I have a ridiculous memory. I can remember daft things from years ago that make me laugh or cringe or cry. This is both a blessing and a curse.
The first time I read a particular book, heard a song, met a person. The overlaid memories of repeatedly driving a certain route, visiting a shopping centre, walking through the park.
I can remember sitting on a ride-on car and scooting past tall packing boxes in the cellar of the house we moved into when I was eighteen months old, and out of before I turned three.
My memory is causing me problems at the moment, as I’ve brought my baby daughter down south to spend a last week with my mother before I start back to work full time. We moved to this house in 1984, and I can remember the day we moved in. (I got a new book and had a whole box of Maltesers to myself!)
When I look around, each room is overlaid with its past existence, and as I’m feeling a bit emotional about the return to work, the memories are particularly strong.
At 3am I was sitting in the large back bedroom where my daughter is sleeping (or not) and I could see it in all the incarnations I have known. The spare room where the door was hinged so that it opened awkwardly into the room. My grown-up bedroom that I moved into when I turned ten, with the door rehung, a raised Stompa bed and matchy-matchy dusty pink Laura Ashley wallpaper, curtains, and bedding. The bedroom it became, wallpapered with posters of footballers and teen crushes. The bedroom my younger sister moved into when I left for university, painted sunny yellow and featuring a growing collection of gig tickets. The bedroom it is now, still sunny yellow, but with absolutely bare walls for the first time in 20 odd years.
Today I spent time with a friend who moved in across the road 6 months after we moved in, and whose family moved elsewhere in the town over ten years ago. She’d not been to this house since 2001, but said how strange it felt driving into the road, as though she expected to see us all suddenly younger. I said that it was exactly how I felt when I round the corner on the walk back from the station, that I still expect to see our bikes left in a heap on the grass, and hear a football being kicked repeatedly against a garage wall while a radio plays the Top 40 chart. I can remember us sitting on my bed on New Year’s Eve 1989, and talking about where we would be in ten years for the Millennium, and making promises to be in the same place (we weren’t). Now we both have babies of our own, and both have moments where we’re not quite sure how we got here.
Several years ago, I told my mother about a recurring dream that I tend to have when I’m particularly stressed. I’m in a dark room, and lying in something that feels like a basket or a hammock. I can hear the sounds of a party going on outside the room, a low buzz of voices and occasional laughter. The door opens, and someone comes in and bends over me, and I feel a wave of love.
This dream is actually my earliest memory, it’s of being in my carrycot at one of the many expat parties that my parents went to overseas.
So when I’m leaning over my wakeful daughters cot at 3am, I’m trying to project that wave of love and safety. Because I can’t imagine (at 3am) anything more important than my daughters first memory being one of love.