My parents were always very strict about bed times except in the weekends when we could make it as late as we wanted. During the week we were sent to our rooms with the directive NOT to bother them again. Parents today would be shocked about this treatment as non compliance was met with a wallop and dire threats if they heard one more peep out of us. Nowadays I see tiny little children running around at midnight because their parents, having both worked all day and feeling guilty about not seeing enough of their offspring, think this is spending quality time with little Peter or Sara.Who by the way have to be in school next day at a quarter to nine sharp, the poor mites. And then they wonder why children now are so nervous and have to be tagged with all sorts of acronyms.
With a stay at home mum and a teacher as a father by 8 pm they had had enough of dealing with us so off to our bedrooms we went. We lived in the Caribbean where the sun set and rose at 6 pm every day so at least it was already dark by then. In those days reading was very much promoted so we were allowed to read as long as we liked, but no playing or talking. The latter was bad for my two brothers who wouldn’t read unless forced to so so, while for me it was lovely to have as much reading time as I wanted. But sometimes when I had nothing to read and was bored we thought of all sorts of ways to get around being stuck in our room.
One thing was to remove the glass shutters from our window, we had adjoining rooms, and sneaking out to talk to each other outside. We never went anywhere as it was just the thrill of being outside at that forbidden time . My brothers shared their room, but I as the only girl was lucky to have my own.
Another exciting thing to do was using a long string with the ends tied together to communicate with each other. Before we went to bed we made sure that in both our rooms we had one end of the circle tied down and were each in possession of a clothespin. So after lock down we would exchange written messages by attaching them to the string and circling it around until it had reached the other room. Very Enid Blyton.
It all must sound dreadfully boring in this day and age of being able to kill and maim whole hordes by pressing a few buttons on a console, but I can tell you that for us the sense of outwitting the grownups gave us a tremendous thrill. Looking back it also taught us resilience and being able to find solutions to problems. As those “adventures”made us very tired we slept like logs and went to school bright and full of energy.
My parents were actually a little bit frowned upon by their friends as being far too lenient with us. The late weekend bedtimes, being allowed to refuse to eat food that we hated, porridge, sprouts any vegetables for me, and letting us roam wherever we wanted without any supervision was not the done thing. You have to understand they were very young when they had us and I must admit a bit careless.
Looking back I am sometimes amazed we survived our childhoods. For example on New Year’s Eve my parents and most of their friend got together for a big party. We would be with about twenty children with most of us carrying shoe boxes full of fireworks of which some would be completely forbidden now as they could blow up medium sized things such as letterboxes and limbs.
Some of us were lucky to have a cigar smoking dad while others had to use mosquito spirals to light our stash. The pack of us would roam around the neighborhood throwing our firecrackers, bombs and ground-spinners indiscriminately at houses, cars and each other . Now and then sending one of us inside to get snacks and drinks while the by then quite inebriated grownups did not pay any attention to what we were up to. I can proudly say that all of us made it into adulthood with all our limbs and eyes intact. The only casualty one year was my little brother C. who got his arm badly burned. This was actually on New Year’s day itself when we all were up early, our parents sleeping off their party, to go around the neighborhood to collect all the fireworks that had not gone off for some reason or other. We then would take one of our dad’s Gillette razor blades and cut all of the leftover fireworks open and shake the powder in one heap. The idea was then to throw a lit match on it to get an enormous flash. C. was allowed to do this for the first time as his big brother had been sent of to boarding school. Well to make it short. It was a great flash but most of it engulfed his arm. We then had to wake up our hung over parents to take him to a doctor.
When I see all these children now with helmets, knee and elbow protection and constant supervision some even being tracked by electronica, I have to smile and even feel a bit of pity.
Next time I will talk of our adventures at the coast.