So my parents married in 1980 and my older brother was born 2 years later in 1982. By this time, my grandparents had moved into the house next door to my parents. My dad was still working for Yorkshire Water and was in a very well paid position by the time I was born in 1988. Between these years, my mum had also had a miscarriage, though this is rarely mentioned in our house these days, but I'm sure it must still affect her.
There aren't many notable events that I can recall from before I was 4 years old, though I was later to learn that my dad was having an affair at this time. My mum apparently “forgave” him, though not in any real sense of the word, and essentially still holds it against him to this day, though they never did separate.
I guess we were a little spoilt as kids – dad would always buy us toys, including a (rather impressive) train set which I always loved. Perhaps this was to make up for the many hours where he was absent due to a demanding career, often working overnight, I don't really know. Having grandparents living next door, you could always run to them when you got in trouble with mum or dad, and get spoilt all over again. My grandmother would often take us into town on the train to do her shopping, and I have fond memories of helping her out around the house and also learning to bake.
Our house was in a small cul-de-sac of semi-detached 1940s properties, and we were probably one of the last suburban generations that would (be allowed to) freely play outside for hours on end, even with the (non-JW) neighbour kids, as long as we stayed in sight.
The Kingdom Hall was within walking distance from home, about 5 minutes away, though we would often go by car as we were one of those families that was always running late and leaving things to the last minute. My granddad was an elder in the congregation, and liked by many I'm told.
I'm not sure my dad ever became a ministerial servant before this time – if he was, then I think he must have been “removed” after his affair. I never did get the full story on that, and only found out about it many years later when my mum was upset and blurted it out in a tirade against my dad. I feigned that I knew already, but in reality I was never sure of real reason they argued so much, though I always guessed there was something more.
Around this time, I do have fond memories of the congregation book study. The first I can remember was at the apartment of an elderly widowed sister (I loved riding the lift up) and where a tin of Quality Street sweets would be passed around after every group, as well as tea and coffee for the grown ups, and cold drinks for the kids. This was for a few years until this sister passed away from a long illness, and hers is one of the first funerals I still remember. The next group was at the house of a divorced JW sister, which while it was always neat and tidy, it was the sort of place with lots of decoration and “knick-knacks” that the sister would bring back from her travels, and the smell of burning joss sticks which I still associate with the book study if ever I encounter them today.
The congregation where we grew up felt comparitively “young” compared to what is seen now – there were many young parents, prams being pushed around the lobby and quite a few kids running around, though I was always at the younger end of the spectrum, and probably the youngest child in the hall for many years. The congregation had grown to such an extent that it had split in two when I was quite young, so my parents would often speak of their friends in “the other congregation” who I never really knew, but they always seem to forget that and talk about them like I did anyway.
At 7 years old, I “joined” the Theocratic Ministry School - in reality my Dad had pushed me into it and signed me up. I did half of my first bible reading, then he took over and did the other half. This was in the days when you had to write your own introduction and conclusion to the reading, and it was 5 minutes long, instead of 4.
At school, there were always about 3 other JW kids going through at the same time as me and quite a few before us (like my older brother) who had come and gone, so the teachers were well accustomed to us sitting out of religious education classes, and also from church services on Thursdays, this being a Church of England infants school.
I never really enjoyed or excelled at sports particularly, but did better in the classroom, and always was a bit of a teacher's pet usually, but I suppose also being brought up as a JW, it gave me a feeling of superiority over other “worldly” kids. I wouldn't say that I got bullied, and I tended to keep to myself and out of trouble.
There was always rivalry between my brother and myself. Likewise, being the youngest in the congregation, I was usually the one to get the jibes whenever younger ones got together for socialising. As I grew older, by the age of about 10 it became even more difficult – my older brother would go to play football with a squad of brothers on a Sunday evening, while I would be left at home and quite upset that I wasn't allowed to go. I guess I can understand now that I wasn't really old enough – my brother often came back muddy and bruised. Still, it also didn't matter that I didn't even really care for football – I still felt left out, and remember being very upset around this time, and isolated socially, which I guess many young JWs feel to one extent or another. Our family never really did very well at hospitality, and were rarely the ones to hold parties - only very occasionally and only by my grandmother.
Not only socially, but this was also a difficult time as my granddad had passed away quite suddenly, and while I wasn't quite as close to him as my grandmother, he was the first close family member to pass away, and it certainly affected my grandmother who was never really the same. Only a few years later, she herself had a long battle with breast cancer, finally succumbing to it in 2007.
For as long as I can remember, we always took our family holidays up north in Scotland. There were a few different places to begin with, including caravanning near the borders, but many years we visited the rural north of Scotland.
My dad was later offered early retirement, and a healthy pay-off with a pension. My mum had particularly loved visiting Scotland, so it was decided that the whole family would move to the north of Scotland with my dad's pay-off, and that is what we did in 1998. I have lived here since that time.
...to be continued in Part 3.