My first real memory is a hazy one. I am lying on my back, and a dark-haired girl is waving tight plaits in front of my face. She is laughing, and I definitely like her. From there, it jumps to my first day at school. I am five years old, and my Mum is trying to get me to leave her side, to go off with a kindly lady teacher. I am afraid, though not crying, and I want Mum to stay with me. Low chairs, strange kids, and coat-hooks almost at ground level. There is a play-tent in the corner of the room, small desks fill the middle of the space, and it is all very quiet. For a while.
Not long after, we moved a short distance across the borough, and I had to go to a different school. I can recall most of what went on there, as by that time, I was almost seven years old. In between that first memory, and being able to remember almost everything since, there was a significant gap. Of course, I have never forgotten when I almost drowned; something I have written about previously. There are fleeting moments where I can clearly see my grandparents. My stern maternal grandfather, stroking an old black dog, sitting in front of a fire in the kitchen area. My grandmother, hands covered in flour, her body concealed under a huge apron. Childhood illnesses; feeling hot, covered in itchy spots, unable to sleep. Mum covering me in cold Calamine Lotion, supposed to soothe me, but making me cry out in shock from its freezing touch. I was bitten by a dog, as I tried to stroke it. It was lying asleep outside the shop of its owner, on a baking hot summer afternoon. I do not remember the pain of the bite, just the surprise that the animal was unfriendly, and the blood all over my hand.
The times that I was injured or hurt are still very fresh in my memory. Helping my Dad to wash the car one afternoon, he failed to see that my hand was in the door frame as he slammed it shut. If I think hard enough, I can bring back that moment of terror, looking at my trapped fingers, screaming with shock and pain. Out driving in the car with Mum and Dad, on the way back from a nice afternoon out somewhere. On a main road in Kent, we are involved in an accident with a large motorcycle. I can still hear the noise as he hit us, and my Mum’s scream. I could hardly see above the window, so the other details are unclear. My Dad was shouting though, and telling me to stay in the car. It is becoming obvious that pain and problems seem to take precedence where memory is concerned.
However, I have countless memories that do not involve either of these, so the last statement does not hold true. More to the point, why do I have these snapshots of memory? Why don’t I just remember it all, in great detail? That is the crux of the matter, and the whole point of this post. Where do the ‘other’ memories go? I wish that I knew. I want them all back, to retrieve them, as if on an accessible hard drive. This will have to become a series of posts, exploring the strange nature of memory: how it sometimes lets you down, and how it provides joy in recollection. I need to think about it. A lot.