The bedroom was seriously cold… I had left the window open all day and all night and the temperature has struggled to get above freezing lately. I smiled… because that is exactly how I like it. I don’t care for a nice, warm bedroom…just a warm bed in which to snuggle and the electric blanket warms the bed nicely. I suppose it harks back to my childhood, ‘when I were a lass’ in Yorkshire.
Without wishing to sound like the famous sketch, life was very different then and although I saw it from a number of angles, the relative poverty of the north was stark then in comparison to life in the ‘soft south’.
When I was born, one set of grandparents lived in a big house where a housing estate has now taken the place of the croquet lawn and tennis courts, while the others had a cosy family home opposite the mill where Grandma worked at the looms. Regardless of the difference in social standing, neither home had any form of central heating but drew their warmth from coal fires. My mother and I moved into married quarters in the south while my father was stationed abroad. Life in the south was considerably warmer.
Visiting friends in the area, the child that I was found it fascinating that all the rooms were warm… all the time! And people had toilets downstairs as well as upstairs bathrooms! In later years, back in Yorkshire, I was to live in houses with neither heating nor hot water nor bathrooms… there were still many homes that shared a toilet at the end of the street or used the privy at the bottom of the garden.
My last bedroom as a girl was very cold in winter. I had to dress in layers for bed, cuddle a hot water bottle and often woke to icicles inside the windows. There is not a day goes by that I am not grateful for central heating and indoor toilets. Or hot showers, when I think back to one fateful winter in France when the water supply froze underground for six weeks and the icicle that grew up from the shower drain one night was nearly six feet tall.
I suppose that is why I prefer a cold bedroom these days… though not quite that cold! What you are accustomed to as a child unconsciously forms both lifelong habits and a measure against which the future is held. Warmth and a decent bathroom are still amongst my biggest priorities and luxury, for me, is being able to have a hot bath on demand…or choose a cold bedroom.
It is not just habits of living that are formed in childhood though, we form habits of perspective too. As children, we have little control over our environment and simply accept the world-according-to-grown-ups. Like it or not, even the most liberal-minded parent will unconsciously indoctrinate their children to some degree, seeking to arm them with the tools they deem necessary to operate within their social sphere, whatever that may be. In later years, we either continue to accept what we absorbed, or will question and rebel against it. Either way, that early conditioning plays an important part in who we become and how we view the world. The child’s perception of the world is the foundation upon which that of the adult is built.
It is widely known these days that a difficult or traumatic childhood will have an impact on adulthood. We don’t tend to think so much about how our ‘normality’ in childhood shapes us as adults. Sinichi Suzuki said that “children learn to smile from their parents”, but we also learn to judge and define our world from the same source. Outmoded beliefs and behaviours are passed down in this way, just as much as human values and moral codes. At some point, we are likely to catch ourselves doing or saying something that reminds us forcibly of those who raised us.
Whether we have chosen the paths of acceptance or emulation, or a more rebellious route, we are continuously and unconsciously reacting to the events, people and conditions of our early life. Many of our tastes, beliefs and opinions are defined by those years, as may be our ambitions, standards and dreams. Right down to the small things, we can feel the echoes in our own behaviour. From keeping the bedroom tidy, just in case the doctor calls… even though they no longer make house-calls… to whether we are frugal or spendthrift, keep the eggs in the fridge or at room temperature…or prefer cold bedrooms. The habits of behaviour are seeded early, and we rarely think to question where they originated.
It is an interesting exercise to take one or two of those habits and trace them back, trying to find their point of origin and how we have reacted to them. It is even more interesting to take the habits of thought and track them in the same way, especially as it is these that form a large part of the person we show to the world. Once we realise how they began, we may wonder why we continue to perpetuate them. We may even begin to ‘change our minds’, seeking to face ourselves and the world on our own terms, making conscious choices, acting instead of bowing to reaction.
For most of us, there is a moment during our teens when we realise that we wish we were free of parental control… yet as soon as we think we are, we recreate or rebel against the life they gave us. Understanding and accepting who we are and why we are who we are, does not mean we have to change everything, nor does it mean we can cast blame or responsibility on others. What it does is gives us a choice.
We can choose to smile when we see ourselves doing something exactly like our grandparents did when we were young, conscious of the connection to our heritage. We can choose to discard that opinion that was never really our own and cease to be ruled by it…especially when it was about who we are or who we could become. We can recognise why a cold bedroom feels right and yet we are free to turn on the heating. Who do we want to be? The choice, like our destiny, is ours to make.