Tag Archives: memories

Through a Child’s Eyes

Right now I’m home-home… in Malawi for a family Christmas. I’m back in my old room, that repository of my childhood and coming-of-age, surrounded by the bric-a-brac of my life pre-London. There are old trophies, posters, bits of poetry and my diaries, including one that I wrote when I was 11. It has details of schoolwork, friendships, fights (girls love a good bust-up) and adventures, mostly on my bike.

But interspersed with updates on my baby brother’s progress (he’s sitting! He’s grown a tooth! He’s walking!) there is a thin sliver of my country’s story. On my list of things to look forward to in 1994 I had multiparty elections at the the top of my list. In passing, I mention an army strike, the President getting seriously ill, conceding the elections, and our first democratically elected president under a multiparty system. It’s all in the background, the backdrop to a breathless account of an 11 year-old’s life. I don’t remember all of the details, but I remember the tangible feeling of excitement in the air and the sense that voting was an amazing, transformative, special thing. It’s part of the reason that I always do.

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All God’s Children need travelling shoes

Maya Angelou died today and I’m not sad. Well… a bit sad. There are some lights in this world that leave us poorer without them. She is one of those.

And yet, upon her death, I find myself struck by how much she gave the world. Her words, her voice, will outlast her. Her poems will continue to enlighten and inspire young girls (as I once was) the world over. Her life was so rich, so layered, so well lived that it seems almost churlish to demand why we couldn’t have had longer with her.

Her family’s statement stressed that she died at peace, in her home, without any loss of her faculties. That is a fine end to a life lived with such passion and wisdom and courage.

I first encountered her work like so many others, through her poetry and specifically her poem, Phenomenal Woman. An awkward 13 year-old, I learnt it by heart and recited it to myself to exhort myself to be braver, bolder, more confident. I read all her books, poetry, essays – I devoured her work. Just two days ago I started on her latest memoir, Mom and Me and Mom. I read the introductory page and stopped, arrested by her words:

“This book has been written to examine some of the ways love heals and helps a person to climb to impossible heights and rise from immeasurable depths”

I couldn’t go on. I wanted to savour that thought, as always with Dr Angelou, so succint and beautiful and elegant and wise. I’ll read the rest eventually. Right now I’m a little buffetted by love and I don’t think I can cope with it. But I will.

Rest in peace, Maya Angelou. Thank you for your words, which will warm us for the ages.

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