I’m one of six boys in my family … no girls, Mum and Dad couldn’t afford daughters they were far too expensive. We lived in a two-bedroom house on a quarter acre section in a rural town in the Hawke’s Bay. As kids we were terrified of one of our neighbours, an old widow by the name of Mrs Jellico. We believed Mrs Jellico had an underground dungeon, where, if she got the chance, she would drag little boys, cut them up and eat them. (One of the older brothers most likely seeded that thought).
Mrs Jellico had a beautiful Golden Queen peach tree in the middle of her back lawn, and in the summer, we would climb onto our chook house roof, peer over the corrugated iron fence and dare each other to jump down and get some.
One day I was particularly persuasive convincing one of my younger brothers that Mrs Jellico had gone out, so in fear and trepidation he climbed over the fence onto Mrs Jellico’s lawn. I was whispering words of encouragement from the safety of the chook house roof as he nervously walked towards the tree when, to both of our horrors, Mrs Jellico stepped out her back door and yelled “what do you think you’re doing”? I shouted “run” but in overwhelming fear my brother put his hands over his eyes and froze. Looking back, I think he must have thought if he can’t see her then perhaps she can’t see him. Eventually my cries to run convinced him that just standing there wasn’t a good idea, and making a beeline for the fence, he scrambled over to safety.
Looking at life, it’s not hard to see we live in a broken world where we face overwhelming situations with no idea how to cope, and, in our attempt to ‘survive,’ decide the only option available is to shut the memory out in the hope that ‘If I can’t see it, it can’t hurt me.’
Unfortunately, hiding it away doesn’t make it go away. In fact, ‘hiding it’ is the very thing that enables it to stay … and fester, soaking deeper into our soul, permeating through our lives as things like anger, guilt, shame, fear, anxiety and depression.
It’s like writing the letter ‘H’ (representing ‘Hurt’) on the palm of your hand and mistakenly thinking that by closing our hand the ‘H’ somehow mysteriously disappears. However, taking the analogy further, if, after having closed my hand I can bring myself to open it again and face the ‘Hurt’ I then have the opportunity to process the pain; replacing the ‘H’ for ‘Hurt’ with H for ‘Healed.’
Thinking back to my childhood, I wonder what would have happened if our parents had introduced us to Mrs Jellico? Perhaps, rather than fearing her, we might have become friends. Imagine how many Golden Queen peaches we could have enjoyed eating then.
Wherever possible, let’s muster the courage and support needed to make peace with our past so it doesn’t continue to infect our present.