It doesn’t take much to brighten my world — or cast a shadow over it. And sometimes the two are indivisible.
Which is kind of my definition of melancholy …
Just now, I was looking out my kitchen window.
Up at an occluded, going-on-dreary grey sky, and out across a going-on-dreary housing estate.
Drying my coffee cup, I noticed the three children, two girls and a boy.
All three were wearing the same navy tracksuits, the schools’s name across the back.
The younger girl, I would guess, was around six, her school morning blonde plaits perfectly tight — for now — against her head; the boy, the same age, I would say, black-haired, loud and laughing.
They were on bicycles, similar, no mudguards, thicker cross country tyres. The frame of her’s pink, his a lurid pop art apple green.
The older girl, more serious, around 10, was on a scooter … de riguer this summer, for all ages, especially those motorised ones the teenagers are bombing around on.
Quite the sight when you see them, all wearing masks, and like a murmuration, taking a turn en masse out the road.
Across the way from our corner house there is a lumpy rectangle of green grass, that no amount of trees or pretty flowers can beautify, surrounded by a narrow path, three town houses running down one side, to my left.
And the two cyclists — no helmets — had taken off, circling the perimeter.
Oh, the squeals, the howls, the laughing yelps, as they picked up speed, sometimes overshooting the path near me to whizz out onto the road — they knew there was no traffic coming — and jamming on their brakes, accompanied by that whoosh and reckless scud and slide of expensive school shoes turned sideways to parachute to a halt.
And off they’d go again.
The older girl was scooting around the same track, easily avoiding the younger pair, much more measured in her fun, but enjoying herself.
Savouring these few precious moments before the call from whoever was driving them today on the school run.
I couldn’t take my eyes of the cycling pair: circling and circling, lap after lap, for the sheer uninhibited heck of it all, his feet up over the handlebars one time as he freewheeled down the sloping part of the path to my right.
As they lapped and accelerated and freewheeled, I thought of seagulls when they stop flapping their wings a moment, and just glide and ride the wind, in effortless abandon, or so it seems, before resuming normal flight.
And I freewheel and circle with them … and with these children.
And of course, the melancholy kicked in too, as I tried to recall gliding and riding the wind of my imagination as a kid.
Full of aimless energy and fizz.
Way too much verve and jizz for ordinary walking and running, all bubbling near the surface like a lemonade can ready to explode when popped … like when you see tiny kids gathered in a loose circle, and there’s always one or two leaping on the spot, hopping on one foot, maybe catching a heel, and spinning in a circle of delight when something amuses them, which is often.
And they positively howl with glee.
And I’m thinking of that imperceptible moment when you lose that capacity for uninhibited joy.
And you spend the rest of your life it seems trying to recapture it.
And I think of Michael Stipe’s wonderful words that capture that longing for youthful abandon so simply:
“These things, they go away, replaced by everyday”
All sorts of sports and pursuits are engaged in, and fun is had, yes, but not like it used to be in those live-long Shangri-la days of childhood.
And I’m thinking of our darling K, who was the epitome of that dashing, sparkling effervescence, as she careered about.
We went to the same holiday resort near Barcelona two years in a row.
The first year, we couldn’t keep her out of the swimming pool, as she splashed and dashed about, making instant swimming buddies, even when neither spoke the other’s language. Just the common language of fun, frolicking and friendship.
And the next year, she hardly visited the pool.
Shakespeare’s words about the ultimate passing of youth come to mind:
“Even Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust”.
(From Fear No More The Heat O’ The Sun)
But I also know that joyful, funny, capering creature is still in there, and hope she finds some of that pizzazz again.
I could do with some of it myself.
But then, with age comes acceptance too, and for now I am perfectly happy to enjoy the frolics of the three across the way.
Part of the everyday too.
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