"When teenagers are tired of travelling down the path that loving parents first mapped out for them, most find ways of rebelling that mum and dad find hard to understand. A generation gap suddenly appears in the pursuit of establishing their own identity as they make their own road to the places and experiences they wish to travel.The farther from the beaten track they travel, the greater often is the concern of the parents.
I recall making my first break with home in 1963. I was 21 years old and emigrating to Canada alone. My father, who was never a man for traditional goodbyes had said his farewell the night earlier before he went to bed. He rarely gave advice so I remember clearly his words of those few occasions when he did. His parting piece of Polonius guidance was, 'Don't forget son, no work is beneath you and whatever you do for a living, do it to the best of your ability.' By the time I'd got up the next day to make ready my departure, he'd already gone in to work his day shift in a local foundry. My mother was the hardest parent to leave and as I departed and looked back, I can still see her crying in the frosted pane of the front window. She cried as though she would never see me again; tears that got mine flowing also.
As I travelled the cold Atlantic that December, for the first time in my life I knew that I was on my own in every respect. Apart from our exchange of letters, I knew that contact between me and my parents would be sparse. It was then that I reconciled in my own mind that a father is his son's first hero and the man his daughter first loves. As to the definition of a mother, she is simply all and more besides!
During my first year away from home I was often homesick. There were times I overestimated my own capabilities or failed to live up to them, and once or twice I fell flat on my face. By and large though, my two years in Canada helped me to grow up a great deal. I was to learn that attaining the age of 21 years doesn't automatically make one a man any more than being the eldest of seven children makes one a natural leader in a new land.
Then, life abroad suddenly took on new meaning when I met Jenny, a lovely girl of seventeen with beautiful long black hair who reminded me of an image of my mother at similar age. Falling in love with Jenny led me to fall in love with Canada and life in general. For a full nine months I was on cloud nine as me and Jenny courted and planned our future together. Despite being the daughter of the then British Trade Commissioner, and me being a lowly hotel desk clerk, Jenny's parents openly accepted me as their daughter's boyfriend and even welcomed a possible engagement between us. They merely expressed their wish that Jenny would complete her University education before getting married.
I still recall the third time I went to their house for tea or so I thought. I still hadn't grown accustomed to evening meals being called 'dinner' and not 'tea.' The occasion was formal and the guests were numerous people of political and commercial distinction. Their house was a large manor in acres of guarded grounds and three servants were always in residence. The hall entrance was larger than the house I'd grown up in and the formal dining table sat thirty people around comfortably. The utensils and crockery was china and silver and the guest of honour that evening was Jean Lesage, the Prime Minister of Quebec between 1960-66. It was not surprising that coming from a large family and having lived most of my life on a council estate, I felt clearly out of place. Noticing my discomfort, Jenny's mother kindly allowed me and Jenny to excuse ourselves from the company immediately after dinner.
While Jenny's parents never once tried to dissuade their daughter from planning her engagement to me, I eventually decided it would be wrong to expect her to dramatically change her standard of life as I could never hope to give her what she'd be leaving behind. So I broke off our relationship and within four months was back home in England.
Seven years after my return to England, I had become a more mature individual. Never again would I allow myself to feel ill at ease in any manner of company, nor let class or privilege separate me from the woman I loved, the places I wanted to go or the things I wanted to say and do. And yet, I know that at that time in my life when I gave up Jenny, that was the right thing to do.
Leaving home had enabled me to grow into my own man and though I returned to live at the parental abode in Windybank Estate for another three years before I married and finally moved out, things were never quite the same. I had been to Canada and back and I had loved and lost. Canada had changed me. I was a different person!
I found myself in between worlds; not being able to fit in again to either working class life or fully reconcile myself to middle class values and the ways and folk that accompany it. Before going to Canada, I had been a textile foreman. Shortly after my return, I became a mill manager earning half as much again above the average wage, with more on offer. By my marriage at the age of 26 years, I owned a brand new three-bedroomed house in a posh part of upwardly-mobile Mirfield and I seemed to have left my roots behind.
For over the next four years, I tried to settle down to living 'the good life,' but I remained unsettled. Then, when I had everything a young married man not yet thirty could want, I threw all my prospects overboard again and after securing enough GCE '0' and 'A' levels at night school at the age of thirty, I obtained a university place at Bath to read History. One month before I was due to go to Bath University, I got offered a one year course at Newcastle University (then a Polytechnic College), to train as a Probation Officer. I decided to seek fame instead of fortune and to do a job that made full use of my real identity, talents, roots and values I grew up with. From that moment, I never once looked back.
A person needs to leave home and be separated from the surround of their family and values before they understand how much both mean to them. If mum and dad are wise, they will not reject their children's right to find themselves and to make their own way in the world. Good parents will stay anchored to the family values that they have always displayed and when youthful travels have shown their children what the world has to offer them, their offspring will have hopefully grown to understand that the real worldly treasure they have always possessed is to be found within themselves and in their own back yard that they grew up in." William Forde: July 23rd, 2015.