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Lenten Lands

My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis
  • By Douglas Gresham
Product Description
Chapter OneMeThe candle flame stood tall and unmoving, creating its own small pool of light in the darkness which seemed to surround me. I saw almost nothing else; the candle, the coffin upon which it stood and the low overhanging branches of the yew tree which were to shelter the grave. I stood staring down at the coffin until the Vicar moved directly in front of me to perform the ritual which would bring to a definite end the second part of my life. Father Head said his words, and the coffin was lowered gently into the earth by men whose faces were revoltingly impassive, smooth and professionally respectful. How I loathe funerals! On that day in November 1963 there was a bitter stillness about the world; for the second time in my life everything I knew, everything I held dear and the one person I loved had been swept away.At that point I had no parents, no home and no hope. The winding path of life that had led me to this place and this time had provided strange contrasts and strange similarities in the pattern of my environments. There was always a House, for example; not just a house though, but a distinctive house, one which stood out from its neighbours, different and aloof although neglected and sadly in need of repair. In America, my father's, W.L. Gresham's, choice was a tall, gracious, white, pillared structure of three stories. In England, my stepfather; C.S. Lewis, lived in a two-floor red brick monstrosity which had grown more by accident than by design. I loved both these homes. There were other parallels, too; there was always a lake. The Endekill Brook, in upstate New York, was dammed by a small wall of stones and formed a wide pool. In Oxford there was a disusedclay-pit in the wood, deep and still, filled with the strange mystery that still water and its denizens seem to weave about themselves. Then there was the wood itself, the trees so alike and yet so different. Pines in rows in Staatsburg, broken here and there by dogwoods and maples. In Headington there were sycamores, oaks, birches and beeches all mixed together in the higgledy-piggledy fashion so typical of an English wood, and at the top of the hill a grove of larches. I was always surrounded by books, too, books and writers, and the wide and lively conversation which seem to be their hallmark. My stepfather's funeral really was the beginning of many things as well as the end of so many others, and I am beginning to realise that every point in one's life at which one loses everything is far more a beginning than an end, for one has lost merely the past, and one has yet to gain the future, and eternity itself. On that morning, the 26th of November, 1963, I was just eighteen years old.I was born on the 10th of November, 1945, in the city of New York. The Gresham family then consisted of my father, William Lindsay Gresham, my mother, Helen Joy Davidman Gresham, my brother, David Lindsay Gresham and myself. At some stage during the first two years of my life, the family moved to Ossining, New York, where we lived for a while. Of that time I have no memories.My first recollections are of the beautiful house and estate at Endekill Road, Staatsburg, New York (about seventy-five miles north of New York City), and of the forests and fields which surrounded it; dark, cool pines, welcoming gentle dogwoods and majestic, towering maples lent their shade and their beauty to my childhood. I firstremember being alive at about the time that I was three years old, and the Staatsburg home was a heaven for a little boy, teaching from the very beginning the meaning of beauty. Hot summers, the long dusty days frequently split apart by electrical storms with awesome power of sound and spectacle, dramatic autumns as the maples changed from silent dark greens to mellow gold and then to shrieking soprano reds before dying away through vermilion to brown and finally sighing into the annual little death that, for trees, is winter. The thick blanket of snow which brought the sleep of winter to the woods and meadows brought delight and excitement to a child, as well as sleds, toboggans, snowmen and snowball fights and the quiet, strangely holy, snowbound Christmas. For the little boy who became me, winter meant just two things: snow first and then Christmas, the one leading as if by decree to the other. And then, after Christmas, one simply waited for the thaw and the riotous exuberance of spring, as the sleeping world exploded into vibrant glowing life. I loved that place, and there live within me still the shocks of one or two incidents so breathtaking that the very memory of them even now seems to stop the world. Standing, for example, on the first-floor balcony of the large, decaying mansion that was our home and looking down into the heavy, warm darkness of a summer evening to see a carpet six or seven feet deep of millions of fireflies. They flew about three feet from the ground at the lowest to about ten feet up and appeared as a layer of flashing, winking, starlike lights. Once I came face to face with a doe and her fawn in the forest, and it would be hard to say who was the morefrightened! A wonderful place for a little boy to grow, but all worldly Edens have their serpents, and mine was no exception. Outside, in the kindliness of nature, the world of this early part of my childhood was mostly a peaceful, fascinating land of many delights and some good and healthy terrors, snapping turtles and copperheads, for example, but indoors, as I passed from the age of three on towards six and...
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    Product Specs
    • SKU: 9780060634476
    • Manufacturer: Harper One
    • ISBN 13: 9780060634476
    • ISBN 10: 0060634472
    • Language of Text: English
    • Publication Date: 11/25/2003
    • Format: Paperback
    • Author: Douglas Gresham
    • Page Count: 256
    • Width: 5.15 inches
    • Height: 0.66 inches
    • Length: 7.76 inches
    • Weight: 0.03 pounds

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