Telling the stories of our childhood is a concept that combines the ideas in my last two posts – Childhood Memories (reblogged from Marek’s blog) and Selective Storytelling. Jean Rath, in her 2012 Qualitative Inquiry article, uses a layered text approach to combine “partial memories, the stories told by parents and half-remembered dreams” and in so doing, seeks to explore ways in “narrative inheritance fashions how we create stories of self”. Important to her exploration is the fact that the stories are incomplete, requiring us to create our identities on a foundation of partial mystery.
My father passed away recently, and this prompted the family to recall what we knew – and what we didn’t know – about him, his life and his childhood. I offer here a poem that Stephen Davies wrote about his childhood.
An infestation of rats & starlings in the ceiling prompted my father to despatch our fox terrier (Dancer) to rid us of the pests. Alas he fell between the wall and the fire place and with much cursing from Dad and yelping from the dog, the fire place was dismantled brick by brick and after the dog was safely rescued, the process was repeated as the fire place was reassembled. The mission to rid the house of birds and rats failed miserably but we all had a good laugh but only when Dad wasn’t listening!
Our roof was a haven for starlings and rats
Who lived way up there away from the cats.
The screeches, the squeals, the clatter of feet,
Were familiar sounds, week after week.
Those things in the ceiling will just have to go,
Mother told Father, who did not want to know!
He thought of the problem and found a solution.
The plan was gem but it lacked resolution.
The dog was called up, he stood there aloof
Father of course shoved him up into the roof.
The dog it appeared was not fond of the dark,
Plaintively wailed, too scared to bark!
Father was livid, he started to rave,
Yelled at the dog to make him behave!
Barking and yapping the dog made a din
Atoning for what he thought was a sin.
Dog ran and he barked as the hunted fled,
While Father listened with glee from his bed.
Dog ran riot like a small ten ton truck,
Until near the chimney he got horribly stuck!
Barks turned to cries as he lay trapped,
Hoping that the rats would not counter attack!
Father was mad, his plan was in shreds
We heard him yelling so stayed in our beds!
He located the dog whimpering so strange,
Down near the floor by the cooking range.
The distance was measured with a piece of stick,
Then started the rescue, brick by brick.
Wall paper was torn, boards pulled out,
bricks were removed and piled all about.
Dog was rescued without too much pain,
But he refused to go near that roof again.
Father declared a truce after that,
So our roof’s still a haven for starlings and rats!
I chose this poem because it presents my father in the way I want people to think of him: as a creative man, with a sense of humour, who was observant of life. I know much of the background of this story, so I also know what it leaves out, the good and the bad sides of his childhood. But here, I am creating an identity, as discussed by BlogNovice1 (sorry, I don’t know your name!) in Careful Curating, which involves deciding what to present and what to omit. It is an incomplete snapshot into someone’s childhood memories, yet as Jean Rath says, our personal stories are always based on some degree of mystery.