips down to our holiday home on the Kent coast were inevitably cursed by tailgating, speeding and loud, often vicious rows with my mother.
Being forced to take that childhood route again, all those old and unwanted memories returned. On one occasion my mother even switched the car engine off while my father was hurtling along the motorway we drove today.
I disappeared to Tokyo for a year in 1986 and spent many years abroad after that, wandering from various ports of call in the Far East to the glories of beautiful Switzerland. Perhaps I should never have returned and certainly I should not have visited my home country in all those years of trailing around chasing my tail. But I dutifully trogged back, more fool me, and all too often.
And here I am aged 63, living in the same village as my deceased parents. But I have always loved the area and its great natural beauty; eventually, home it had to be. Enough of Norman Nomad.
My wife’s family are quiet and civilized, thank god, and in recent years that has meant a lot to me, as I have had to cut off from most of my own relatives, who remain hell bent on recreating the glories of their forbears.
My wife’s family don’t stab each other in the back. They do not accuse each of theft or treachery. They are just pleasant, normal people, even if, mostly, they are taken straight from the pages of a Jane Austen novel. Although, god knows, my mother in law can never have thought of me as Darcy. They do not embark on crusades of vileness and pointless, unthinking vendettas.
So, no, where at all possible, I try not to look back. My wife and I try to make new memories, to enjoy new and different things each day. I do not keep any photo albums and while I bear my parents no real grudges, I do sometimes wonder how much my childhood and early adult experiences contributed to my black negativity throughout the years.
So to hell with the past. Seize the day and don’t look back lest, like Lot’s wife, your memories turn you to a pillar of salt.