Making the most of a new life


Fading Memories I

Something happened this week that momentarily gave me quite a jolt, knocking me off balance for just a split second. This occurred while talking to Jake at the breakfast table. In between my exhortations to “please eat your breakfast otherwise we will be late for school” we somehow got talking about something, I cannot even remember what it was now, that required me to think of what I did at his age. My memory failed me at that moment and I could not recall that particular time in my own life at all.

I think that I have already forgotten about what we talked about because, like a bolt from the blue, I realised that if I cannot remember something about my childhood then, as an only child with both my parents now deceased, there is a good chance that that memory is now lost forever; unless the one cousin with whom I am still in touch can remember. As you can imagine the realisation of this was quite a revelation to me, and for a moment it made me feel quite alone. Not alone in my present, but alone in my past.

I have written before about the importance of such as photographs in helping us with our memories (and re-reading that particular post reminded me that I originally intended to have more photographs on this blog), and that this probably equates to around ten per year of me in our family albums. Not something that I can re-construct a whole childhood from. Not something that is reliable because there has been an editing process in taking and choosing those pictures.

So while I can remember my first unaided bike ride, my memories are passed through all sorts of filters and I have no way of corroborating whether my memories match what happened. In this particular instance maybe it does not matter how accurate those memories are since when I have them I get a warm feeling of my own achievement and sharing a moment with my father; a moment that I only now begin to understand from his perspective (but in the last couple of weeks I would have loved to know what his perspective was).

Perhaps it does not matter in this case, but I think that the source of my anxiety at that moment was that there are going to be plenty of times in the future when the boys experience something that I am going to have no idea whether and/ or how I went through a particular episode or rite of passage. It makes me sad that I will not be able to remember, and it makes me sad that I will not be able to share my own past with them as fully as I would have liked.

So circumstances, the fact that we moved around quite a bit when I was young and issues with more distant family members, mean that I will probably have to ride this out until I get to my teenage years (I still have good friends from those times onwards). I will have to rely largely on my own memories, and hope that things come back to me as I have similar experiences with the boys in the knowledge that I have no one to corroborate them.

This, coupled with the recent sudden death of a friend I had largely lost touch with, again reminds me of the need to maintain a good circle of people not only for the present, but for the past as well.


While I was writing this piece Sam came into my office and started looking at the photographs of the family I have around the place. Two things happened that seemed relevant to what I was writing. First he looked at pictures of Jake when he was younger and took some convincing that they were not him, and second he took umbrage that he was not in one particular picture of Karen, Jake and me. I tried to explain that he was not then born but he did not understand that there was a time when he was not part of the family. I thought that both instances were examples of how easily photographs can be taken out of context and given new meanings. The problem of fading memories.


Cycle of Life

As regular readers will know, there are many things about being a parent that have surprised me. The unexpected has become a part of daily life for me, and I never really know what is coming next. This is both challenging and exciting and can sometimes lead to me having mixed feelings about daily life with our boys.

On the other hand there are some events which I know will happen as the boys get older. These are events that I have pictured in my mind since I first knew Karen was pregnant, and perhaps even earlier. One of these was seeing a child of mine riding a bike unaided on their own. This is partly because I remember so vividly the moment when my Father pushed me off and I felt the rush of absolute freedom of riding along independently under my own power without the aid of stabilisers. It was an amazing moment for me and it opened up all sorts of new horizons of playing with the older children in the street and, in time, exploring the area where I lived and beyond.

Now it was Jake’s turn to try this out. We had been lucky enough to have been given a bike some time ago and Jake had been asking when he could have a try, the only thing holding us back being the fact that it needed a bit of maintenance – including taking off the stabilisers – something we finally got round to doing the other morning. So there were no more excuses, it was a lovely crisp sunny winter’s day, and we went off to a place where there is a flat and wide path.

Jake had been using his balance bike (one of those without pedals) for about two years, and he had grown ever more confident in riding it, so we were hopeful that he might pick bike riding up quickly. We were not really prepared for what came next as Karen gave him a push off and he absolutely flew away. He was a little wobbly at first but very quickly found his balance and it quickly seemed as if he had been cycling for years.

Jake was so happy and so proud of his achievement and I was pleased that I managed to capture that pride with some photos, a moment that I will never forget and I hope Jake remembers it for years to come.

Jake’s achievement, and his pride at doing something so radically new made me think that as we get older there are fewer ‘basic’ (I cannot think of a better word than that at the moment) things that are left to achieve. We learn to walk, read, write, count, and then drive; and while we keep learning all our lives there are fewer single things that give us such a life changing jolt. Having children is one of these moments, it leads to so many changes and new experiences; many are unexpected but some we dream about, hope for and look forward to. Jake riding his bike definitely fell into that latter category, and as the cycle of life continues, I can only wonder what comes next.