In my earliest memory I am two and a half years old. I’m climbing up a big flight of wide stairs clutching tightly to Daddy’s hand up above me and gazing up at the enormous red cut out Father Christmas on the wall to the side of us.
As we reach the top we turn left into a room and there, just inside the door to the left, is my Mummy sitting up on a narrow bed. Next to her is a clear plastic box on wheels, and there’s something, or someone wriggling in it. I must have been introduced to my baby sister, born earlier that morning, several weeks and one Christmas before she was due, but it’s not that that I remember, it’s that the nurse gave me a digestive biscuit, and I didn’t really like it, but I ate it anyway to be polite.
I know that’s a memory because there aren’t any pictures but when ten days later, the camera caught me ‘helping’ Zee to open her hastily filled stocking I can’t be so sure. I think I remember bouncing across the landing behind Mum in a squishy dressing gown, but do I remember it only because I’ve seen the photos so many times? It isn’t as strong a memory as sitting perched up high on the leather covered seat of the dining room chair, dangling my feet, the leather cool against my legs, eating a slice of Christmas cake, and yet there’s a photo of that.
Where does memory end and photos take over?
I think there must be a glimer of memory for the photos to stimulate it. For example, I don’t really remember a lot of my labour with Kitty. My brain can remember that it was long and can tell me that contractions hurt but I can’t recall the feeling of labour at all (thank you lovely mind-wiping hormones) and no amount of photos of a teeny tiny new Kitty can trigger it.
I hope that Kitty remembers huge chunks of her childhood, whether biscuit related or otherwise, but it’s unlikely that she’ll remember that for H’s firsth Father’s Day we went to Hidcote Manor Gardens to meander along the Rose Walk and giggle at the curly tails on the new Berkshire pigs, or that she got new clothes for Mummy and Daddy’s birthday, but it’s unlikely. I, on the otherhand, am treasuring every moment tucked away in my heart. Every giggle, every smile is so very precious to me, especially as little Miss is starting to spend more and more time at nursery as I get ready to go back to work in July, and I miss her dreadfully when we’re apart.
Whatever she does or doesn’t remember, the digital age means that there are sure to be photos, and that gives me the perfect excuse to continue to be her Mamarazzi.
Kitty, aged 9 months, reading us That’s Not My Dinosaur on our birthday