I am the eldest of four sisters. My father and mother had been married for just 6 weeks when he sailed with the Welch Regiment toIndia. He returned in 1945 and I was born in 1946, in Kingston on Thames. Soon 3 others were born, and we spent most of our childhood in Maidstone Kent.
Looking back, I can see now that post war England was bleak and austere in comparison with today. But we didn’t know that, and we were happy.
In those days, Maidstone was a small rural town, surrounded by hop fields and apple orchards and the North Downs. We had a long garden in which my father grew most of our vegetables and we kept chickens and ducks, which afforded us a lot of amusement as well as a steady supply of eggs. Behind the house, the ground sloped away over allotments down toward the river Medway. On the opposite side was a church with a tall spire and often on a summer evening we could hear the sound of bells floating over the valley. However, we came from Brethren stock and walked the mile or so down the hill, over the bridge and round by the high walls of the prison to the plain little meeting hall, designed by my father. It’s still there, but now called an Evangelical Free church. Being Christian was central to our family identity.
When we get together now, my sisters and I recall those far off days with a mixture of nostalgic affection and amazement at our quite narrow and naïve upbringing; but also with huge thankfulness. Our parents were quite strict but we always knew we were loved. We had little in the way of material possessions; my clothes were hand me downs from my cousins, and by the time they reached my sisters were fairly worn out! My mother was a gifted woman in lots of ways, but needle work was not one of them and I think she was often at her wit’s end to know how to keep us adequately clothed. Consequently we had not the vaguest clue about dress sense. But as we lived in jeans most of the time, it didn’t matter. We lived on roller skates and bikes, mucked out the chicken house, and got roped in by Dad to help when he wanted to change the wheels on the car. I also helped him build a garage. Femininity? I don’t think I encountered the word until I was about 14!
But we were always laughing. Yes, we did a fair bit of crying too I suppose. A houseful of girls is never going to be a place devoid of emotion! We had huge arguments and fights, and competed noisily and energetically, as we made up games, and slipped into being different persona for hours. We could be horrible to each other, but then if someone outside dared to criticise or hurt one of us we would close ranks and vigorously defend each other.
When I left home to go to college in London, I missed my sisters like crazy. One by one we left, went on to further training, got married and had children. We had had our rebellious moments, but we all married Christians and have all stayed with our husbands. Nearly all of us have reached our 40th anniversary!
Now we are all grandma’s.. When I turned sixty, we got together for a weekend and enjoyed it so much we have been doing it ever since. We love meeting, exchanging news about our families, books, and sometimes shoes and clothes and jewellery. We shop, go for walks, eat too much, drink loads of tea and coffee, watch DVD’s and drink champagne! This last weekend, we were at Sue’s house in Ashford, and we went to France on a day trip. It was raining, but when has that ever been a problem for 4 women in a shopping mall? I can highly recommend Le Citie Europe inCalais. Also the retail outlet in Ashford is awesome!
As the news broke last week about the riots and looting in some of our major cities, I was so thankful for parents who loved God, loved each other, and loved their daughters. We were given boundaries and yet had freedom; we were poor yet rich by today’s moral standards; we were smacked when naughty but knew we were loved. Now we are all parents, and grandparents, but our families have all been raised with similar values, and much prayer.
God invented family; “he is the Father from whom every family on earth derives its name” Ephesians 3v14. I think it pleases him a lot when our families love each other and perpetuate that love from one generation to another. Strong Christian families are the glue which can hold society together, and the sad state of our nation has a lot to do with the fragmentation of family life.
Don’t under estimate the power of a loving, God fearing family.