Tuesday, 22 October 2013

looking back

What's your earliest childhood memory?

A friend of mine has a freakishly early memory of pulling himself up to stand by holding on to a radiator, which was HOT!  But I guess that's a story he'll have heard a lot, and the pain must have helped him remember, right?

My brother, me, and my friend.  I wish I still had that outfit!
I don't remember anything from that long ago, but my earliest memory is from a long time ago.  Often it's difficult to know if a memory is really a memory, or if it's just something you've been told, or seen pictures of (and thanks, by the way, to my Dad, who provided all these pictures), which you've made into a memory.  My earliest memory is something I know to be my memory, because my Mum didn't remember it, but she checked and found it to have been true.

I'm giving it some build up here, which is unfortunate, as it's really not that interesting.

My earliest memory is of being 'round at my neighbour, and best friend's house, when I was about 3.  We were playing with a toy/model Aga.  I didn't know, but her parents had just got an Aga, and they'd got this one too... but it wasn't a toy.  And that, I'm afraid, is the end of the memory.

I have no memory of this, and yet it was in my house, and
I think that's me at the back.  Is that you there Lucy?
It's funny isn't it?  What we remember.  Sometimes I have thought to myself 'I am going to remember this night out for the rest of my life', only to discover the following morning that I can't remember how I got home.  Other times memories stick, no matter how mundane.

Our history, like all history/herstory is made up of the snapshots we remember, embellished with stories, sights, smells, and feelings.  It doesn't always matter if they're true, so long as they feel true.  The time my flatulent Auntie apologised for farting will always be hilarious, because of its break from normality.  Whether she said 'oooh, excuse me!' seems unlikely, but it is none-the-less true.

Smells, of course, seem to be directly linked in to memory, so it's great that fashions in scent are always changing.  I am glad I don't smell much Fahrenheit anymore, because it takes me WAY back.  I also never seem to smell Spiritual Sky Patchouli, although I would love to... but not so much I'm going to buy any, because it wouldn't smell authentic.  The patchouli was overlaid with menthol cigarettes, and lack of laundry facilities, and stale cider, and seaside walks.  Those days are gone.

Grandma Lydia and I.  Is that you in the background, Ruben?
Now I get the smells of warm, dozy children, Grandma Lydia's chocolate cake being baked again, and Kenny's smelly trainers after his run.  But who knows what smells will drag me back to this time in the future?  

Of course, when we're passing our stories on, then smells aren't going to cut it.  We rely on photos, stories, and objects passed down.  My Uncle Ian has been rather fabulous at finding out some of my family history, and it's really important we do that.  Why?  Because we shoudlnt' think of the past as simply populated with military men and Kings.  People lived out their real lives.  What was it like for the normal people living out their lives while the Cousins War rattled on?  Or indeed, before we had the safety net of the NHS?  We need to know these things, so people cannot fool us into believing things that are just not true.  Wars and Kings are important, but they don't keep the home fires burning.  Let's all tell our histories/herstories, and we can understand the world a bit better, and at least imagine the smells they would smell.

I'm going to be looking back at the stories of some of the women in my family soon.  Have you got any good herstories in your family?

This is the latest post in my series inspired by Fat Mum Slim's post on 50 things to blog about.  You can find the rest of them here.

Some other posts you might like are: