M and I were talking about them on the walk to Tooting Common on Saturday evening. We’d made a conscious decision to keep both Annabel and Joseph up for the annual firework display taking place 5 minutes walk from our house (we would regret this decision the next day when both children would be very tired and very irritable, not only from their late night but from the clock adjustment too). Apart from this, the fireworks were great.
And it was the fireworks that prompted our “indelible memories” conversation.
There are memories burned into a person’s psyche that are blurry, incomplete, with an air of “did that actually happen” kind of feeling attached to them. You’re sure they did happen but you can only catch the briefest of flashbacks with no recollection of the 2 seconds before or after.
Try it now.
Think back to waking up Christmas morning. Two, maybe three seconds pass before the realisation that it’s the Big Day begins to dawn. You sit upright, look around, crawl to the end of the bed and there, waiting patiently, is the pillowcase you hung at the foot of the bed the previous night, only now it’s full of presents.
This is all remembered in a flash; it only lasts a second or two but it is crystal clear.
I remember going to watch a firework display on Hilly Fields in south east London. Watching a football match on the shoulders of family friends. Eating rhubarb in the garden of neighbours until we were literally sick. Getting chased down an alleyway with my little brother for throwing crab apples at houses until we heard a crash. Doing a sliding tackle at the top of a steep bank in our local park, ending up in a huge nettle patch at the bottom, wearing only shorts and trainers. Getting extra dessert from the back of the kitchens at primary school as we knew one of the dinner ladies.
The list goes on but you get my meaning. We all have these memories in the old grey stuff somewhere. You don’t even have to think about them; they just pop up sometimes with the slightest of triggers. It can be a smell, a noise, a colour, anything.
On Saturday, our usually quiet local area was like something out of a film, with houses emptying of parents and children, all in Wellington boots for the muddy trek towards and the across the common, traders selling glow-sticks and sparklers, the smell of the hot dog and burger stands filling the air; the look on Joseph’s face was a picture; he was beside himself with excitement, looking behind us to see the crowds following, other toddlers giving each other questioning looks like “what the hell’s going on, I should be in bed”.
Who knows what our children’s first memories will be? Maybe Joseph’s will be the night of his fourth bonfire celebration. Perhaps the smell of a greasy burger at a football match in 20 years time will bring it all back to him.
For the record, Annabel was generally unimpressed with the whole thing. She liked the huge fire throwing bright orange embers 30-40 feet into the air but she didn’t care much for the bright flashes and bangs of the rockets. In fact she nodded off so I doubt her first memory will be Saturday night.
I think next year, we’ll have a fireworks party.
Just in case it’s next years Guy Fawkes celebrations they remember first!