A Pulled Thread

Amelia Mansell


scan0006.jpg

I wrote those words with trepidation. A deep-seated need to get them out, warring with my fear that I’d be wrong or that I wouldn’t remember something correctly. Mostly, I was worried that the words that spilled out of me, my attempt to wrap up something I’d loved and lost in a way others would understand, would not match my family’s experience.

Thus, the source of my trepidation. What a word: trepidation. It captures my internal balancing act so beautifully. Was it my story to share when I remembered so little? When I knew there might be lost conversations and explanations, but I couldn’t bear to tell my family about what I was doing in case they’d confuse the picture even more. Or that they wouldn’t want the story shared, and then, because we were all so intertwined, I wouldn’t be able to share my own.

For the most part it worked, that cathartic release of my own struggle with coming to recognise that I can mourn something I didn’t really understand was happening.

Now I have a new quandary. I put it out in the world, my internal scar, my beautiful childhood that I both cherish and question. And I do cherish it. There was a freedom and independence that is so different to this modern technological age. Sure, we had computers and grumbled when mum said we had to play outside, but we also knew how to make the most of a pair of rollerblades and an empty packing shed. Or an off-limits mountain of styrofoam boxes that became a hollowed out maze, complete with secret entrances and hidey holes for when the shed manager appeared.

Although I’m glad I shared my story, an email from my mum after she read the article gave me an extra piece of the puzzle I wish I’d had. She shared a memory of when I was maybe eight or so. I’d walked in on her crying in her bedroom, so worried about the farm not having enough money to keep running. She hadn’t wanted me to see her like that, but sitting together on her bed she explained why she was upset, and what was happening. Then I disappeared downstairs, and came back with a dollar coin, and said I wanted to help.

The moment I read this, it was like a gathered thread being released, letting the memories fall back into place. I remember wanting to make her happy again, to make her smile.
It isn’t a clear recollection whatsoever, and the conversation remains lost to me. As is the time she and Dad sat us down and explained the whole situation, and the potential for us to lose the farm. Some part of me must have known, but over the years I lost that, or did not grasp how serious the threat was. Memory is a fickle thing, and time can be a thief.

These are things I’ll never know, and in the grand scheme aren’t really important. It happened, and we survived. All the bad does not outweigh the good, and I cannot focus on what I lost or did not understand, but rather focus again on those golden moments. Each were gifts to cherish, despite the hardships, and we are the stronger for it.

In the email mum shared a number of Bible verses that helped her during that time. Many were familiar, but one in particular stood out – so heartbreakingly fitting.

‘Though the fig tree does not bud,
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails,
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen,
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.’
(Habukkuk 3:17-18)

In my own way I’m still finding this level of faith, learning that when life brings you to your knees you can find strength in reliance. That loss and struggle should not turn focus from the good. A memory is no less golden for having faded. More laughter has gone into wearing out my Gran’s photo albums than tears. For me this journey seems a long time coming and yet changing course so quickly. Coming to understand my own grief, the loss of ‘what if’, turning so quickly into a new lesson of strength and joy.

Since that email I’ve felt the need to write this reprise, in truth – this apology. To explain that through that cathartic outpouring that had been building up, crashing against the barricade of my own uncertainty for years, I unintentionally caused pain on my parents’ behalf. For they had explained what was happening, and what I wrote as a release was felt to them a reprimand. I hadn’t known I’d known, time and childhood have stolen that from me. A missing step in the journey. A pulled thread.

It is bitter sweet though. For as much joy and pain that my story caused there was a ripple effect, an opened door to the past we’d sealed. I regained a memory and can now look back at my childhood through its lens, while my dad found himself in the area and decided to revisit the house and farm he’d built for the first time, and discovered a local person living in, and loving, the home we’d cherished.

But it’s all part of the journey, another lesson to learn, another graft of experience. And so I grow.

AMELIA MANSELL

Amelia is an introvert with strong nostalgic tendencies. Don't question it.