ONCE A CATHOLIC...
IOFTEN dream about this room. It is in my own house and sometimes it is one I have not entered for a long time and other times there is a door I had never noticed before. Our house is pretty. but architecturally unremarkable. This room, when I discover it, is derelict but magnificent.
There are marble floors, ornate pillars, balconies. Huge windows let in light on carved panels and dusty gilded mirrors. Sometimes there are flowering plants which have been neglected for a long time but to my delight I see that they are beginning to bloom. Everything is broken and dusty and disordered but there is no sense of difficulty. It seems amazingly easy to set everything to rights. My feeling on entering this room is always intense elation and hope. Always. I think, "there is so much space.
How did I forget there was so much space."
Where is this place? In the dream it seems completely real and when I wake I am always disappointed to discover it isn't there. A psychiatrist who analysed this dream said it had to do with unfulfilled ambition and thought perhaps it related to my riot having children. but I often wonder if this door I open is not my own childhood.
I don't think people really grow up. We close a door when we leave childhood behind and enter other rooms in our lives, of love, marriage. business. Memories of youth mostly come back to us in terms of its emotions love and security or hurts and jealousies, but when some photograph or memento actually triggers a flashback, we are suddenly reminded of the vast spaces.
endless time and limitless hopes and dreams of childhood.
A child's world is full of treasure.. Because they are seeing things for the first time, a buttercup is not a weed, a bee is no more insect. There is no such thing as just another day. There is breathtaking excitement in visiting new places, making a journey by train, or most of all in reading an adventure story and thinking of what it would be like to be grown up, to be able to go anywhere one wanted and tackle the world on one's own terms.
It is, of course, impossible to return to childhood and people who sentimentalise their earliest years have usually failed to come to terms with adult life, but to retain a child's eye and a child's trust in the renewal of dine is a useful gift.
Nowadays I find I am always in a hurry, full of schedules and anxiety, and time seems to fly, whether I am having fun or not. Whole years disappear, in which I have failed to see some of my best friends, months vanish in which I have not had a swim, drawn a picture, planted anything in the garden. If I look back on what I have achieved in these frenzied periods. I can find very little of any great importance. Two of my best friends (wonderful old ladies) passed away and I still have the little notes asking me not to forget them (I didn't, but I neglected them). In the Gospel, there is that haunting phrase, "What is life, but a vapour that passeth away". 1 wonder if that is irony, if it our failure to live our lives and rejoice
in them, that makes them vanishing a breath of unreality. Adults spend a great deal of time doing things simply to bolster their own sense of importance. I think one reason why children have a real sense of vision and time is precisely because they don't have a sense of their own importance. They are ready to be impressed, to look and learn.
I keep hearing women my age complaining that their husbands won't give them any space. By this they mean that they are discouraging, they don't support their efforts to develop new interests, they won't listen to their ideas. I think women in general retain a better relationship with their surroundings than men but the world is full of disappointed grownups blaming other grown-ups for failing to make them happy. Someone once said that we grow up when we stop looking out the
windows of 'planes. When I took my mother abroad for a brief holiday and later asked her what she had liked best, I was delighted with her reply. "I liked drinking gin and tonic up in the clouds." she said.
Certain Indian tribes believe that our waking state is a dream and that our real lives are conducted in our dreams. For most of us, dreams are the only time when we see sights that amaze us magical or horrific ones and time stands still. But it's only our subconscious catching us without our filofax and phone and TV and reminding us sternly that we were made to be amazed, we were created for worship, we need, sometimes to stand and stare. I hope I continue to dream about the room but I hope even more that I will sometime learn to say about my own life; "How did I forget there was so much space?"