ChangingDad

Making the most of a new life


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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.

Postscript:

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.


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Pictures

My Mother-in-law still uses a film camera. When she takes a photo her grandchildren look at her quizzically. “Why can’t I see the photo straight away?” they ask. What a bizarre idea that you take a photo and then have to wait ages to see it. This reminds me of when I was young when getting the photos back from the chemist, especially after a holiday, was a significant moment to look forward to; and often one for surprises – usually there were Christmas photos on that holiday film too.

While clearing my Dad’s house recently I came across our family photo albums. There were never more than ten pictures of me from any single year. These were usually taken at Christmas, on my birthday, and on our holidays; and these photos contribute significantly to my memories of when I was young. What’s more I have one friend who only has one or two photos from his entire childhood, his memories are much more sparse. Contrast this with the 5000+ that we already have of Jake and Sam, from around an hour after they were born onwards.

With smaller digital cameras and ever improving lenses on our phones the opportunity to catch moments has increased immensely, as has our opportunity to view them. Screen savers, digital photo albums, and the capacity of small devices to hold hundreds of images have meant that we can look at pictures most of the time. Indeed the first thing that Sam does almost every morning, after his initial cuddle, is pick up my phone and look at pictures and videos of himself. He loves the one of him and Jake on the “Thomas” ride the best.

There is every chance, then, that our children will have far more memories of their childhood to draw on than we ever did; and I want to make sure that my boys have plenty to choose from. So as part of my own development in doing this blog I’ve decided to try to improve my photographic skills. I’ve bought a new camera and will, initially at least, be posting a weekly photograph, probably on Sundays, as well as illustrating other blog posts from time to time.

Photos are so important to our memories and our appreciation of the people and environment around us. They help us to measure change, tracking the growth and development of our children and of ourselves. I hope you will enjoy the photos that I post, and maybe even notice a change in the quality of the photos as this blog progresses.