Memory certainly does play tricks on us, as I’m sure you would agree. Today I had even more evidence to prove the point.
am generally considered by both my families - as in, the one I was born into and the one I helped create on marriage - to be the Official Family Memory Keeper. This, I hasten to add by way of explanation, is based on the flimsiest of reasons - namely, my obsession
with family history. My ability to pluck from my brain the fact that our great-grandfather was a wood carver who once made an inn sign for a public house in Epping Forest is enough to persuade my older brothers and Little Sister that I must also be able to
remember every significant event happening to my Nearest and Dearest over the last seventy-plus years.
Since Lockdown, I have enjoyed regular FaceTime sessions
with my Little Sister during which she quizzes me about Events From our Shared Past. This is great fun, especially as my Little Sister is one of the very few people still alive who have known me virtually all my life. She can also claim to be the single person
with whom I shared all my formative years. Childhood simply wouldn’t have been the same without the ever-present company of my Little Sister.
I do my very
best to answer her questions but some of them do stump me. She is desperate to know, for example, her exact time of birth. Now her birth is my earliest, clearest - and, indeed, dearest memory. I remember my dear Dad taking me by the hand and leading me into
the back bedroom of our home where my mum was sitting up in bed, cradling a tiny babe in her arms. I remember the scene vividly, down to exactly how I felt at the time - but at what time of day did the Great Reveal occur? Was it in the morning, the afternoon
- or even the evening? I have always assumed that it was early one morning, which would mean my sister was born either late at night or in the early hours of the morning - but if there’s one thing the study of family history has taught me it’s
the danger of jumping to conclusions. My Little Sister is disappointed that I cannot be more precise on timing...
Which is one of the problems with being established
(albeit by others) as the Family Memory Keeper. Can my memory be trusted? It is such a responsibility, don’t you know?
When it comes to formidable memories,
there are other members of the family who can lay claim to the title of Champion Memory. Stand up my Son in Law (“Rules is Rules”) who mastered The Knowledge to win the coveted badge of a fully qualified London cabbie. His children, the Rascally
Trio, appear to have inherited his formidable memory - they never forget anything. I just wish they could / would forget about the cherry stones they planted some weeks ago in carefully labelled flower pots - every time they visit they look in vain for signs
However I digress - I was going to tell you about a rather amazing trick of memory. Back in June, on my birthday, my older brother produced a
scrap of paper on which was written a few scraps of a poem which our mother had apparently written about me when I was a littl’un. He could only remember two lines, he told me, and despite consulting our remaining two siblings, nobody else was any the
wiser. If anybody could remember the rest of the verse, he said with totally misplaced confidence, it would be me. I was, after all, the subject of the loving composition. I sadly had to confess I couldn’t remember it at all.
Then suddenly yesterday - the song, in its entirety, sprang unbidden into my head. I could remember every word, even the tune. Where had that come from? I could only think it must have been because
I was working on yet another one of my Lockdown projects, involving me interrogating my childhood memories.
I telephoned my brother who insisted on me singing
the song to him down the telephone line. It was slightly embarrassing, singing a song in praise of myself to someone else. “She has blue eyes and golden hair,” I trilled, thinking at the same time that, while my eyes are still blue, my unruly locks
are very far from golden. Can I still lay claim to a “sweet smile, beyond compare”? I hardly dare ask. My brother was thrilled - the song was just as he remembered it, he said.
So here’s the thing - is it the song itself I have remembered? Or the voice of the mother who sang it to me?