Saturday, 28 March 2009

Memory

My husband was trying to explain something about memory to me the other day. Apparently all of our remembrances are false, they're not recollections of an actual event, rather of the last time you remembered it. This explains why stories are diluted and changed over the years, and why pieces of folklore, added in for the telling on various occasions, slowly with time become ingrained in the original tale.

I'm not sure how much I believe him to be honest. I have memories, mainly things I'm ashamed of, or which are so excruciatingly embarrassing that they make my toes curl up in horror, that are as clear as yesterday. But of course there are also whole swathes of months and years from which I can recall very little. We were discussing whether, for all the days out, holidays, love and stories, T will ever remember a time without his younger brother or sister, due when he will be two years and one month old.

I think back to my earliest memories.

My Mum and Dad's bed was a big old pine thing. Wasn't everyone's in the 80's? It has a gently curved headboard and footboard, and carved acorns sitting on cubes of orange wood on the four corners. The sheets were dark green. I don't think from those days to these I have ever seen dark green sheets again. I remember getting out of my bed, going into their bedroom, carefully untucking the hospital folds at the bottom end (my Mum's fussy about bed-making) and climbing over the footboard and up between my parents to snuggle in. I can't tell you how old I was, but it was young enough to be indulged. I can't even remember which house we were in, for the bed followed us until my parents separated years later. I remember the feeling though, the burrowing, the warmth, tunneling through the swathes of material to find the light and those I loved.

The culinary highlight of every childhood Christmas (based purely on the fact that my mother, by her own admission, can't cook) was a giant tin of Marks & Spencer Continental Biscuits. The tins were silver, with green and gold labels stuck to the sides, and contained thick dark chocolate coated delights, and those wafer curls you sometimes get in ice cream at Italian restaurants or at my Mother in Law's house. Each January, the last of the biscuits consumed, we'd carefully peel off the labels and repurpose the tins for something 'useful'. I remember carrying one during a house move when I was four. It was summer and the large tree in the front garden cast a dappled shadow on the driveway at Fairholme Avenue. I was looking at the patterns, moving as the tree sang in the breeze, and not at my path when of course I tripped over my own feet and fell flat on my face, the silver tin spilling its treasure of Lego pieces all over the drive. I was picked up, dusted off and made a fuss over. It was one of a series of spills for a bookish, clumsy pre-schooler off in a daydream world. I wonder even now if I wouldn't remember this at all were it not for the tin, still bashed in one corner where it hit the floor, that continued to hold our Lego for many years afterwards.

Neither incident is particularly notable, except for its clarity in my mind. My sister doesn't specifically feature in either memory, although I know she was around when we moved house. I don't remember her being brought home from hospital, I don't remember my Mum being pregnant, much more significant events. She has just always been there, without question. There is a gap between us of two years and one month.

I wonder then what T's first memories will be. 30 years from now will he sit at the table, as his own children eat home-made cake, and feel warm and secure in his earliest recollections. And will he be glad that we gave him a sibling, a brother or sister who he feels has just 'always been there'.

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