“The Cellar’s Echo,” by Huberta Hellendoorn: A Child’s Experience of War: Link to a short story broadcast on Radio NZ

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“The child on the staircase imagines a secret place with walls so thick she cannot hear the guns and no windows through which she can see the dead bodies.”

Imagine if you will, a seven year-old girl sheltering with her family in the cellar of their house as war rages in the streets outside. What does she feel?

Huberta Hellendoorn’s The Cellar’s Echo vividly recounts her own childhood experience in Holland during the last days of World War II. And who could have imagined that 50 years later she would make a remarkable re-connection with that fearful past?

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Huberta at kindergarten (“We started school at 6 years old but because my birthday was in October I had to wait until August of the next year before I could start school.”) Photo: Supplied

The first Palm Sunday celebration after the war, which was held on a Saturday). Evidence of war damage still to be seen. (Huberta says this photo may have been taken by a newspaper.)

A photo taken by Huberta’s family GP, Dr JB Thate, whose sons Henk was her classmate.Photo: Supplied

Fear, dread, horror? These are powerful and primitive human emotions all children experience. We all fear the dark, the unknown thing under the bed, scary pirates from a movie. But these are products of our imagination, however real they may seem.

(To read more, and listen to the short story, please follow the link below…)

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/standing-room-only/audio/201822985/the-cellar’s-echo

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“The Guardians of Childhood” Books by William Joyce, article by Kirsteen Mclay-Knopp

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The Guardians of Childhood is a series of children’s picture books and novels and the inspiration for DreamWorks’ Rise of the Guardians adaptation. The books are written and illustrated by author William Joyce, whose other works include George Shrinks, Santa Calls, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, and the much loved Rolie Polie Olie series, which has earned Joyce three Emmy awards.

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A luminous new book series from William Joyce that redefines the icons of childhood: Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, the Man in the Moon and many more. Published by Simon & Schuster, these books explore the mythology of childhood legends through vividly illustrated picture books and chapter books for young adults. In November of 2012, the series became an animated feature film from DreamWorks Animation:Rise of the Guardians.

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We at “The Forever Years” love this series and the movie, because they epitomise the “magic of childhood”, the magic of “believing”.    Many parents and carers disagree about the benefits to children of believing in characters such as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny and those of Christian faith often feel that the latter two detract from the true meaning of the festivals they represent.  Leaving these arguments aside, however, the “magic of childhood” is a universal concept.  We all have childhood memories of times which seemed “magical” or, perhaps for want of a better description, times filled with warmth and family, positive surprises and wonder.  Most people have at least one such childhood memory, no matter how good or bad their other childhood experiences might  have been.  As adults, we are tasked with “paying the magic forward” and creating opportunities for our children to see that the world can, indeed, be an amazing and wonder-filled place.

The character of “Pitch Black”, who represents “the bogey man” or “monsters under the bed”, is a generalised depiction of childhood fears coming to life.  He also seems to represent adult cynicism, a loss of the “wonder” of childhood.

Pitch is everything a child fears, and he thrives on the fear of children, taking a cruel delight in turning their pleasant dreams into nightmares. But what Pitch hates is when children overcome their fears and don’t believe in him, particularly when parents tell their kids that the Boogeyman is just a bad dream. 

http://riseoftheguardians.wikia.com/wiki/Pitch_Black

In many ways we adults are the “Guardians of Childhood”.  We choose how much cynicism, apathy or sometimes downright defeatism and lack of self-belief we impart to our kids, which in turn effects their outlook on life as they grow into adults… including their belief in themselves and their ability to influence the world around them.  While childhood, and life in general, cannot be perfect or ideal all the time, striving to keep a sense of hope and wonder in our children’s “forever years” is giving them a gift which will stay with them throughout their lives… and which they will “pay forward” to their own children.

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Names, Dates and Places: Preserving our Heritage for Future Generations, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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Last night my husband and I went out to my mother-in-law’s place.  Valda, my mother-in-law, has recently lost a great deal of her sight and she had a large box of unlabeled photographs, spanning generations, which she wanted us to attach names, places and dates to, as much as she was able to tell us, before her sight deteriorates to a point where she is unable to see the pictures.  We managed to get through about a third of the photographs in the box, so there will have to be a couple more sessions.

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Dawn aged 3, Owen aged 7 and Valda (my mother-in-law) aged 5 years, Tuapeka Mouth, South Otago, Aoteraroa/ New Zealand, 1943

I really love the photograph above, it was one of the ones we labelled last night.  The girl on the right is Valda, my mother-in-law, and the other two children are her siblings.  This photo was unlabeled, but Valda’s sharp memory filled in the details.  I am going to frame this one and put it where our four children can regularly see it: children thrive on a sense of connection across generations, as well as an understanding that all adults, even grandparents, were once children, that a common point of humanity is that we all pass through “forever years,” our childhood years, which are so vital in shaping the men and women we become.  I love that Valda’s face, in this picture, is very recognisably her, we can see 76 year old Valda in 5 year old Valda and vice versa.  One of my sons (aged 8) recently asked me  why people all “have their own face?”.  I said that otherwise we’d get everyone mixed up, if we all looked the same.  This is true across generations too, just as it is also fascinating to observe family resemblances.

So I urge everyone out there to do the following things:

  1. If there’s an older relative in your whanau/ family who has lots of unlabelled photographs, team up with him or her and write down as much as you can of the stories behind the pictures.  It’s really worth the investment of time and you learn so much.
  2. Wherever possible, make NAMES, DATES and PLACES the priority.  Sometimes dates have to be “guesstimated” from the ages of children in the photographs… a guess at a date is far better than no date at all.  You can put, for example, c. 1943 if you’re not sure of the date exactly.    The “c” means “circa”, around.
  3. Don’t ever throw out photos, especially those with people in them, even if you’re unsure who the people are.  Once they’re gone that’s it.  If you don’t know who someone is, put a question mark or “unknown”.  Sometimes these things are discovered years later and in unexpected ways.
  4. If you find storing lots of old photographs or albums difficult (the biggest problem is usually space) take them to your local archives and records office (preferably once you have labelled them as much as possible).  This ensures that they will be kept safely in archive boxes (and avoids the risks of such things as fires or floods in private homes) and also, as the roots of the family tree spread out, it means anyone who wishes to can access their tipuna/ ancestors… so those who have particular interest in the family history are free to follow it.
  5. With photos from the pre-digital era, it’s often good to scan them or copy them or otherwise back them up.  There should never be only one copy of any picture.  This, again, also gives options to different branches of the family if people wish to display older family photographs, anyone who wishes to can.
  6. In the present:  time passes quickly and we always think we will remember things… and then don’t.  If you print out any photographs, label them with (again) names, dates and places.  If you have pictures stored on your computer, store them in files with dates and places, for example, “Christmas Holidays 2014,, South Otago”.  It’s always better to provide too much information, if you’re unsure, than to leave a blank.

Children (and people generally) are interested in their ancestors and history at different times in their lives and some will always have more interest than others.  It is important to leave a clear legacy: often it only takes a moment to scribble down a date. It’s all part of providing our children with the rich tapestry of how they came to be here, now.

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