penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.


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I have been reading Roald Dahl’s book called “Boy” which is about his experiences growing up. (As an aside, I am half way through and it is one of the most stripped down, hard eyed, yet funny and poignant books about childhood I have ever read.) In one of the early chapters, he talks about not remembering much about his early childhood (his later childhood reminisces are bolstered by letters his mother saved). What he remembers most is having seen another older teenager riding his bike, taking his hands off the wheels and folding them in front of him. And Mr. Dahl indicates that if he had been asked right then what he wanted to do with his life, it would be to ride a bike without using his hands to steer.

Memory is a tricky thing.

I think I have always known that.

I have been lucky enough to speak often with my mother recently. We have always talked frequently, but it has become more urgent lately to know that she is there. Hearing about her memories has become increasingly more important. It is a bit of a long story of how we got there, but this evening she began telling me about how her father had saved money in a welded canister of his own devising (being a tool and die man, this should come as no surprise) and hid it in the heating duct of the family home. I live in an old house myself, and know how those heating ducts have a bit of a shelf in them – perfect for storing items not meant to be seen.

Her father, my grandfather, was saving money for a trip out West. He had seen British Columbia during his training for the war and longed to go back. It never happened. Political forces in the country greater than he put a stop to the A.V. Roe Arrow, and he lost his job. Instead of going out West, he kept his sights closer to home and brought his children on the trip of a life-time to Montreal and Quebec City.

Despite all his later travels, I don’t think he ever did travel out West the way he had hoped.

My mother laughed this evening, thinking back on that trip. She doesn’t remember much of Montreal or Quebec City. She vaguely remembers the shrine at St. Anne De Beaupre was being built at the time. She cannot remember where she stayed.

What she remembers is her father cooking bacon and eggs on a Coleman stove.

That and the fact that her older sister slept through most of the trip and my mother told her to “Shut up” when she did wake up. (Boy, does that sound familiar!)

All of this makes me think of my own memories and those of my children.

One of my earliest memories is of my father cooking on a Coleman’s stove as well. Not while we were out camping, but on the patio of the apartment we were living in. I’m not quite sure why he would use it when we were at home. I just remember the green suitcase and him lighting it up. We also used it on several picnics. I don’t remember using it while camping, but memory is a tricky thing. I think it is the novelty of it that helps it to stick out.

I don’t seem to remember a lot from my childhood and sometimes even my adult memories seem to be slipping away. Most of what I remember is what I have been told. Or odd things. Memory maybe is not unlike riding a bike with no hands.  It’s hard to control and crashes frequently.

I have often noticed that my children, when asked what their favourite thing was during an event or outing remember strange, tiny details that I recall as insignificant or not at all.  A sparkly thing found on the ground, a spider on the wall.

Today, I took my youngest to the “Airplane museum.” My youngest loves planes, although mostly of the Pixar/Disney variety. Today, I pointed out where, despite all odds, and the promise of destruction, the jet engine and nose cone of the Arrow still sit. As does a Bomarc missile. Although far apart enough that connections likely aren’t made by the average museum goer.

My youngest looked up blankly at both. Although he did seem bemused by the fact that a Bomarc wasn’t a rocket, or a plane, and would never take a passenger.

When asked about his day though, all he could remember was using the flight simulator to crash a number of airplanes (including a Cessna, a DC-3 and “Flour Power” which reminds me of my Dad’s old Quick Silver). And spending time in the goofy little silver toy rocket they have there for kids to play in and pretend to be astronauts.

Small things.  Not necessarily the things I would remember or want him to remember.

It’s a good reminder, as I often worry about the big things I am not doing with my children. Trips across the country. Trips to Disney (gah). Expensive outings. Giving them whatever the latest gizmo thing of the moment is.

But life isn’t like that.

Kid’s will remember, but what sticks with them is not what you expect. It’s the smell of bacon cooking. Or crashing a virtual plane into the muskeg.

What I have come to learn is that it is not what I remember, or what I hope the kids have memory of that matters. What is important is that my kids have memories that are meaningful to them and that what my kids remember most are the good things. And that my husband and I were there with them in many of them.


Written by pennyinacastle

July 6, 2014 at 3:20 am

Posted in Random thoughts

Tagged with , , ,

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