Remember, remember the … errrrrr …. did I switch the gas off?

28 May

Toddler me

As a mum I spend rather too much time lamenting how quickly time passes. Memories ought to document these fleeting years, but, whilst I remember events, I struggle to conjure up memories that make me feel the recent past. It seems as if my memories of my children have been lost in the blur that has been the 4 years since they entered this world.

I had begun to believe that I had a case of advanced and irreversible baby brain. It was therefore a surprise when I started to experience moments of clarity from my own childhood. That feels odd when you can barely remember what you had for breakfast. Little things that I see, little things that my kids do more and more frequently trigger a portal into my formative years.

As we sit as a family on the sofa I am transported back to always being the one to get the middle seat (on what in those days was called a ‘settee’) between my older brother and sister. Tiny fingers on brown velour in the early days (the 70s) then bigger fingers on floral patterns as my parents transitioned from the 80s to the early 90s. To my left, my brother, capable of emitting endless noxious gases (he still is) and smelling of muddy football pitches. To my right my big sister, a grown-up in my eyes yet still demanding that I scratch her arms whilst she watches Top of the Pops.

At the gym on a Saturday morning I look down over the swimming lessons. I remember such lessons well, but what I picture above all is swimming in old pyjamas (I can even remember which ones). I had expected times to have moved on but apparently swimming in pyjamas wasn’t peculiar to the 1980s. It is clearly on the list of things a British schoolchild must endure along with country dancing and learning the recorder. I found swimming lessons traumatic enough but wrap me in waterlogged material and you’ve a recipe for vivid recollection. The smell of chlorine, rubber swimming hats and verruca socks wafts back under my nose. The roof of the poorly lit public bath looms above my head while I wait my turn to try to pick an unfeasibly large black brick up off the pool floor, eyes shut and fully clad in 100% polyester. Fumbling, billowing and, in the main, unsuccessful.

Insights into your own past can of course help you to empathise with the present. Tempting as it is to get irritated by my daughter’s compulsion to collect things and become obsessively protective of them, I am transported back to a time when I was immensely proud of my rubber collection: a plastic sweet jar full of novelty rubbers mainly collected on school trips. Most clear in my mind is the rubber in the shape of a t-shirt which came in a box designed to look like a washing powder packet. I can still invoke its chemical scent – strong enough to induce a sneeze. The joy of setting the collection out, showing it to friends, yet never letting it near a smudge of pencil.

When I despair at my kids’ reluctance to share I suddenly remember how painful it felt when a friend chose Paulette Poodle from my Fabuland collection before I had a chance to. That’s how darned big and important little things can seem when you’re a child. Counting your teddies and religiously wishing each and every one of them goodnight (in order of course) is not necessarily a sign of the early onset of OCD.

I am longing to create for my children memories that they can conjure up in 30 or 40 years’ time and feel, smell and taste their childhood. “Do you remember when we went to … ?” “Do you remember how Mum used to …?” Most important of all, I want those memories to make them feel warm and nostalgic in the same way I do when I catch those flashes of my own smaller, pudgier and easier to please self.

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6 Responses to “Remember, remember the … errrrrr …. did I switch the gas off?”

  1. Hiba May 29, 2013 at 5:26 am #

    Beautifully written as always Helen. Your article brought back my own childhood memories. Thank you! Hopefully we will manage to create these warm and precious memories for our kids too. xxxx from getting really hot Dubai

    • Crumbs & Pegs May 30, 2013 at 6:39 am #

      Thanks Hiba. I always remember you telling us about your childhood times in Baalbek. We looked for that graffiti! Xx

  2. Elena May 29, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    Brilliant! And I think my parents had exactly the same taste in soft furnishings as yours! 🙂

    • Crumbs & Pegs May 30, 2013 at 6:40 am #

      Thanks Elena. Sofas so boring these days. More DFS I say!

  3. Notmyyearoff May 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Ahh love the nostalgia in this post – my parents seriously need to redecorate. Their house screams 90s floral big time! 🙂

    • Crumbs & Pegs May 30, 2013 at 6:42 am #

      Thanks for comment! Leave it long enough and 90s floral will come back. (God forbid!)

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