The things our parents told us
If you’re following this blog, you’re probably at the age when you realise that your parents haven’t always told you the truth. I’m not talking about big secrets or conspiracies, I’m talking about those little white lies parents tell their children to make the world seem brighter, or kinder, or less confusing. The tooth fairy is a classic example. The thought of losing a tooth, of tasting blood in your mouth, of having a horrible squidgy gap in your gum, becomes much less scary when you think about the tooth fairy. ‘The tooth fairy’, my Mum used to say, ‘will be very grateful for your tooth. She will use it to build a new house, with other children’s little fallen-out teeth.’ It sounds a bit weird now, but it sounded beautiful as a child. And the tooth fairy used to bring money, too, which was definitely an advantage!
And then there was Mum’s explanation of thunder...
The weather in Europe is bizarre at the moment. I’m not just saying this because I’m English (and we tend to talk about the weather) – over the last week or so in Berlin, there have been spells of thunder and lightning and torrential rain which have lasted for hours at a time. Hearing the thunder reminds me of what my Mum used to tell my sisters and me during a storm: “Don’t worry”, she used to say say, “it’s just God moving his furniture around.” We are a Catholic family, so this made perfect sense to me – after all, who else could be making all that noise in the sky?
But then a couple of nights ago, in the middle of a particularly loud storm, I mentioned my Mum’s explanation of thunder in my Facebook status. It was then that I realised that other peoples’ parents had told them different stories. One of my German friends ‘commented’ saying that his Mum had told him the thunder was just someone playing skittles or bowling (the German word is ‘kegeln’) in the sky. I asked him who he imagined bowling up there, and he said birds, angels, and Frau Holle (a character from German children’s stories). I then asked a colleague at work the following day. She’s from England, too, and she said that she was told the thunder was Winnie the Pooh’s tummy rumbling because he was hungry!
Of course, now that I am (almost) a grown-up, I know that the real reason for thunder is something ‘sciencey.’ I don’t really understand it, but I know it’s to do with the weather, and air pressure, and shock waves. But it’s still my Mum’s explanation that springs to mind every time I hear a peal of thunder. I think of God rearranging his magnificently large sofas and armchairs; I think of God opening and closing his huge, golden, God-sized drawers and wardrobes. And I find it really exciting to think that, all over the world, other people might be thinking back to the stories their parents told them to make them feel safe in the storm.