He who is tired of conkers, is tired of life.
What’s not to like? Those glossy, chocolatey-coloured shells covered in dew in the morning. The smooth feel of them in your pocket. Maybe I just come from a long line of conker-nuts. I remember my grandmother fondly cupping a plump one in her hands and saying, mischievously “What a beauty!” . Crazy for her to get excited about them at her age? No, not at all. When our children marvel at the marvellous and we don’t, we need to take that as a wake up call.
Because while our little ones – at 4 and 6 – glory in collecting, stroking, counting, rolling and generally competing with the nearest child over how many conkers they have amassed, the majority of us grown-ups think this is firmly in the category of ‘childhood pleasure’.
Marks of love!
“My conker has a heart on it!” my daughter shrieked at me in delight. She was right. The white ‘circle’ was actually slightly heart-shaped. Intrigued, later that morning I checked out some others and found that many of them were. Some have a flat side of course (a friend tells me they’re called “cheese cutters”….anyone know why?) and this is because they are one of twins. As you’ll see in my blogs to come, I believe our children stimulate us to think in new ways, learn new things and, put simply, to engage properly with the amazing world around us with the kind of wonder we’ve nearly forgotten.
What on earth do we do with them?
I hear you. The romance of conkers is all very well, but how many times have you slipped and nearly broken your neck on a conker? We obviously can’t keep them forever. A friend was telling me about the carrier bag of mouldy conkers she found from last year. How do we stop them becoming dry and shrivelled like prunes?
One Dad (self-confessed conker fighter in his youth), suggested baking them. Definitely hardens them, but they lose their sheen and as the wrinkles are starting to appear nonetheless, I’m thinking botox could be the only sure-fire solution! Vinegar was the other suggestion, so I’m off to try that. (Might incorporate that into my face wash if my experiment works!)
Keep the Faith
We need, of course, to let go and keep them as memories. Every year there’s new delight precisely because the season doesn’t last, and the conkers don’t keep their satiny sheen. We have to gather them ‘while we may’. And each time there’s fresh delight as we see them easing their way out of their silky white sheets.
Collect with pride!
The first big morning of conker season, we were walking to school berating the naughty squirrels for vandalising so many of the conkers. So, naturally, after drop off, I went home via the magnificent Horse-Chesnut-tree-lined parade in our park and began picking up the shiniest of shiny conkers that had barely touched the ground that morning. Why did I look up sheepishly at the passers-by in their business suits and smart jogging outfits? Why should I? Why doesn’t everyone collect conkers? As Franz Kafka below reckons, it’s far better for us than botox (and much better for the knees than jogging!).
“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”
So, what have your children helped you appreciate with fresh eyes? Please share. We have an amazing world! And remember, realising this can help keep us young.