Saturday, 14 February 2009

Childhood Traumas and Triumphs - Have They Made Me The Woman I Am Today?

Most people look back at their childhood with fond memories. I recently saw a friend I hadn't seen in over twenty years. It was lovely to chat over dinner and wine and just recall people we liked, people we disliked, who was friends with who, who did what and also our childhood perceptions of our peers and teachers. We also talked of the silly things that we did and how looking back on the time it affected who we are today, as well of speaking about where we're at with our lives at the moment.

So, why is it that my memories seem to be of trivial things? I can recall no incident that specifically pinpoints a time in my life where I can confidently say that an event or person influenced me. So, my memories are tragically lame, but for reasons unknown to me, they're as vivid as though they happened yesterday. Here's a small selection.

1. Somebody nicked my Weebles.

I was only 8 and I loved my Weebles. I had the whole family. I even think I had a playground for them with a slide and swing and seesaw. I spent hours playing with them. I was actually the envy of the whole estate as my Weeble collection surpassed all others.

Our house was an end terrace and the outer wall was brick and interspersed were holes in the wall to allow the wind to tunnel through. These holes were perfect look-out posts for my Weebles, so one evening when my Mum called me in for dinner I put them 'on guard', positioned them in a row, gave instructions and headed in for dinner.

To my utmost horror, when I returned, each and every Weeble had gone! I never heard them call for help and I can still recall standing there in the garden welling up with tears wondering where they'd gone. I was absolutely devastated.

I never did get them back and to this day I know the person who nicked them because they were insanely jealous that their mother wouldn't buy them any. To this day she'd deny all knowledge if I confronted her, but I'm kind of figuring at the age of 36 it would be a wee bit immature to settle the score. Actually, come to think of it, she fancied Paul Brandon and I got to kiss him down an alley first, so that's sweet justice.

2. Crawford Duff pulled the bobble off my bobble hat.

Again, a traumatic experience at the tender age of 8. It was winter and my Mum had bought me a new scarf and hat. These were the winters where the playground would ice over and teachers weren't anal about letting you slide around on it. I remember all the girls would tie their scarves together, forming a long chain that everybody else would hang on to and we'd pull them along like a long slithering snake on the ice. Your scarf would end up three times its original length at the end of the day.

But for some reason, Crawford Duff never joined in. He was a big lumbering fellow - absolutely enormous and kind of baffoonish - lovely chap but just clumsy. I was quite nice to him at school, but my kind manner left me vulnerable as one day he walked past me, placed his dinner plate hand on my head, pushed my hat down and in one swift movement, yanked the bobble off my bobble hat. Then he ran off with it. My hat was never the same again and I didn't speak to Crawford for a week after that. I wonder if he still has my bobble....?

3. Got stuck up a cherry tree scrumping.

I was 11 and it wasn't only boys that went scrumping. I was a regular and I knew the good places to go, so I was totally impressed I was the only person who knew a good cherry tree to scrump. It was down the bottom of a garden and the branches overhung the park boundary - to me that indirectly meant public domain and was therefore scrumpable.

But this cherry tree had a fork in the trunk so it resembled a giant catapult, so me and one other friend hoiked ourselves up this tree, sat in the divide and merrily picked away, throwing the cherries down to other third friend holding the carrier bag for our spoils.

Then the owner came down the garden and saw us. But we were wedged in. Try as we might to get out of the 'V' we couldn't move. Even our friend yanking our legs to try and extract us didn't work, so we had to stay put and incur the wrath of the cherry tree owner.

As luck would have it, they were also the days when home owners understood mischief in children and didn't assume they were little vandals. The guy laughed so hard and ended up getting his ladder out to help us down and for our sheer cheek he let us keep the cherries, but with a stern warning that if he found us up there again he'd frogmarch us back to our parents for a clip round the ear. Top bloke he was! I can't actually recall what my Mum did with the cherries.

4. Two school friends carrying my books and pushing my bike home.

I think I was about 14 for this one. These two schoolfriends were boys I grew up on my estate with and subsequently went to school with. Both of them were little buggers at school and were renowned for messing about, roughing up other boys and generally being little pests. But I liked them and whilst other people shunned them and ignored them, I had a good time with them.

One of these guys came over for dinner this week. This is the guy mentioned at the beginning of this post. I asked him if he remembered at the age of 14, with another friend, suddenly running up behind me on the way home, grabbing my book bag off me and pulling my bike away from me. He handed the bike to his friend and between the two of them, walked the mile home to my house with me carrying my books and pushing my bike for me.

The only trepidation I had was that these two were practical jokers and I can clearly recall wondering on the way home that at any moment they would both break into a sprint or hop on my bike and ride off with my belongings. They never did. They even came up to my back gate, opened it for me and put my bike in the shed and took my bags to the door. Then promptly turned on heel, said they'd see me the next day and walked off!

I asked him this week why he did it and he said, 'you deserved it'. Apparently I was one of the few girls in school that treated him normally and spoke to him as though he were a normal person and gave him the time of day. And he recalled it as vividly as I had - 22 years after the event.

It's funny what sticks in your memory over time and these are memories I know will stay with me till my dying day, even though they are completely random and insignificant.

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