Monday, September 8, 2008


What can I possibly say about this? I don’t remember a thing. I’m guessing I’m three or four here (years, not Ridiculous Kiddie Hairdo levels), but other than that, I have only heresay to go on. Heresay about my life.

What I know is that this was the garden in which I spent all of my childhood. There were footballs, there were paddling pools, there were endless washing lines of shirts and pants. My parents must have moved here around 1966, when the spawning cosmos of the world into which I would be haplessly thrown was, like my Mum’s herbacious borders of the 70s (behind me, phantom unborn, resplendent against the fence), an imperceptibly fledgeling monstrosity of the senses.

Why am I sat here on this ball? Likely, because I was told to. It’s hard to tell, but it doesn’t look particularly sunny and I have no recollection whether this day, above all others, was one which my post-embryonic facility to spray endless showers of foul muck into my underpants diminished sufficiently to warrant the reward of a photo, but, nonetheless, here I am. Sat on a ball in limbo.

So, I wondered. What’s the first thing I remember? Anything prior to about 1968 is a splurge of wifts and wafts — a polyshimmer glimmer of ‘having been carried’. Tales passed down and shoved into eyes and earballs as truth. But surely I must have been conscious? Surely something struck me, as something striking me, that I noticed, as me, noticing?

Lots of things, I remember, but not with such certainly I can’t be sure they weren’t painted in later. Did I really sit on the porch outside my front door watching Dawn Sidwell ride her tricycle along the pavement? In the sun? I recall this, but I can’t remember from when, and it seems, when I think about it, I’m just an observer. Like I might as well be retelling a story told to me later, and imagining, now, that it actually happened.

So, here it is. Here’s what I reckon.

Those were fortunate years for a kid with a stripy T-shirt, methinks. From our house on the corner of the estate, right the way down the road to the furthest anyone ever could possibly scoot or hop, there was nothing but kids, kids, kids. From Chris and Pat next door to Dawn and Michael one house down, to Neil and Joanne, John and David — and then, over the road, Mark and Jason, Philip and Ellen, Martin and Lee, Chris, Sally-Ann, Nathan, Vanessa, and no doubt more voluminous shrieks of toddlers another half a street after Kay Wragg’s house, the furthest I could pedal. Loads of young families and loads of young kids. And fields either side of all our houses. A mayhem of Action Men and Barbie dolls, playing at growing up.

Every Thursday, all the twentysomething mums would descend on someone’s house, clutching kids and toys and that whole JohnnyMathisElvisBeatles thing that finally dusted the pall of their parents’ nightmares from the world. Tea and cakes and a natter, while the kids ran riot in the garden. That’s how it was.

I can’t remember how it happened, this first thing I think I remember I had a part in. I can’t remember at all. It’s a few years after this photo was taken, and I’m guessing I’d come into the kitchen for some pop, but what I do recall was the sight, through the kitchen window, of all the kids playing in my garden; kids I wanted to run out and be with. So I ran. In my excitement, I forgot how you opened the kitchen door with the handle, and as I pushed against the glass, forgot it opened the other way. And that’s what I remember. There must have been screams, but I can’t recall them. I must have been driven to hospital, but by whom, or how, I can’t say. I have scars on my arms to this day, proof that I threw myself, hands stretched out in front on me, into a sheet of glass for want of excitement, but other than that vivid image of all those kids in the garden, out of reach beyond the window of my four-year-olds’ witness, I have nothing else from that day but heresay.

That, I think, is the first time I remember thinking anything about my life beyond soaking up the foist of my surroundings like a witless bundle of neurons.

Clarity is multiply glazed.


Natalie said...

What a cute kid. And I'm pretty sure the only reason you are sitting on that ball is because you CAN. My little trouble maker does the same thing for no reason at all.

Memory is a strange thing. Now that I'm a mom I am sometimes sad that my babies won't remember anything that is happening right now.

Thanks to video they will have some proof that they existed as babies.

Whirlochre said...

You're right, it's a shame.

By and large, most kids forget everything that happens before they're 3 — until they're 80.

Natalie said...

Guess I should just start trying to be a good mom next year then. No sense wasting my effort now...

Kiersten said...

Funny, Natalie, I find myself glad that my kids won't remember anything. Mostly because my daughter had to have a spinal tap at seventeen months.

Yes, let's not dwell on that memory.

My first memory is from when I was two years and two weeks old. It's true. Trauma will do that to you. My baby sister was being born, and I was staying at an aunt and uncle's house. I was playing on their brown carpet in the corner while my uncle and cousins watched tv. I asked my uncle when I was going home, and he told me never--I had been replaced by the new baby, and so I was going to stay with them forever because my parents didn't want me anymore.

You can imagine my reaction.

You can also imagine that when I went home, I was NOT a fan of the new baby.

I like her now though.

Also, Whirl, you were a cutie. And I like Natalie's analysis of the picture ; )

Whirlochre said...

Brown carpets have a lot to answer for.

Kiersten said...

Amen to that.

Travesties, all of them.

(Kiersten glares at her awful biege carpet...)

Natalie said...

It must be a trauma thing, because my first memory around 3 is when I broke my arm doing a cartwheel. Yes, it's true.

I was in the hospital for three weeks because I snapped it across the elbow and had to have pins stuck in it.

And brown carpet...ugh.

Whirlochre said...


Broken glass not good enough for you?

Huh? Huh?

freddie said...

Funny, Natalie, I find myself glad that my kids won't remember anything. Mostly because my daughter had to have a spinal tap at seventeen months.

Ooh, had one of those myself as a kid. Not fun.

Kiersten said...

No, no, Whirl, the glass was good enough.

Really. Horribly, horribly good enough, and now I view my huge sliding glass door as the potential child-slicer that it is.

Natalie said...

Broken glass is bad--you poor thing. I didn't say it wasn't, silly. I just realized you and Kiersten had traumatizing first memories...then found mine was traumatizing too.

Weird. We should do a study. Does trauma trigger one to start remembering?

Whirlochre said...

Tee hee. Actually — I'm guessing lots of people had near misses early on. When I was 2, my Dad caught me just about to drink from a bottle of bleach and when I was 4, I ran onstage at the circus during a knife throwing act and caught a tomahawk between my teeth.

JaneyV said...

First memory is of doing calisthenics with my mother with the radio blaring "Where's your Mama Gone?/ Where's your Mama Gone?/ Far Far away?" as we did 'Ride The Bicycle'.

Next memory I'm alone in the same room when a lump of coal explodes on the fire and falls onto the floor. My mother came in and started shouting at me. I thought she was blaming me. I realized much later that she was probably a bit freaked out by the fact that the floor was on fire. We had to get a rug to hide the melted lino. How that rug made me feel guilty. Have I mentioned that I'm Catholic? The guilt starts early.

I think one of the best things about having been born in the mid 60's is the fantastic freedom we had to roam when I was growing up. We left the house in the morning and wandered back in time for lunch and dinner. We didn't have a phone so there was no checking in every 5 minutes - we just played. And as you say Whirl - there were loads of kids to play with. We played every kind of ball game there was, we climbed trees, we went off exploring and having adventures. Thing is … there wasn't any traffic then and cars were so damn loud you could hear them coming two streets away. And if you fell off a large rusty spike you were climbing on - it was nobody's fault but your own.

My only hospital trip was because my sister pulled a stool out from underneath me and I smashed my mouth on the (same) fireplace, knocking my front teeth out and one of them went through my lip which needed stitches. One of my older sisters did your trick Whirl, putting her arms though a window. The scars on her wrist were always a talking point.

If I gave my kids the kind of childhood I had they'd be taken off me and put into care. So the poor things have the safest upbringing imaginable. to me it seems very dull. Still they seem happy!

By the way- those curls are just GORGEOUS!!! And I had a ball just like that - it was yellow and red.

Mom In Scrubs said...

Stopping by to see what's going on...I'm adding you to my blogroll if you don't mind.

I've often thought of this very topic (childhood memory, not of you on a ball) and for years I was sure I "remembered" being passed from my mother to grandmother as an infant. The memory was always point-of-view, and it was a visceral memory, no words attached.

The older I get, the more I question it...but I believe it becaust I always had such strong faith in it.

Wisdom and its doubts sucking the certainty out of our cherished memories. What a horrible trade-off.

My most certain of my childhood memories was traumatic as well: getting spanked for trying to climb the bookcase and tipping the bookcase over. Funny I only remember the spanking part - the rest is hearsay.

Kiersten said...


Allegedly when I was two I downed a whole bottle of Sudafed.

Whirlochre said...


Yes — the freedom.

I'll probably tackle boys doing horrible things to each other with huge lumps of wood in a subsequent post. Just to say for now that I'm glad I had an opportunity to roam around from an early age — like walking a mile and a half to school on my own when I was 7. Sure, I got pushed into stinging nettles by big kids from time to time, but as far as I recall I was never whisked away to a hothouse of paedophilic sin by any members of the Glitter Band. Sad to think that there are kids of 12+ who don't get to go anywhere without a parent or car and whose spare time is spent in front of a Gameboy rather than a heap of rusting corrugated iron that might make a good camp.

Happy to be on your blogroll, MIS. And this whole business of cataloguing memories is fascinating, isn't it? More on this in a later post too.

As for the Sudafed, Kiersten — I'm surprised you made it through.

Kiersten said...



Kiersten alive and well and with no memory of the candy-coated pills episode.

Kiersten said...

And now that I've bothered to look the spelling up, I'll correct myself.

Ipecac. Vomiting. Adult Kiersten.

ChrisEldin said...

Such a beautiful post. Yes, those memories which whisper to us from another room are always just out of reach. They stay in that room, and sometimes we edge close to the door. Sometimes we strain to see the door.
Look what mood you put me in! I need to shake this off and go be funny at the Book Roast.

Whirlochre said...

I think you need to wade in with some cartoon eyes painted on that rhino butt avatar, Chris.

Having said that, it's been a good week so far.

Editors and agents — almost as much fun as male strippers in a pit of starving ferrets.

Kiersten said...

Wait, wait, wait!

Editors and agents?

Are you moving on with things?

Do you perhaps need to email me?? Because I need details??

Can I ask a few more questions?

Whirlochre said...

I'm sadly still static — though it's nice to see my froth and bluster foams on.

This is a ref to Book Roast. Where you won a prize?

Meanwhile, while we're on the subject of toddler trauma, here's a timely (and scary) news story...


My consolation of the day is that Sue Perkins won Maestro. Surreality TV at its best.

Robin S. said...

You were darling! And that's not an overstatement.

Are there any Whirly siblings running around to kid you about running into glass, in the way only sibs can do?

Kiersten said...

Oh, yes, that should have been obvious, shouldn't it? I'm not on my A-game lately.

I don't even know what an A-game is, come to think of it. Nor do I know who Sue Perkins is. Nor could I find the article to which you were referring, unless it was father saves three-year old swept up in drainpipe?

Whirlochre said...

No siblings, Robin — hence IFs.

And yes, Kiersten, it was 'girl in drain'.

Have a fun Wednesday, all.

Shona Snowden said...

Bet you fell off the ball a moment later.

When I was about four, I ran into a plate glass door that I forgot was there - and didn't break it. Nyah nyah. Had a very big bump on my head though.

Robin S. said...

Sorry, Whirl. Sometimes I think you're making stuff up! (Imagine that...)

So - the one and only light of your mama's life, huh? Well, you were cute enough to make that work, so there.

writtenwyrdd said...

Ouch! I can actually recall being born, or bits of same. And I think I recall a bit of being in the womb. But the older I get, the fewer of the infant/toddler memories remain. Most are like memories of memories and lack the immediacy they once had.

My brother and I are the old "Irish twins"--9 months apart-- and we had our own twin language. I can remember how different I thought back when I was in the months-old stage. The world was understood much differently by me then, and the way my brother and I spoke was strangely non-verbal but felt like language--and in my memory it is language. Weird, huh?

Whirlochre said...

The twins in my family display the telepathic prowess of a brick and a giraffe.