Childhood, Still by Jackie Kay is a poem about the persistence of childhood memories and their enduring impact on our lives. The speaker reflects on a childhood memory of running through a field with a friend, and how that moment remains vivid and unchanged in her mind despite the passage of time. The poem explores the idea that our memories of childhood are powerful and enduring, shaping who we are and how we see the world. Ultimately, the poem is a meditation on the lasting impact of our early experiences and the ways in which they continue to shape us throughout our lives.
The sun is out and so is childhood – remember
how the summer droned its song forever.
Three small girls tumble down the steep hill.
Grass skips, gust makes their skirts frill.
A wee boy scoots towards the big blue loch.
(Full poem unable to be reproduced due to copyright restrictions)
- Metronome – a device that produces regular ticks or beats to help musicians keep time.
- Droned – a continuous, low-pitched sound that is monotonous and often repetitive.
- Gust – a sudden burst of wind or air.
- Loch – a Scottish term for a lake.
- Wee – a Scottish term meaning small.
- Baw face – a Scottish term for a big-headed person.
- Speckle – a small mark or spot that is different in colour or texture from the surrounding area.
- Tadpole – the larval stage of a frog or toad.
- Locket – a small, usually flat, ornamental case, often made of metal and worn on a chain around the neck that holds a small picture or keepsake.
- Candyman – a character in American urban legends and horror movies. According to the legend, the Candyman was a slave in the late 19th century who became a skilled painter. He fell in love with a white woman and was lynched by a mob after he was accused of fathering a child with her. Before he died, he was covered in honey and bees, hence the name “Candyman”. In the legend, it is said that the Candyman can be summoned by saying his name five times in front of a mirror. The Candyman then appears and kills the person who summoned him.
- Sandman – a mythical character in folklore who puts people to sleep by sprinkling sand in their eyes.
- Clergyworker – a person who works in a clergy or religious profession, such as a priest, minister, pastor, or another religious leader.
- Childminder – a person who takes care of children, especially while their parents are at work.
- Wheesht – a Scottish word meaning “be quiet” or “hush.”
- Toadstool – a type of fungus with a stalk and a cap, often with white spots on the top. Some toadstools are poisonous.
- Chrysalis – a pupa of a butterfly or moth that is enclosed in a cocoon or protective covering while it undergoes metamorphosis into an adult. It is a stage in the life cycle between the larva and the adult.
- Peerie – a Scottish term meaning small.
- Tig – a game that is similar to Tag or Touch in which players chase and touch or tag each other.
- Marbles – a game played with small glass balls.
- Keepie-uppie – a game in which a ball is kept in the air using the feet or other body parts.
- Kerbie – a game in which a ball is thrown to hit the curb on the other side of the street.
- Bee Baw Babbity – a Scottish children’s rhyme.
- Stotty – a type of bread.
- Peever – a game played with a ball and a hopscotch pattern drawn on the ground.
- Thread the needle – a game in which a person weaves in and out of a line of other people.
|TASK: What does childhood mean to you? Spend 10 minutes making notes on your own thoughts and memories of childhood and growing up. If you like, you can make these notes in the form of a mind map.|
STORY + SUMMARY
The sun is shining, and childhood memories flood back, with the sound of summer buzzing in the background. Three little girls are playing and rolling down a steep hill, their skirts twirling in the wind. A young boy makes his way towards the large blue loch, carrying a fishing net that is bigger than his face. It is hot, and a gentle breeze adds to the ambience. These are the days that seem to last forever, the ones that stay in our minds.
Childhood has a rhythm, like the ticking of a metronome or a speaking clock. It is like the sand timer that measures time or a time bomb waiting to go off. A boy playing ball hits a window, creating a large hole, but this is just childhood, where big things can become small, such as a petal, a freckle on a face, or a speckle on an egg. It can be as tiny as a tadpole or as small as the distance left for the ball to enter the goal. In childhood, everything is small, and children connect the dots between the events without being able to see the big picture.
The long grass rustles in the wind and, in the distance, you can hear the church bells. Childhood continues to tick and tock, like a metronome, speaking clock, sand timer, or time bomb. Suddenly, you can hear the sound made by the children’s boots on the pavement as they are picked up from school. A little boy is crying alone in a stairwell, and this is also childhood. It is not all just playing and happiness.
The Candyman caught the police officer, and the Sandman is disturbing the town’s sleep. The caretaker, teacher, vicar, clergy worker, childminder, and social worker all go about their business, quieted by a “wheesht” sound. Also, the members of the family, the aunt, uncle, father, and mother, open and close the door, dealing with their own realities.
The past keeps calling, with childhood memories still vivid like the taste of lemon sherbets or liquorice.
The clock hands continue to move slowly, and the sound of August’s rustling leaves gives way to autumn. A new friend is waiting at school, with a sparkle in her eye, eager to play Tig or marbles. They sing songs and play games, such as Keepie-Uppie, Kerbie, or Bee Baw Babbity.
Childhood should remain just that: a time of innocence, wonder, and discovery.
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