‘Right now I’m having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time. I think I’ve forgotten this place before.’’ – Steven Wright
‘’What are your first memories’’?
‘’Oh, they go back to when I was really quite young’’.
When is a memory a memory, and not the imprint from a photograph, a snatch of family banter or an object that inspires a memory, which is most probably a falsehood? Or is it the minds way of creating a memory that is idealized, warming and comforting like a Frank Capra film, anybody for a ‘’Wonderful Life’’. He simply did not know.
He suffered from Childhood Amnesia. It was normal. Or at least as much as anyone else. But his memories still wend their way back to an early age to around two and a half years of age, no really it does. There is a memory, construct or not, of squatting on a white rug, which had a slightly different weave at its edges, and thus provided a purpose built race track, or so it seemed, for his Dinky toys. And whilst enraptured in his play he did what every other child of his very young age does, he passed a rather large log. Fortunately for the white rug directly into his snug fitting Terry Nappy. Who was Terry? Undaunted he carried on playing because although his nappy was fully loaded, it was at least still warm and malleable. Then a large pair of hands smelling strangely of onions, reached down as though through clouds in a God-like manner, and then lifted him up bodily. End of tape, end of memory. In view of what must have happened next, I think a big round of applause is long overdue for Childhood Amnesia.
‘’Apart from the toilet incident, what are your other earliest memories’’?
He actually had an early memory that included his Father. Father wasn’t much for cuddling and kissing. Certainly for boys. Father worked as a semi-skilled factory worker. He worked hard and he worked long hours. But then so do donkeys. Fathers labour was manual and he had large hands that were rough and hard. So no soft pen pushers hands for him. The palm was calloused and his fingers were coated in skin that had been repeatedly pricked and torn as he had laboured. Then the skin had grown back over, to be ripped and torn again. The upshot was that the tips of his fingers were a heaven for ear tickles. Our very young hear would lean his head on his Fathers stomach. Then Father would stroke and tickle his ear. Fathers fingers, nicked and tough, made for a delightful tickle. But it didn’t go on to long and was notable as an experience for its uniqueness.
‘That’s a great shame. Why do you thinks that was’’?
‘’A book, a cup of tea or simply a snooze was always beckoning Father ’’, replied.
‘‘Carry on’’ said the counselor.
Home, home and Mother preparing dinner. Morning and food being selected with a reptilian eye, mashed, scraped, pummeled and boiled into submission whilst flooding the house with smells and vapours that would stay with him for a lifetime, unfortunately. Oh yes they would! Whilst Mother decimated food he would stand next to her seemingly giant form, craning his neck up to look at her and trying to take in this voluminous person to whom he knew he was so attached. Literally hanging onto her apron strings. If Mother felt he had been there too long she would pass on loving imprecations. For instance,
‘’Why don’t you go and play with the traffic’’.
Really, go and play with the traffic. In the street, jump in front of cars and lorries. Hang onto the back of moving vehicles. Go for it, boy. What fun! A loving Mother. And of course a line she would run pass him when she wanted to gently correct any misbehavior.
‘’I am going to send you to your other Mother’’.
Our hero would tremble in fear at being sent away to this other, as yet, unseen Mother. What was she like. His imagination bloomed. Was she big, kind, aggressive. Maybe she was very old, or lived in cave with goats. What about if she made him sleep in the garden? My God it was terrifying. But then on the upside maybe this mother unknown, well maybe she could cook. Our hero truly believed he could be trundled off to this second mother at a moment’s notice. Apart from a safety line, Mother’s apron was one of his earliest indicators that the day was divided into different parts. When clothed in her apron, Mother would be cooking, or attempting to cook, ironing , washing or fluffing something. The other side of the coin was that when she took off her apron she was accessible. Without her apron they would exit the kitchen and go into the living room via the hall. All the while trying not to look at the mentally disturbed wallpaper. Mother would then sit in the armchair across from the TV. and manhandle him onto her large, comfortable lap and order him to watch television.
An abiding memory from then was her large, strong red hands which had an enveloping scent that he breathed in deeply. Comforting. It was only years later that he would track down the source of such a strong, comforting childhood memory. Onions, the source was onions, Mother had been cutting up onions for dinner. Oh, the sadness, he had been pining for the scent of chopped and sliced onion! A memory based on a substance 89% water, 4% sugar with 2% protein, 2% fibre and 0,1% fat. Disappointment. But not the last by any means.
But he didn’t know that as he sat snugly on her lap, secure and safe. Had he been more informed of the dangers of handling and preparing onions, then his small secure world might well have appeared far more treacherous. For he sat on the precipice of a terrible ailment from the onions. No, surely not, Mother was fastidious in washing her hands after handling onions, and well she might as they could cause a host of problems. He could of come down with a contact allergy, dermatitis or conjunctivitis. Actually he did have conjunctivitis as a youngster. Thanks Mother. He went to school with a NHS salmon coloured eye patch and became, for a week at least, a pirate. At least he avoided blurred vision, err, actually long term he didn’t. But Mr Cornflakes had another theory for that.
Back to the TV and sitting on Mother’s Lap. It was time for Watch with Mother. What a great idea, educational and bringing Mother and son together in shared joy at the wonders of BBC Children’s programming. All well and good until he turned round to see Mother and to see just how much she was enjoying the ‘Watch’ part of the title. Unfortunately he encountered her open mouthed, slack jawed with a line of spittle connecting the upper and lower lips, whilst vibrating in accordance to the ebb and flow of her breathing. She was, in short, in full snooze mood. Well even if Mother was not enjoying the show he was. And what a line up it was beginning with Andy Pandy. What a great influence for children. This chubby twat faced idiot with his Auschwitz pyjamas and his rather off putting headgear which looked suspiciously like a little Dutch girls hat. Him and his stupid very close, yes we are just best friends, pal Teddy and a slut called Looby Loo, who was a rag doll or was it slag doll. She sang,
‘’Here we go Looby Loo,
Here we go Looby Light,
Here we go looby loo
All on Saturday night
You put your right hand in
You take your right hand out
You give your hand a shake, shake shake
And turn yourself about.’’
You put your right hand in? Just what the fuck did it mean, in what, for how long and to what effect? He was mystified. Later he grew to understand that Looby Loo was a sexual fetishist and all round dirty bitch who knew exactly where ‘’You put your right hand in.’’
Okay now he was safe, it was time for Bill and Ben and the Flowerpot Men. That would be better. Mother was still napping. So anyway, these guys lived at the bottom of any old suburban garden, good so far. They had clay-pot bodies. Acceptable. And they had a friend called Weed. Great, keep going. At the time he was still learning to talk, to speak his mother tongue, and what did these guys speak. The Flowerpot Men spoke Oddle Poddle, no really, Oddle soddin’ Poddle, a ridiculously inflected form of English of which he simply had no idea as to what they were saying. He was befuddled, he had never been so fuddled, his fuddlement knew no such depth before! At the end of a program they would say goodbye to Weed by saying in unison, ‘’Babap ickle Weed.’’ Just what the hell was that! Mother wake up and get me out of here’’ he thought.
Counsellor ‘‘Do you have any early memories outside your home’’?
‘’Yes, medical memories’’. Our hero recalled being very young and Mother wrapping him up warm and cosy in a coat and scarf, which she pulled until snug and tight. Which seemed strange as custom saw him in shot grey shorts and long grey socks to just below his knees. So he knew his legs would be cold . And off they trolled, his hand in Mothers meaty maternal paw. Off to the clinic. The clinic was an old prefabricated building from the post war period. In they went and our hero was divested of his warm clothing and then stripped down to his white vest and pants in no time at all. All a little bewildering. Then a large smiley lady in a blue uniform listened to his heart, his lungs. He must have done very well, because she put a few drops of something on to a small sugar cube and told him it was a reward for being a good boy. He dutifully munched, sucked and swallowed the sugar and its mysterious additive. So his conclusion was that visiting medical places wasn’t a problem. That’s how it seemed to him. So when he told Mother that he had a toothache, he really saw no reason to worry. The lady with the sugar cube had been nice, kind and gentle. Ignorance is bliss. Shorts again, grey and socks, grey of course, but this time Mother dressed him a bright yellow jumper with a V-neck collar. The kind of yellow that would put a canary in the shade. Off they went, his trusting hand in Mothers hand. Is that onions? They walked for about an hour, up a hill out of their estate and then along lower middle class streets until they arrived at the lower end of the local high street. The dental clinic was above a light shop, so they climbed a flight of steep stairs bedecked in a worn red lino. At the top, now feeling a little
Tired after such a long walk on their ascent to Mount Cavity, they turned left and went into a small reception come rest home for aged magazines, weeklies and other such trash. A smiling old lady took their names and asked them to sit. Why always old ladies, he thought? Maybe nobody else wants them, he pondered. All of a sudden a door opened and a man walked out holding a small cloth to his mouth, he mumbled something indecipherable and left. Still our hero sat, hand in Mother’s hand quite happily. Then a nurse came out and invited them to come into the surgery. Our hero was led in to the room and perched up on a large chair with black plastic cushioning and a panoply of lights and silver trays on adjustable tables. Mother and dentist talked like normal adult, as if he wasn’t there at all, like normal. So far so good. Then it all started to go downhill rapidly. The dentist asked him, ordered him more like, to open his mouth. Then he jammed his fat fingers into his mouth and started pressing his teeth. The dentist withdrew his hand. Thank God, it’s over, now for some ice-cream, but before he could even finish his thought the dentist picked up a silver sharp probe and began all over again. Now his back was lowered and a large powerful round light was drawn in close over his face. This was getting seriously out of hand, in fact hand out of something, like his mouth would of been very good. Then it all stopped, Mother and dentist spoke again. Before he could say, get me out….a clear plastic mask was put on his face, covering his mouth and nose, and a tight elastic strap was slipped over his head and behind his head. A reassuring hand was placed on his shoulder, which singularly failed to reassure. Then there was a gentle sighing noise, and unbeknownst to him a gas was released. One, two, three…sleep. Amnesia.
Our hero woke with a start. Then stopped. The mask had gone but he was dribbling better than a 1950s footballer. Spit and blood. Ouch, his tooth, or where his tooth had been, hurt and pulsed like hell. His tongue instinctively went to the cavity, probed it and reported to his brain that it bloody well hurt. Brain told tongue to stop probing, tongue was too stupid to listen. Looking down he saw bright red splotches of fresh blood down his canary yellow jumper. Just like fresh footprints in wet sand. They were ushered from the surgery but he hardly noticed as the pain bloomed in his jaw like ink splashed into a tub of water. Twisting, turning and expanding. Mother took his hand. However he had now learned that the hand offered no protection. The only good thing was that the blood stains on the stupid yellow jumper meant it would be thrown away. Result.