We just got back from a lovely weekend away at Blanket Bay in the Otways. It was the first time we've camped with the kids and it was really great to get away for a few days. Yesterday morning my friend and I went for our usual Sunday morning run and on the way back I got a little lost. Not literally lost, just lost in my own head. I've had this while running before, and I know that many people say how they get into 'the zone' and stop noticing that they're even running. Well this morning I got so completely lost (metaphorically speaking) that I think I could have kept running for days, Forrest Gump style.
It was rather like being in a meditative state - or at least I imagine it was, I'm hopeless at meditating usually - but for some reason I went back to the house I grew up in. It was a huge house (or at least it seemed that way to me at the time) and while I was running I took a little walk through it, remembering the rooms and the furniture, the memories I have of each little space. The bay window in the dining room where Mum would do her sewing and fix my favourite toy (Mouse), the breakfast bar in the kitchen where my sister and I would sit eating our cornflakes and watching 'Barry the lodger' eating his bacon and eggs. The cellar, dark and damp with the secret door into it from the drive way, which used to be for delivering the coal but which was now hidden under a honeysuckle bush and which we could climb in and out of if we ever found ourselves locked out. There were so many things which came back to me on this mental tour of my childhood home, things I hadn't thought about for such a long time. 'Seeing' the wardrobe in the spare room took me back to a birthday party where we played Sardines, 'walking' around the garden reminded me of early morning Easter egg hunts in our nighties, wellies and hand knitted jumpers. The air was so fresh, there was dew on the lawn and the wood pigeons' soft calls carried through the still air - it felt so real that I could have been back there.
I was bombarded with an avalanche of memories; eating tiny wild strawberries from the rock garden at the front of the house, pouring salt on slugs (forgive me- it was at my mum's encouragement), crushing tin cans for recycling with my dad, building castles of stones in the puddles that formed in our back yard, watching my mum digging the veggie garden from my swing, the 'Dolly Tree' in the middle of the lawn where my sister would perch all of her soft toys, writing letters to the Queen, to Santa, to Blue Peter and posting them in the letter box in the wall of our garden. I remembered making rose perfume from petals and water, and pots from dried mud that we tried to sell to the unsuspecting ramblers who walked past the end of our drive.
So many memories, of so many seemingly inconsequential things. Such unimportant things that turned out to form a huge part of who I am. Things that have almost accidentally shaped me into the person I have become. My parents could never have imagined how important to me they would turn out to be, they were just ordinary, everyday things. There are probably a hundred other things like that from my childhood that we used to do which I have forgotten. I have no idea why these are the ones that come back to me so strongly.
Once this flood of memories had subsided I naturally moved to wondering what the things that my own children remember will be? I imagine that even if I tried to guess I could probably never even come close. In a way it's a frightening thought, it's certainly an overwhelming one, to know that every moment, good or bad, may turn out to be one of those key things that your child remembers, a moment that shapes them in one way or another. It doesn't do to think too much about it, you could drive yourself crazy that way, but the occasional reminder of just how much influence we have over them with the things we say, and, probably more importantly, DO, can only be a good thing. Particularly if it causes us to be a little more considered in our actions.
It's a strange thing how your children have the ability to bring out both the best and the worst in you. I hope that it will be the best that shines through when they look back, I hope they won't remember the times I was grumpy, the times I yelled, but I'm going to try to be less like that, just to make sure. I'm sure I won't succeed, not completely anyway, but even if I manage to be just slightly better I think it'll make a difference.
I have no idea what the most significant memories for my own children will be but I hope very much that weekends like this will be among them. I hope they will remember exploring rock pools, collecting shells and noticing all the tiny things; that they will remember cooking dinner on the fire and toasting marshmallows, remember the sensations of the warm sun on their backs, the coolness of the waves lapping around their feet, the salt on their skin, I hope they will remember the perfect quiet of the morning before everyone is awake, the awe-inspiring wonder of a sky full of stars, and the joy of being lulled to sleep by the sounds of the ocean. Sorry if I've gone way too poetic for you, the great out doors does that to me - I don't get to experience it nearly enough these days, and that's something that we're going to try to improve on now that the children are old enough to enjoy weekends away camping!
What are your favourite childhood memories? What memories do you hope your children will treasure when they are older?